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The Side Effects of Sugar-Free Foods

By Natalie Stein

Sugars are simple carbohydrates with calories and no nutrients, and too much sugar in your diet can cause obesity or cavities. Sugar-free foods are often made with alternative ingredients to sweeten them without using sugar. They can help you satisfy sugar cravings while you'WEre reducing your sugar intake, but sugar-free foods may have some unhealthy side effects.

Weight Gain

A potential side effect of sugar-free foods is gaining weight. Some sugar-free foods have fewer calories per serving than their regular counterparts, but you'll still gain weight if you eat too much of them. This can be a risk for you if you fall into the trap of thinking that you don't need to control your portion sizes of diet foods, including sugar-free foods. Some sugar-free foods have just as many or more calories than their regular counterparts because they contain fat, which is high in calories, to replace the bulk that added sugars normally provide.


Stomach discomfort is a side effect of eating large quantities of sugar-free foods made with sorbitol or mannitol. These are sugar alcohols, although they do not actually contain alcohol, and they are lower-calorie substitutes for sugar. Your body absorbs them more slowly than sugar, so they don't spike your blood sugar levels as much. However, eating too much of foods that contain sorbitol or mannitol, such as some types of sugar-free candy, may lead to diarrhea because these sugar alcohols have a laxative effect.

Chronic Disease

Drinking diet soda, which is sugar-free, may cause chronic kidney problems, MayoClinic.org reports. Although it has no calories, diet soda may lead to obesity because it may lead to sugar cravings or increase your chances of choosing high-calorie foods. Individuals who drink more sugar-free beverages have a higher risk for metabolic syndrome, which includes high blood pressure and cholesterol. You may even have weaker bones if you regularly drink diet soda more than one or two times a day.

Other Effects

Aspartame is a non-caloric sugar substitute which contains phenylalanine, and it is unsafe for you if you have phenylketonuria, or PKU, because you cannot metabolize it. Soft drinks, such as colas, may contain caffeine, and side effects of caffeine include trouble sleeping, nervousness and being jittery. Before eating sugar-free foods, compare their nutritional content to the nutrients you would get from nutrient-dense foods, such as fruit, and remember that sugar-free does not necessarily mean healthy.

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