The Pros and Cons of Artificial Sweeteners:Artificial sweeteners offer a solution for folks who have a sweet appetite and don’t want the excess calories of refined sugar or other natural sweeteners like honey, dates, and maple syrup. But do artificial sweeteners pose a health risk?
Artificial Sweeteners – What Are They?
Low-calorie sweeteners, which include artificial and non-nutritive sweeteners, are found in beverages, foods, confectionery, toothpaste, and certain pharmaceuticals. They are low in calories or contain none at all.
Non-nutritive sweeteners are derived from plants or herbs, including stevia and monk fruit extract. On the other hand, artificial sweeteners are composed of chemical substances such as sulfonamides, sucrose byproducts, peptides, and their derivatives.
Artificial sweeteners are used to flavor some foods and beverages because they have a higher sweetness potency than sugar. Certain sweeteners are 200–13,000 times sweeter than table sugar. Due to their sweetness, they require less portions to flavor dishes or beverages, which results in fewer calories per gram.
While sugar alcohols or polyols such as sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, erythritol, mannitol, and maltitol are carbohydrates, they are not considered low-calorie sweeteners. They contain less calories than table sugar and have a sweetness potency of 25% to 100% greater than sugar.
Sugar alcohols are present in a variety of foods and beverages, including cookies, candies, chewing gum, and ice cream, as well as toothpaste and cough medicine. They have no effect on blood glucose levels and do not raise the risk of tooth decay.
Artificial Sweetener Types
To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the following eight artificial sweeteners:
- Acesulfame potassium is a sweetener that is commonly found in sugar-free sodas. Sunett or Sweet One are the brand names, and you may find them at your local grocery shop.
- Aspartame is a sweetener that is found in a variety of meals, beverages, and sweets, as well as vitamins and laxatives. Equal or NutraSweet are the brand names. Aspartame has a taste intensity 200 times that of sucrose. Individuals who have phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic condition, should avoid aspartame.
- Neotame has a sweetness of between 7,000 and 13,000 times that of sugar. Although it is found in a variety of foods and beverages, it is not as prevalent as other low-calorie sweeteners.
- Saccharin was discovered in 1879 and was quickly commercialized. Saccharin has a sweetness of 200 to 700 times that of sugar. Sweet’N Low, Sweet Twin, and Sugar Twin are the brand names.
- Sucralose is a sweetener that is well-known for its flexibility. It is a sugar substitute that is present in processed meals and baked beverages, as well as canned fruit and dairy products. It is 600 times sweeter than sugar. Sucralose is available under the brand names Splenda and Equal Sucralose.
- Stevia is a calorie-free, non-nutritive sweetener. It is extracted from the stevia plant’s leaves and is 200–300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia is a natural sweetener that is available in a wide variety of foods and beverages. You can find it marketed as Truvia, Stevia in the Raw, SweetLeaf, Sweet Drops, Sun Crystals, and PureVia at your local food store.
- Monk fruit extract, or luo han guo, is a non-nutritive sweetener. It contains no calories and is between ten and twenty-five times sweeter than sugar. It is frequently used with other non-nutritive sweeteners, such as Stevia. It is advertised as Monk Fruit in the Raw at grocery and health food stores.
- Advantame is the FDA’s most recently approved non-nutritive sweetener—it was approved in 2014. It has a sweetness of 20,000 times that of sugar and is not commonly used. Unlike aspartame, it is safe for individuals who suffer from phenylketonuria.
our caloric intake.
However, animal studies have demonstrated that artificial sweeteners can cause weight gain and, more concerning, can result in brain tumors, bladder cancer, and other disorders. The scientific community is divided on whether artificial sweeteners are safe in all circumstances or at all doses.
Regardless, research indicates that artificial sweeteners can have an effect on several organs in the body.
While non-caloric artificial sweeteners are not absorbed, they may reach the gut microbiota, altering its composition and activity and thus contributing to the development of metabolic syndrome.
In one study, researchers supplemented the drinking water of 10-week-old mice with saccharin, sucralose, or aspartame. Eleven weeks later, mice given the sugar-water solution acquired glucose intolerance, in contrast to mice given water, glucose, or sucrose alone.
The researchers concluded that sugar consumption affected the gut flora as a result of glucose intolerance.
Earlier research suggested that a combination of cyclamate and saccharin was carcinogenic to animals. According to the FDA, carcinogenicity studies in humans found no link between these artificial sweeteners and cancer.
Additional research on FDA-approved
artificial sweeteners has revealed no link between these sweeteners and numerous types of cancer in people.
Are Splenda or Sucralose Carcinogenic?
Appetite, Cravings, and Body Mass Index
A study discovered that people who drank artificially sweetened beverages on a regular basis had a higher BMI. Another study discovered that regular artificial sweetener users gained between 2.7 and 7.1 percent more weight than non-users.
Additionally, studies have indicated that water sweetened with aspartame enhanced appetite and hunger in normal-weight adult males when compared to glucose or plain water. Another study found that aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and saccharin all increased appetite, with aspartame having the strongest effect due to its lack of bitter flavor.
There is an association between desires and specific flavors, such as sweetness. Artificial sweeteners can cause you to crave and seek out sweetened foods. To alleviate the dependence, experts recommend gradually tapering off or eliminating sugar or artificial sweeteners.
The majority of non-nutritive sweeteners contain few or no calories per serving. Additionally, because these sweeteners have a flavor intensity profile that is 200 to several thousand times that of table sugar, they require a fraction of the amount of sugar to sweeten food.
However, studies have indicated that excessive use of foods containing artificial sweeteners can alter glucose metabolism, or how your body digests and utilizes sugar. Artificial sweetener intake has been associated with excessive weight gain and health issues such as type 2 diabetes. 8
A few studies have examined the link between artificial sweeteners and headaches and discovered that aspartame or sucralose can cause headaches in a small percentage of persons.
According to the Headache & Facial Pain Center at the University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute, the association between aspartame and migraine sufferers is stronger. Headaches can occur as a result of chronic usage of sweeteners in diet beverages, and not always with a single serving.
Cavities form as a result of oral microorganisms. Cavity-causing bacteria include mutans streptococci, streptococcus sobrinus, and lactobacilli, which create acid in the presence of fermentable carbohydrates such as sucrose, fructose, and glucose. Your teeth’s mineral composition becomes more sensitive to the increased acidity caused by lactic acid generation.
Unlike sugar, artificial sweeteners are not digested by oral bacteria, which produce waste on the surface of your teeth and contribute to the reduction in oral pH.
Who Should Avoid Their Consumption?
The FDA has determined that artificial sweeteners are safe to consume, although aspartame should be avoided by persons who have phenylketonuria, a condition that hinders the breakdown of phenylalanine (an important amino acid).
Additionally, the American Medical Association recommends avoiding saccharin when pregnant due to the possibility of delayed fetal clearance.
Sugar alcohols are generated from fruits and berries (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, erythritol). Consumption of sugar alcohols may have a negative effect on blood glucose levels. With the exception of erythritol, sugar alcohols may cause bloating and diarrhea if consumed in excess.
Other adverse effects of artificial sweeteners include migraines or headaches, skin problems, depression, weight gain, muscle problems, and blurred vision.
Questions That Are Frequently Asked
Why are artificial sweeteners considered to be harmful?
Although animal studies have established a link between artificial sweeteners—most notably saccharine—and cancer, the FDA and the National Cancer Institute assert that there is no scientific evidence linking artificial sweeteners to cancer or other health problems.
Artificial sweeteners, on the other hand, have been found in tests to enhance hunger and desires for foods sweetened with these sweeteners. Even though they contain few or no calories individually, the calories contributed by additional substances can result in weight gain.
Artificial sweeteners are what they sound like.
Artificial sweeteners are sugar substitutes made synthetically. They are used as food additives to replace table sugar. Certain sweeteners are characterized as non-nutritive sweeteners because they are derived from plants or fruits that have almost no calories. Others are fruit and berry-derived sugar alcohols.
Which artificial sweeteners are considered to be safe?
The FDA has approved eight artificial sweeteners as safe. Acesulfame potassium, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia, monk fruit extract, and advantame are just a few examples.
How are synthetic sweeteners manufactured?
Chemical synthesis or extraction of natural sweeteners are used to generate artificial sweeteners.
Is it safe to consume artificial sweeteners when pregnant?
The American Medical Association recommends that pregnant women avoid saccharin, one of the eight FDA-approved artificial sweeteners.
What can you substitute for artificial sweeteners?
Honey or maple syrup can be used to sweeten foods and beverages in place of table sugar and artificial sweeteners. Additionally, you can bake foods that contain sweet fruits such as bananas, apples, pears, blueberries, and ripe mangos.
Which artificial sweeteners are gastrointestinal irritants?
Artificial sweeteners made from sugar alcohol are frequently associated with bloating and diarrhea.
While artificial sweeteners may have no or few calories, research indicates that they may promote weight gain and raise the chance of developing certain health problems. While the FDA maintains that artificial sweeteners do not cause cancer, they have been related to increased sugar cravings, cavities, and changes in the gut microbiome. Even if you are using artificial sweeteners rather than table sugar, moderation is critical.