I worked at Jamba Juice in the early 2000's and I remember when they launched their Spelnda line in 2003. These smoothies were so popular. I tried them and they made me feel gross. I didn't understand it, as I was told by the marketing department that Splenda was a much healthier and safe option for people who wanted a sweet smoothie without the high calorie effects.
In case you don't know, Splenda is the brand name of a sugar substitute called sucralose. Sucralose is marketed as a health food since it's considered to be a non-caloric sugar alternative. In simple terms, it's chlorinated sucrose. Even at 20 years old, I had my doubts about this sugar alternative. I've always been a questioner, and the thought of ingesting chlorinated sugar had me scratching my head wondering why this was a better option than a real food (even if sugar isn't the best real food to consume).
I grew up in a household with two parents who were dedicated coffee drinkers. Neither of them put sugar in their coffee. In fact, we didn't usually have a lot of sugar in our house. During high school we were allowed off campus, and a few friends and I would head to the Starbucks in the strip mall across the street. All of them would put some sort of sweetener (either real or artificial) in their coffee. One of them pressured me into trying an artificial sweetener in my coffee and I spit it out. It was so gross to me. I actually like the taste of coffee with cream, and that's it. No sweet stuff, please.
Growing up, my household did not consume diet sodas either. My mom always opted for real stuff over fake stuff. I remember one time coming home from a friend's house and telling my mom that her mom only lets her drink Diet Coke, not regular. My mom was shocked. She said the fake stuff in diet soft drinks could potentially be harmful, and that kids should never consume it. She wasn't wrong. But she also had a serious regular Dr. Pepper obsession. Diet Dr. Pepper would only be allowed in our house over her dead body. So even as a young child, I learned that artificial sweeteners had no real health benefits, and could actually cause harm.
I choose to avoid artificial sweeteners. And there's good reason (backed up by science) why you should too.
A major reason to avoid artificial sweeteners is that they have the potential to really mess with your gut microbiome. You can view more info about this fact here and here. The second link is a great PDF you can print out to share with people if they question why you're all of the sudden turning up your nose at the thought of consuming diet soft drinks.
There have also been studies conducted that show the consumption of artificial sweeteners do not always promote weight loss. In fact, the opposite can happen in some individuals. Some artificial sweeteners can actually trigger the accumulation of fat, especially in individuals who are already obese and chronically inflamed. Our endocrine systems are not equipped to handle the artificial stuff, and this is more true the more metabolically unhealthy one is.
Another round of studies linked the consumption of artificial sweeteners to an increased risk of stroke and dementia. It turns out our brains have no clue what to do with this fake stuff either. Risk of these conditions goes up with the more artificial sweeteners we consume. I don't want to pick on anyone or single individuals out, but I come across a lot of people who have a bad diet soft drink addiction. They tend to believe that because they are consuming something with the word "diet" on the label, they are doing themselves a favor. Not so. I have reason to believe that diet soft drink consumption is epidemic in America. A lot of this has everything to do with marketing. We're led to believe that "diet" anything is good for us. But the studies linking it to risk of stroke and dementia suggest otherwise. I work with quite a few people to get them to stop consuming this stuff. It's really hard, unfortunately, to convince some people that diet soda does more harm than good.
Artificial sweeteners aren't only found in diet soft drinks and colorful packets at coffee bars and diners. They can also hide out in reduced calorie yogurts, ice cream, baked goods and candy. So please read the label of anything you consume. I know you don't intentionally want to consume something that can lead to digestive issues, brain inflammation, or accelerated aging if you can help it.