Artificial Sweeteners, the name, artificial, itself already perpetuate bad and unnatural sentiments, easily provoking people to steer clear of such ingredients. But the information that is available on artificial sweeteners isn’t all that and clear, especially with the fact that there is not just one artificial sweetener, but multiple sweeteners of varying substances.
Let’s take a look at some of the more popular varieties and see what the fuss is all about.
Virtually all artificial sweeteners enhanced foods have varying amounts of aspartame. First made in 1965, it didn’t take long for it to be approved by the FDA 9 years later. By the turn of the century, though, things started to look sour for aspartame due to a research in 2005 linking aspartame to cancer developments in rodents. The link was made to methanol, an aspartame constituent that metabolizes into the notorious substance formaldehyde.
However, the amount of methanol in aspartame is extremely small. In fact, one serving is a thousand times less than the amounts our body produces on a daily basis. Investigating further, will see that the rats consumed amounts of as per team equivalent to 18 cans of diet soda per day.
On top of that, our body metabolizes aspartame very differently to rodents, making any comparison between humans and rodents questionable. Human trials typically show no issue. At the most, aspartame can be a cause for concern for those with a genetic disorder known as phenylketonuria, since aspartame contains phenylalanine. For everyone else, barring some research linking asparatme to headaches, it seems that a modest dose of aspartame is safe.
It is also used in plenty of drinks in sweets, surcralose is more popularly artificial sweetners known as Splenda. Extensive research shows that sucralose is generally safe, but some do show a potential connection between sucralose and leukemia. The issue here, though, again is the lack of evidence in human trials.
Our best understanding is that, since we only absorb 2 to 5 percent of sucrose consumed, sucralose should be safe at modest dosages. Acceptable dietary allowance for sucralose is 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, averaging out to about 165 packets of Splenda per day. Suffice to say it shouldn’t be too hard to stay well below that.
Through 11 weeks, researchers found that saccharin modulated microbiota composition that impaired glucose tolerance in mice. Wondering if it also applies to humans, they conducted a 7-day experiment giving 7 subjects the maximum acceptable daily intake of saccharin at five milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day. After 7 days, 4 of the 7 subjects did experience microbial imbalances. But, it has to be noted that the researchers did not directly conclude that the saccharin-induced dysbiosis did in fact lead to glucose intolerance in the human subjects. Instead, they took stool samples from the humans, transplanted them into mice, and then found that it did muck up glucose tolerance for the transplanted mice.
In any case, saccharin fortunately has been mostly replaced in foods by the more popular sweeteners aspartame and sucralose. Saccharin is mainly accessible these days from sweetener packets such as Sweet N low.
- Acesulfame Potassium
Acesulfame Potassium, or commonly abbreviated as Ace-K. ACE-K typically tags along with one of the other sweeteners as an additional sweet enhancer. Unlike the others, though ACE-K isn’t metabolized by our body whatsoever. It might sound like a broken record, but the sparse evidence against ACE-K is again from rodent research on the gut microbiome when mice were given exorbitant amounts of ACE-K. Human trials, as you would guess, show very little issue with ACE-K consumption.
Safe or Not
What I got out of reading through all of this commotion about artificial sweeteners though is that we don’t know for sure if they are completely safe. In the grand scheme of things, they are nutrition fewer ingredients that we don’t need to have in our food. Its initial intention was to help us lose weight by replacing sugar, but new research shows that it’s not actually good at doing so. The issue is that people still overeat and that’s where the answer really lies. A diet soda here and there won’t ruin your goals, but don’t use it as an excuse to let yourself eat more. Ultimately, the tried and true remains: eat a healthy and balanced diet, count your calories and macros, and make sure you don’t overeat.