The Not-So-Sweet Facts on Artificial Sweetners

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Photo: Courtesy of Suat Eman

From the days the “S” word became a threat in the dieter’s
world, and we’re talking sugar here, the search for the perfect substitute has
been endless. There is practically a rainbow of artificial sweeteners on
shelves throughout grocery shops nationwide. From the pink packets of Sweet’N
Low, to yellow packets of Splenda, just what is behind these sweeteners? Are
they safe? Is one better than the other? And are they truly effective for weight
loss?

Regular, caloric sugar is composed of primarily sucrose or
high fructose corn syrup. Artificial, calorie-free sweeteners use substitutes
to replace the sugary taste in many of your favorite foods with aspartame,
saccharin, sucralose, stevia, Ace-K, and neotame. Sounds a lot more complicated
doesn’t it? Sweet’N Low, made of mostly saccharin, has only 1/8 calorie per
teaspoon versus sugar's 15, but is nearly 300 times sweeter than the natural
stuff. Aspartame, a popular ingredient in sweeteners, such as Equal, has 24
calories per teaspoon, and is 180 times sweeter than sugar. Derived from the
amino acids L-aspartic acid and L-phenylalanine, aspartame has a slightly less
chemical taste than saccharin, which is the result of a chemical reaction that
produces methyl anthranilate. Finally, the most recognizable artificial
sweetener, Splenda is probably the closest tasting to real sugar and is
composed of sucralose, which is nearly 600 times sweeter! Yikes!

Aside from the noticeable taste difference in many diet
foods that use artificial sweeteners many buyers have been hesitant due to
increasing safety concerns. Through research and studies some of the artificial
sweeteners have been linked to cancer. Nearly thirty years ago research
conducted with laboratory rats resulted in the development  of cancer. Despite this scare there is little
evidence that this sweetener actually causes harm to humans and remains a
popular tabletop component. Aspartame, a popular sweetener in diet sodas, has
also been linked to increased headaches and neurologic problems. The Women’s
Health Magazine article Which is Better? Artificial Sweeteners or
Sugar?
 suggests avoiding foods with this
sweetener if you are especially prone to headaches and migraines, as scientists
believe that the phenylalanine in aspartame negatively affects
neurotransmitters in the brain. The FDA has established a recommended daily
maximum intake with out risking any adverse side effects. As a precaution, the
FDA states that A 150-pound adult can ingest eight and a half packets of
Sweet'N Low, 87 packets of Equal or NutraSweet, or 25 packets of Splenda daily.

Now, it may seem like you’re cutting out the calories of
sugar so weight loss should be simple right? Wrong. Believe it or not, studies
have been shown that dieters using artificial sweeteners may in fact gain
weight. Using these faux sugars confuses our bodies and leads to increased
cravings for the real thing because certain hormones that signal satiety may
not be triggered as they would if you had eaten real sugar. While the negative
effects of regular sugar will have a worse effect on your health (i.e.
increasing blood sugar and risk for diabetes) than the risk of craving an extra
piece of chocolate, the overall consensus is that any “sugars” have pros and
cons. So if you are going to be more satisfied and happy eating a cookie for
dessert than munching on the impersonator sweets, go ahead! After all, one
cookie never hurt anybody!

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Comments

Artificial sweeteners is even worse then sugar! Thanks for pointing out those facts that people want to be aware of

A healthy eating plan is both essential and REALLY difficult to achieve today. Becoming a "label reader" will help you sift and sort what is the junk food to be avoided. And don't forget exercise! 

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