Types Of Artificial Sweeteners - Are They Beneficial Or Harmful?

Artificial Sweeteners have been promoted as a healthy option to use instead of sugar especially for calorie conscious and diabetic people. But have you ever wonder what ingredients or chemicals are used to manufacture these artificial sweeteners and whether are they really beneficial for health? First the good news as any product that is meant for consumption has to go through government established checks and regulations even artificial sweeteners have to do so. But that necessary doesn’t make them good for health as many other products such as soft drinks or junk food also get certificated and acceptable for consumption.

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Types of Artificial sweeteners

Mentioned below are the most common types of artificial sweeteners used in the markets today:

Saccharin - Developed by Constantine Fahlberg in the 1800's saccharin was the first artificial sweetener to ever make the market. Surrounded with controversy (just like all the other sweeteners that would follow), saccharin quickly became a success in the market, as it was hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. A Canadian study has suggested an increase in bladder cancer in rats fed the equivalent to 800 diet drinks a day. As irrelevant as this is for humans, Canada banned saccharin as a food addictive but allowed its use for table top sweeteners. Subsequent research has failed to link saccharin with cancer, but human epidemiological studies have shown that if there is any risk, it’s very small.

Sweet’N Low - As obesity was becoming an issue in the mid 1900's, a low-calorie substitute for sugar was in need. Introduced by Michael Sveda, sodium cyclamate found its way into the market, after a decade of research on the products safety; the FDA finally approved Sweet’N Low. Although cyclamate was only 30 times sweeter than sugar, a lot less than saccharine, it didn’t have a bitter aftertaste like saccharine. Scientist discovered in 1966 that bacteria in the stomach can convert cyclamate into cyclohexylamine, a substance that may be toxic at least to the rats anyway.

Acesulfame - About 200 times sweeter than sugar, and unlike aspartame it does not lose its sweetness. Given that 95% of the compound that is consumed is excreted via urine, no American, Canadian or European studies have found any suggestive evidence for its harm. Current scientific opinion allows 10-15 milligrams of acesulfame for every kg of body weight without safety concerns. A 20 millilitre of Coke Zero can has 30 milligrams of acesulfame. That means you can drink 20 cans per day and still be under the prescribed daily intake. Unlike Diet Coke, which uses aspartame, Coke Zero has a mix of aspartame and acesulfame, which discretely hides any aftertaste.

Aspartame - Commonly labelled as non-caloric, which is incorrect. Aspartame is broken down by the digestive tract into its main components, aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol, which are then absorbed and metabolized. Together they contribute about 4 calories per gram, but since aspartame is 180 times sweeter than sugar, very little is needed in food items. One of the drawbacks of aspartame is that it can’t be used in cooked or baked foods because it breaks down in heat and loses its sweetness.

Health Benefits and Risks of Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners it is believed are a diabetic’s best friend and the sugar industries worst enemy. Over the last few years artificial sweetener sales have drastically increased, but so has obesity. So, replacing sugar with sweetener is not exactly the answer to weight control. It’s not the ancestry of the product being synthetically made or naturally produced that determines its public safety. Lots of natural products are more harmful than synthetic ones. The dosage does make a difference though. Critics of artificial sweeteners point towards methanol which is released when aspartame is broken in the body and its ill effects. There is far more ethanol in tomato juice or a banana than in aspartame but what makes the difference is the dosage. Many different researchers have found contradicting evidence and thus some forms of artificial sweeteners remain banned in some countries while are used freely in others.