There is a lot of hype around artificial sweeteners, be it SweetN’ low or Splenda and the list goes on. So let’s take the time to learn a bit more about the differences between them and why or why not they are harmful.
To be honest, it is a struggle writing about sweeteners. One – I have to use big words and I don’t particularly like that, and two – the Do’s and Don’t aren’t as straight forward. Well, except for one
general DO: Everything consumed in small/moderate amounts is fine
Let me try to break this down. There are 5 Federal and Drug Administration (FDA) approved sweeteners, and they’re not all the same – though all mainly used for diet soft drinks and food for diabetics.
|Aspartame||Equal, NutraSweet||diet soft drinks|
|Saccharin (bad metallic aftertaste)||Sweet’N Low, Sugar Twin||diet food and drinks|
|Sucralose (can be used for baking)||Splenda||diet food and drinks|
|Acesulfame K (not suitable for people with PKU*)||Sunnett||combined with saccharin in diet drinks|
|Stevia (herbal sweetner)||Truvia, PureVia, SweetLeaf||diet food and drinks|
What they are:
- Synthetic – lab made – sugar substitutes that may be derived from sugar (like sucralose) or herbs (like stevia) and combined with an array of chemicals which are too long and kinda scary when I think of it.
- They have almost zero calories and are not digested by the body (HOORAY – but not so much).
- Are many MANY times as sweet as sugar, so technically you need a lot less of them to get the same sweet taste.
What we know now:
- There was a big hype about Saccharin and bladder cancer in rats – but that study was later found to have been using A LOT of Saccharin, and that those rats had a predisposition.
- There aren’t long-term tests being done on humans, so we really DON’T know their full effects yet. Also many of their “approvals” were/are controversial.
- It is not advisable to use anything artificial during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding (which tells you something, doesn’t it?).
- They are not sugar and therefore don’t cause dental caries (Dentists may try to deny this, don’t believe them).
- Since they are zero calories they won’t make you gain weight (but some, haha at “SOME”, people tend to eat more thinking that it’s zero calories and end up actually gaining weight – yes it’s true, because most food contains more ingredients than JUST the sweeteners and those do have calories. The diet soda might be zero calorie, but the burger next to it isn’t my lovelies).
Dietitian’s take home message:
These are chemicals. No matter what they are “derived” from, they aren’t going to be TRULY good for you. They are good for a snack once during the day when you’re overweight and finally sticking to your diet (hang in there!) and desperately trying to keep yourself from breaking down altogether. They are definitely a sweet-tooth relief option if you’re diabetic – but this is not something you want to consume in big quantities – AND definitely not from diet sodas (the issues with those are endless – please save me the trouble of writing a whole post about it and just don’t drink them)!
I’ve tried to be VERY brief here, but I will keep a few links for more details for those interested in the specifics.
So again, what’s our general DO from all this?
P.S: PKU is short for PhenylKetonuria and is a rare condition in which a person lacks the ability to properly break down an amino acid called phenylalanine, which is found in Acesulfame K.
P.P.S: There is another sugar substitute known as Cyclamate that has been FDA banned in the States and is still used everywhere else, it is generally combined with Saccharin (to hide its metallic aftertaste) and produced as Sweet’N Low – so maybe read the labels next time and be a conscious healthy buyer!
Source — really interesting article by the way!