Artificial Sweeteners: The Pro’s and Con’s

Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes but may be derived from naturally occurring substances, including herbs or sugar itself. Artificial sweeteners are also known as intense sweeteners because they are many times sweeter than regular sugar. Artificial sweeteners are attractive alternatives to sugar because they add virtually no calories to your diet. In addition, you need only a fraction compared with the amount of sugar you would normally use for sweetness.

Possible health benefits of artificial sweeteners

One benefit of artificial sweeteners is that they don’t contribute to tooth decay and cavities. They may also help with the following:

  • Weight control. One of the most appealing aspects of artificial sweeteners is that they are non-nutritive — they have virtually no calories. In contrast, each gram of regular table sugar contains 4 calories. A teaspoon of sugar is about 4 grams. For perspective, consider that one 12-ounce can of a sweetened cola contains 8 teaspoons of added sugar, or about 130 calories. If you’re trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain, products sweetened with artificial sweeteners rather than with higher calorie table sugar may be an attractive option. On the other hand, some research has suggested that consuming artificial sweeteners may be associated with increased weight, but the cause is not yet known.
  • Diabetes. Artificial sweeteners may be a good alternative to sugar if you have diabetes. Unlike sugar, artificial sweeteners generally don’t raise blood sugar levels because they are not carbohydrates. But because of concerns about how sugar substitutes are labeled and categorized, always check with your doctor or dietitian about using any sugar substitutes if you have diabetes.

Possible health concerns with artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners have been the subject of intense scrutiny for decades. Critics of artificial sweeteners say that they cause a variety of health problems, including cancer. That’s largely because of studies dating to the 1970s that linked saccharin to bladder cancer in laboratory rats. Because of those studies, saccharin once carried a warning label that it may be hazardous to your health. But according to the National Cancer Institute and other health agencies, there’s no sound scientific evidence that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use in the U.S. cause cancer or other serious health problems. And numerous research studies confirm that artificial sweeteners are generally safe in limited quantities, even for pregnant women.

Artificial sweeteners are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as food additives and are reviewed and approved by the FDA before being made available for sale. The FDA has established an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for each artificial sweetener, or the maximum amount considered safe to consume each day over the course of your lifetime. ADIs are intended to be about 100 times less than the smallest amount that might cause health concerns.

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/artificial-sweeteners/MY00073

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