The ravages to a person’s health when their diet contains large amounts of refined sugar are already well-known – obesity, hyper-tension, and potentially diabetes – to name just a few. But you can still have visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in your head with the sweet promise of low calorie artificial sweeteners, right? Or can your health be negatively affected with the use of artificial sweeteners?

Because artificial sweeteners generally don’t cause sugar spikes in the blood, and typically contain low to zero calories, one would think that the use of these substitutes would lead to a slimmer waistline. But there are studies that show when a person uses sugar substitutes, they end up craving real sugar even more. Be honest with yourself. After ordering a diet soft drink, do you then rationalize that piece of cake for dessert? Studies suggest that sugar substitute use often results in overeating and no net reduction in the intake of real sugars.

Additionally, faux sugars like aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal), sucralose (Splenda), and saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), are laboratory created synthetic chemicals. Aspartame is composed of the amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid, and a methyl ester bonding agent. In your body, methyl ester bond is metabolized into wood alcohol – a known poison. The amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid, are common to many natural foods like eggs, fish, and meat. The problem, in the case of aspartame, is that these amino acids exist at such high levels that the body metabolizes them into formaldehyde, which is not eliminated from the body by the normal filtering function of the liver and kidneys.

An herb called stevia, used in cultures for centuries but only recently gaining widespread popularity, is a natural sweetener that doesn’t raise blood sugar levels. While the stevia leaf in its fresh or dried form is a natural herbal sweetener, the processed, powdered version of the extract still undergoes chemical processing and bleaching. For the purist form of stevia, and the best-known health benefits from its use, try Stevia Leaf (you can even grow it in your backyard) or Sweet Drops Stevia, a stevia infused liquid that comes in several flavors.

Most nutrition experts agree that you’ll be healthier with a few chocolate morsels after a meal rather than ingesting artificial sweeteners all day long. Whether you use real sugar or sugar substitutes, the bottom line is always the age-old mantra: moderation in all things.