What Everybody Ought to Know About Artificial Sweeteners

CoachMel Healthy Eating 11 Comments

With the growing number of people trying to follow a healthier lifestyle, recent years has witnessed a massive surge in the use of artificial sugar as a plausible alternative to regular sugar.

What are artificial sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners are chemicals providing the sweetness of sugar without the calories. Generally speaking they are much sweeter than sugar, and therefore it takes a smaller amount to create the same sweetness.

If a product label claims “sugar free” or states “no sugar added,” it’s more than likely to contain artificial sweeteners. A few examples include:

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  • Sugar-free chewing gum
  • Sugar-free sweets and candy
  • Diet drinks
  • Some baked goods
  • Jam
  • “Light” yoghurt
  • Frozen ice cream

A controversial issue

Artificial sweeteners have been linked to a number of adverse conditions, including bladder cancer, brain tumors, lymphomas, leukemias, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

However, these early studies were deemed non conclusive, and as yet studies have been unable to confirm that artificial sweeteners can indeed cause any of the above mentioned conditions.

Types of nonnutritive/artificial sweeteners

To date the FDA have approved five artificial sweeteners as being “safe” for human consumption:

  • Aspartame – or Nutrasweet and Equal
  • Saccharin
  • Acesulfame-K – or Sweet One, and Sunett
  • Neotame
  • Sucralose – or Splenda

The FDA released various statements regarding each sweetener:

#1 Aspartame: “At this time, our position that aspartame is safe is based on the large body of information previously reviewed,” Tarantino says. “Our conclusions are based on a detailed review of more than 100 toxicological and clinical studies on safety.” Check out the 2007 update on Aspartame.

NB People with PKU should avoid aspartame.

#2 Saccharin: “In 2000, the National Toxicology Program determined that saccharin should no longer be listed as a potential cancer-causing agent. Federal legislation followed in 2001, removing the requirement for the saccharin warning label.”

#3 Acesulfame-K: “The FDA and the Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives have evaluated the sweetener’s safety. “More than 90 studies support the safety of acesulfame-K,” Tarantino says.”

#4 Neotame: “The FDA reviewed data from more than 100 animal and human studies on neotame. These studies evaluated cancer-causing, reproductive, and neurological effects. “Based on a thorough evaluation of the data, there are no adverse effects anticipated when neotame is ingested at levels that are used in foods,” Tarantino says.”

#5 Sucralose: “In 1999, the FDA allowed sucralose as a general-purpose sweetener in all foods.”

What is the acceptable daily intake for sweeteners?

The FDA have established an “acceptable daily intake” (ADI) for each sweetener. This is the maximum amount considered safe to consume each day over a lifetime.

Artificial Sweetener

ADI*

Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal)

50 milligrams (mg) per kilogram

Saccharin (Sweet’N Low, SugarTwin)

5 mg per kg

Acesulfame K (Sunett, Sweet One)

15 mg per kg

Sucralose (Splenda)

5 mg per kg

Neotame

18 mg a day

*FDA-established acceptable daily intake (ADI) limit per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight.

However, having said all of the above, I honestly do feel we should precede with caution.

If there is even the slightest hint that sweeteners may cause adverse illness, shouldn’t we avoid them completely? Let’s face it, they certainly aren’t a necessity in our daily diets, are they?

5 ways to avoid large consumption of artificial sweeteners:

#1 Stick to a diet of whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible.

#2 Occasional consumption of drinks or foods containing artificial sweeteners is unlikely to cause a problem, however I strongly recommend avoiding daily consumption.

#3 Remember that removing the sugar from food doesn’t make it low in calories or fat. Therefore, if you eat too many, you will still consume more calories than you need. Opt for fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds as your main source of wholesome snacks.

#4 Always read the labels of packaged food to find out which sweetener is present.

#5 Wean yourself off sweet foods. So, rather than replacing table sugar with artificial sweetener, reduce the amount of sweet foods you already consume. Your taste buds will adjust eventually.

You may also like to check out:

What are your thoughts? Do you use artificial sweeteners?

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Comments 11

  1. Katly

    This was very interesting. Apart from no added sugar soft drinks I don’t use artificial sweeteners. However I will make a point of trying to avoid it like the plaige because who needs cancer right.

    Katly’s last blog post..Doing really WELL

  2. Tom

    Thanks for all of the information. Artificial sweeteners are always a much discussed and debated topic. I think that even if the health effects are overstated, people should still be careful with sweeteners. I think artificial sweeteners should be used in moderation, and I completely agree that it is better to cut back on sweet foods rather than replace sugar with sweeteners.

  3. Melanie

    Hi Harriett,

    Wow, those pictures are horrendous. Do you know the person who carried out the private experiment?

    Hi Katly,

    Yes, you’d be wise to cut back on soft drinks, however if it’s only occasionally as I said it shouldn’t be a problem.

    Hey Tom,

    It’s definitely a controversial issue, and rather annoying that sweeteners are in many of the foods you may not expect as well, making them difficult to avoid completely.

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