Welcome back! Smart Brevity™ count: 387 words ... 1½ mins.

1 big thing: Fake sugar's real risks

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

There may be reason to sour on fake sweeteners.

Why it matters: Fake sugar continues to gain popularity, largely because we consider artificial sweeteners a healthier alternative to the real thing. But they can come with risks, Axios' Carly Mallenbaum reports.

  • The World Health Organization this month advised against using sugar substitutes like Splenda, stevia and Sweet'n Low for weight loss — and warned about potential long-term health risks of too much intake.
  • The recommendation applied to everyone except those with diabetes.

🖼️ The big picture: The WHO recommendation comes on the heels of the agency’s review of studies on non-sugar sweeteners, which found no clear consensus on whether they're effective for weight loss or maintenance.

  • The review referenced data on the possible connection between sugar substitutes and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death.

💡 Between the lines: Part of the potential issue with sugar substitutes is that they could spur unhealthy eating behaviors.

  • Knowingly eating artificially sweetened foods might contribute to the "idea of 'it's better for me so I can eat as much as I want,'" registered dietitian Alissa Rumsey told Axios.
  • Sugar substitutes aren't as satisfying as the real thing, so "for some people, this leads to them continuing to eat and graze on foods to try to find that feeling of satisfaction."

🧠 Reality check: This doesn't mean to necessarily avoid all sweetened foods.

  • If you like artificial sweeteners, "it's okay to have them in moderation, alongside an eating pattern that includes a variety of foods," Rumsey said.
  • As for real sugar: If it's eaten in moderation as part of a snack that includes protein, fat and fiber, "it can improve the taste of food and offer a helpful boost of energy," Rumsey said.

Go deeper.

🎸 Jams of the week

"People in politics and business have to do hard things from time to time. And when I need to be revved up to do hard things, 'All My Life' by the Foo Fighters and 'Let's Go Crazy' by Prince have never failed to amp up my mood and attitude," reader Alex C. writes.

  • "When you need to get all the way to 10, just remember these two songs both go to 11."

🎧 Listen to "All My Life" and "Let's Go Crazy"