The High Price of Being Skinny

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Violet Stiehl used artificial sweeteners for 30 years until she was diagnosed with adult onset pre-diabetes.

"I used aspartame, saccharine, the pink packets, the blue packets and the yellow Splenda packets until I heard they were cancer causing substances and contribute to diabetes," Stiehl told MainStreet.

Like a drug addict in a 12-step routine, the 50-year-old stopped using sweeteners 208 days ago but is still counting days.

"I always had a piece of sugar free gum in my mouth, and I put sweetener in my yogurt in the morning," Stiehl said. "I am constantly dieting and need something in my mouth to bridge the gap of not eating."

At first, Stiehl craved sweeteners but now she can take or leave the multi-colored packets. "As long as I don't put them in my system, I don't think about sweeteners," Stiehl said. "We're all addicted to sweeteners or sugar. We're a nation of addicts."

Stiehl may be on to something. With the natural sweeteners market expected to reach $21.9 billion in 2014 alone, natural food is becoming big business globally, according to a Visiongain market report.

"Artificial sweeteners are designed to be hundreds to a thousand times sweeter than sucrose or table sugar," said Beth Shaw, founder of YogaFit and leader of Mind Body Fitness education. "This high level of sweetness makes it hard to transform your flavor preferences and may even intensify sugar cravings and dependency."

Whether it was Stevia, Splenda, aspartame or saccharine, Stiehl was spending at least $5 a day on sweetener products such as gum, diet soda and mere packets to put in her coffee.

"From what I've read, Stevia is benign, but I need to stop my sugar craving so I am going cold turkey," Stiehl said. "Just because the food industry wants to make money off us humans, it doesn't mean I have to support them. I spent plenty money on sweeteners over the years starting with a $1.50 on a pack of gum and I chewed two or three packs a day and sometimes more."