Artificial sweeteners, also known as sugar substitutes, have now become a regular part of our daily diets and are found in the majority of foods. The rise in artificial sweeteners can be traced to America's growing concern about its diet. Most products that are 'sugar free' or 'light' often contain artificial sweeteners.
What Are Artificial Sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners are a synthetic replacement for sugar that still provide the added sweetness to foods and drinks without the added calories. They are categorized as non-nutritive for this very reason. These sweetners came about because of the need for cost reduction and eventually became a supplement for weight loss.
Why Use Artificial Sweeteners?
For those following a weight loss plan dependent on your caloric intake, artificial sweeteners are often recommended. Also, artificial sweeteners can be good for people with diabetes, as they provide sweetness, often without raising blood sugar levels. However, some artificial sweeteners can raise blood sugar levels, and some sugar substitutes may even contain calories, so, it is important to know which type of artificial sweetener you are consuming. So which artificial sweeteners are safe, and which aren't?
Main Types of Artificial Sweetener and Their Dangers
- Aspartame: This is used in NutraSweet, Equal and NatraTaste. Aspartame is around 190 times sweeter than sugar and has been categorized as 'probably safe'. Some people have reported that it causes headaches, dizziness and stomach cramping amongst other things. Aspartame is not recommended for those suffering from PKU (phenylketonuria) as they will not be able to digest the main ingredient of this artificial sweetener, which is phenylalanine (an amino acid). Aspartame may also have negative effects for children with epilepsy.
- Acesulfame K: This can be found in Sweet One and Sunnett. Acesulfame K is some 200 times sweeter than sugar, and has been considered as 'generally safe'. However, there have not been extensive studies about this artificial sweetener so it might be worth avoiding from lack of research.
- Cyclamate: This sweetener contains no calories, and is found in Sweet 'n' Low and has been deemed as 'safe'. However, it is not allowed in processed food but may be used at the table as an additional sweetener.
- Saccharin: This sweetener is 400 times sweeter than sugar, and can also be found in Sweet 'n' Low. There has been quite a bit of debate about this artificial sweetener, with high doses causing cancer in rats. Saccharin should probably be avoided if possible.
- Sucralose: It's probably the safest artificial sweetener and is found in Splenda. It is 600 times stronger than sugar, and has gained approval for universal food and beverage use, which has to be a good sign.
The Safe Use of Artificial Sweeteners
The key here is to use artificial sweetners in moderation for the best health benefits. Sucralose and Aspartame have been proclaimed after various tests as the safest of all the artificial sweeteners. Even though this may be true, in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, we must still be careful about what we consume.