Finally… find out the good bad & the UGLY of artificial sweeteners!
With all the debate of whether or not artificial sweeteners are better for you to use than regular table sugar, it’s difficult to find a definitive answer.
Your body performs hundreds of chemical reactions every time you metabolize a meal just to maintain homeostasis, but even a machine as great as your body has its limits. Therefore, even water or oxygen at the right dose will create a toxic environment for your body which could have potentially harmful side effects (including death – although rare).
Many “experts” who are looking to find fault with a certain product manufactured today can go to the research and find out what side effects were found in rats or other lab animals.
The major problem with this type of adversarial expert is that there will most likely always be side effects with any substance, since the goal of researchers is to find the point at which the product in question becomes toxic. This way they can establish the highest no-adverse-effect level (HNEL) to provide an acceptable and estimated daily intake (ADI & EDI).
With this in mind, it is important to always read the research for yourself when trying to figure out if a particular food or substance is healthy for you.
To make your job a little easier, I’ve objectively outlined the major attributes of each artificial sweetener.
Here is a list of the most common artificial sweeteners and their possible side effects:
Aspartame (NutraSweet & Equal)
Used in: Diet sodas,breath mints, sugar-free gums, frozen yogurt
What is it: Aspartic acid and phenylalanine
Tastes like: Chemical tasting
Strength: 150-200 times stronger than sugar
Calories: 0 calories
Possible side effects: Unless you have a rare genetic condition that does not allow your body to process phenylalanine (phenylketonuria), you should be fine. Although, some studies are trying link a multitude of illnesses such as headaches/migraines, dizziness, nausea, weight gain, muscle spasms, depression, fatigue, insomnia, heart palpitations, vision and hearing problems, anxiety attacks, vertigo, memory loss and joint pain, Emotional Disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, brain tumors, brain cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Epilepsy, birth defects, and diabetes to the overuse of aspartame.
Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low)
Used in: Some toothpaste like Crest and Colgate, as well as diet sodas
What is it: Sulfur dioxide, chlorine, ammonia, and biochemical acids
Tastes like: Bitter with a metallic finish
Strength: 400-500 times stronger than sugar
Calories: 1/8 calorie per teaspoon
Possible side effects: In 1977, the FDA made all products containing saccharin add a warning label stating that it was determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals. In May of 2000, it was removed from the National Toxicology Report on Carcinogens.
Sugar Alcohols (Low Carb Products)
Used in: Low carbohydrate products
What is it: sugar with an added hydrogen molecule
Tastes like: Similar to sweetness of sugar
Strength: Similar to sugar, but with less impact on blood glucose levels
Calories: 25% less calories than sugar
Possible side effects: Deleterious effects such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, vomiting
Stevia (not approved yet by FDA)
Used in: Not yet approved by FDA
What is it: Stevia plant
Tastes like: Similar to sweetness of sugar
Strength: 180-400 times sweeter than sugar
Possible side effects: Stevia is in same family of plants that includes chrysanthemums, daisies, and ragweed. If you are sensitive to any of these plants you may also have a reaction to Stevia. Other side effects are still not known, but studies looking into fertility and a lowering of blood pressure and heart rate are under way.
(*As of right now, Stevia, organic raw honey and maple syrup are the only sweeteners I personally use)
Used in: Numerous low carb or sugar-free products
What is it: Sugar bonded with chlorine atoms
Tastes like: Slightly chemical tasting
Strength: 600 times sweeter than sugar
Possible side effects: Although there are many accusations, no side effects have been confirmed in 113 studies over 20 years. The upper limit is considered to be 1,500 12 once diet sodas a day. It’s important to note that although splenda contains chlorine atoms, it differs in the way it is structured and therefore does not resemble household chlorine. The human body also contains its own natural chlorine in the form of KC1 and NaC1.
My view is that if you are limiting your processed foods and sweets, you really don’t have to worry too much about whether or not you are even ingesting these sweeteners. Last time I checked there weren’t any artificial sweeteners in lean proteins, vegetables, and fruits…
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Committed to your success,
Stephen Cabral, CSCS, CPT, NS
Author of Fatlossity, Lose5in7 Weight Loss System
Health Consultant for MTV, NutritionData, Diet.com, MAXIM, Gather, EDGE
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