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:
- Sugar-free chewing gum
- Sugar-free sweets and candy
- Diet drinks
- Some baked goods
- “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
- Acesulfame-K – or Sweet One, and Sunett
- 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.
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
5 mg per kg
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:
- Artificial Sweetener: Is It Safe In Pregnancy?
- National Cancer Institute on artificial sweeteners and cancer risk.
- FDA on the five approved artificial sweeteners.
- Gloria’s take on artificial sweeteners at Health Castle
- Kathryn’s thoughts on artificial sweeteners over at Limes and Lycopene
What are your thoughts? Do you use artificial sweeteners?
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