Artificial sweeteners are everywhere today; from a can of soda to the mouthwash you use at night. Unfortunately, these artificial sweeteners are not easily identifiable to the average consumer on a label. On top of this, Most processed products will be labeled “sugar-free”, but will contain an artificial sweetener.
Artificial sweeteners are commonly viewed as a healthier alternative to sugar, as they have less calories. The FDA has a list of artificial sweeteners, which are termed high intensity sweeteners, approved for use as food additives. These include saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), sucralose, neotame, advantame, and stevia.
Most commonly used artificial sweeteners are sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, Sugar Twin) and saccharin (Sweet’N Low). However, many consumers do not know the possible side effects and health risks associated with the ingestion of chemically processed artificial sweeteners.
Furthermore, the American Dietetic Association states that children under 2 years of age, pregnant women and lactating women should not use artificial sweeteners, despite them being deemed safe by the FDA. Makes one think right?
What are the health risks of consuming artificial sweeteners?
Research on the short and long term health risks, as well as benefits of consuming artificial sweeteners is limited. Some things that are known are the following:
- Cyclamate (an early artificial sweetener), was banned by the FDA in 1970 due to carcinogenic risks in experimental animals.
- Many consumers report headaches, dizziness, rashes, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and digestive problems after ingesting artificial sweeteners. These side effects could build up over time and cause serious long term diseases.
- There is a debate between the FDA and scientists. In a study determining the effects of saccharin, sucralose and aspartame consumption in both mice and humans, the ingestion of artificial sweeteners altered gut microbiota. Studies indicated glucose intolerance was elevated due to changes in gut microbiota
- Gut health is important to maintain a healthy immune system and normal metabolic functions in our body; such as maintaining normal blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels.
- Scientists believe that there is a relationship between sweeteners and certain cancers, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, and systemic lupus.
- In numerous studies observing weight loss with the ingestion of artificial sweeteners, there is not enough proof that consumption is beneficial in weight management.
- Artificial Sweeteners can develop into an addiction. These processed sugars are 200-13,000 times sweeter than regular sugar. Over time, sweeteners can alter taste buds and result in fruits, vegetables and other healthy alternatives tasting bland.
Which sweeteners are best to use?
In order to satisfy one’s sweet craving, utilize all natural (made in nature and not labs) sugars in moderation.
These sugars include agave syrup or crystals, local honey, maple syrup, monk fruit (luo han), and Stevia (pure).
Steer clear of artificial sweeteners, as these are processed and there are not enough studies on long term effects of their use. Look at labels for any processed foods and keep an eye out for any of the artificial sweeteners mentioned in this article- after all, they could be toxic!