Artificial Sweeteners - How Your Diet Can Benefit From Using Them and If They Are Safe

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We are born with a love for anything sweet, and we never seem to lose this passion, even when we grow up.
But unfortunately, high amounts of sugar lead to diseases like diabetes or cause us to be overweight.
Many people need to cut down on sugar, and so artificial sweeteners (non-nutritive sweeteners) have boomed.
But are they really the ideal solution? What's on the market? Currently, there are five artificial sweeteners on the market that have been approved by the FDA:
  • Sunett (Acesulfame potassium)
  • NutraSweet/ Equal (Aspartame)
  • Splenda (Sucralose)
  • Sugaree (D-Tagatose)
  • Sweet 'N Low (Saccharin)
What are their benefits?
  • They don't raise the blood sugar level.
  • They are very low in or even free of calories, whilst providing great sweetness.
  • Therefore they allow you to eat foods you would not be allowed otherwise when having to restrict your sugar intake.
  • They seem to have therapeutic effects too, but more research is needed to prove that.
What are their disadvantages?
  • Splenda uses agents that do contain calories, but as the main ingredient does not, they are not listed on the label.
  • Sweet 'N Low should be used carefully in young children and pregnant women as safety has not yet been established for these groups.
  • Some sweeteners (NutraSweet/ Equal) are not heat resistant and therefore cannot be used in cooking and baking.
Some people seem to be sensitive to sweeteners.
They may experience side-effects like headaches, skin rashes, digestive irritations, dizziness, mood changes, respiratory problems or other symptoms.
The secret is to know how your body reacts on a certain product.
Some people are fine with a larger amount whilst others experience side effects already with much smaller dosages.
How safe are they? FDA-approved artificial sweeteners are considered to be safe if used correctly.
Since they are much sweeter than sugar, only a very small amount is required to reach the same effect, so you would be using it in so small amounts that you don't need to worry about health risks.
Although sweeteners were at times suspected to possibly cause severe illnesses like cancer, there is no scientific proof that they really do.
If you suffer from any medical condition, it is though advisable to ask your GP which sweetener is safe for you.
People suffering from phenylkenoturia, for example, should not use NutraSweet or Equal, as one main ingredient of these sweeteners is the amino acid they cannot digest.
Sweeteners that have not been approved by the FDA cannot be sold as artificial sweeteners but they can be sold as dietary supplements.
These products have no purity guarantee as they are not monitored so closely by the FDA.
That does not necessarily mean they are harmful.
Some of them are promising but simply need more research to scientifically proof their safety.
Summarizing, it can be said that artificial sweeteners, when used correctly and reasonably, are safe to use and quite effective if you need to control your sugar intake because of overweight or diabetes, as they contain very little to no calories.
For a healthy person, there is not really a reason to use artificial sweeteners.
Remember that foods containing artificial sweeteners may still contain other carbohydrates and thus calories.
The fact a food is artificially sweetened does not necessarily mean you can eat unlimited amounts of it.
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