Aspartame. Saccharin. Sucralose.
What do these three names have in common?They are artificial sweeteners and have attracted quite a crowd of controversy since their birth. Are these non-nutrtive sweeteners safe and what are the long-term effects? What happens if I drink that diet coke everyday? Let’s find out …
In short, Aspartame was developed in 1965 when a scientist studying new treatments for gastric ulcers accidentally licked a sweet compound off his hand that had been ejected from his experiment. Thus, Aspartame was born. 200 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar) and marketed as Equal or NutraSweet, aspartame was approved by the FDA in 1981 as a table top sweetener and in 1996 as safe for all purposes. Are you eating some sugar-free candy, sipping some sweet diet soda or chewing gum right now? Chances are you may be consuming aspartame or another type of non-nutritive sweetener.
Ok, but how does this effect me?
According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), aspartame consumption is not associated with adverse effects in the general population. To reach this conclusion, they evaluated numerous studies and developed conclusions based on the scientific evidence.
In terms of weight loss, according to the ADA, aspartame does not affect appetite or food consumption. Thus, consuming calorie free beverages (such as diet coke) in place of sugar-sweetened beverages (regular coke) is a potential calorie saver. So what they are saying is that the consumption of artificial sweeteners (Splenda, NutraSweet, equal, etc) does not cause a person to eat other food in order make up for the lost calories from the “calorie free, artificially sweetened” food item or beverage. You follow? While supporting evidence is strong for it to be generally considered as safe, the evidence is limited for whether or not non-nutrative sweeteners may or may not cause a person to find their lost calories elsewhere. With limited evidence, I find this last statement to be non-conclusive and further research needs to be conducted.
I recently came across a study published in 2008, entitled “The Potential Toxicity of Artificial Sweeteners” that offers up some good information and gives us a second opinion on the matter. Let’s take a look at some of the more common artificial sweeteners highlighted in this study and their effects:*
So we see the short-term (acute) effects and long-term (chronic) effects. What can we gather from this chart? I’m thinking some good ole gastrointestinal distress! – or a gassy gut if you will, mixed in with some nausea and diarrhea. Doesn’t that sound fun? I didn’t think so either. In my opinion I find there are enough things out there to cause bloating and if I can’t avoid artificial sweeteners to avoid these unpleasant side affects, I think I will! It is important to keep in mind not everyone will experience these symptoms. Is it worth checking into how your body reacts? Think about it.
In conclusion, these sweeteners are approved by the FDA as “safe” yet studies show various symptoms associated with consumption of these artificial sweeteners that may cause discomfort or illness.
Where do natural sweeteners such as Stevia fit in you ask?
Good question. I recently had the opportunity to taste a Stevia leaf. I personally can not stand the taste. It tasted like chemical sweetness that grew slowly with strength in my mouth. What can I say, I am partial to honey anyway. The stevia plant, sometimes marketed as “Truvia, Only Sweet, PureVia, Reb-A, Rebiana, or Sweet Leaf” is 300 times sweeter than table sugar. In 1995, stevia was approved by the FDA as a dietary supplements and in 2008 as a food additive.
The Bottom Line: These items are FDA approved yet may cause some side effects.
I am a big fan of eating organic and eating from the earth, and by earth, I mean things that are natural. Things that were originally found on earth the way nature intended and not altered in a lab. For persons who experience altered or impaired blood glucose control, the benefits of non-nutritive sweeteners may out weigh the risk. For the general adult population, I believe in eating foods in proper proportions to promote satiety (feelings of satisfaction and fullness) and balanced eating, which may include natural sugar or raw honey. Evidence is somewhat lacking for artificial sweeteners and by consuming natural foods in balanced proportions, artificial sweeteners could be one less thing to worry about.
Do you consume artificial sweeteners? Have you ever noticed any side effects?
Thanks for stopping by!