Many believe artificial sweeteners provide a convenient solution to the problem of limiting their sugar intake. Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple.
From time immemorial, we humans have always loved sweet foods and drinks. The list is endless from sugary cereals, fizzy drinks, ice cream, biscuits, chocolate bars etc. There was a record of the early people using honey to sweeten, then sugar from sugar-cane came in.
However, the calorie associated with sugar intake, with attendance weight gain put people off some foods and drinks, making manufacturers seek calorie-reduced alternatives, hence come in artificial sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners are chemical compounds used to sweeten foods and drinks but without the calorie of sugar.
In the UK, there are acceptable standards of use of artificial sweeteners approved by The Foods Standard Agency. These five have been approved as safe to use on foods and drinks:
Saccharin (Sweet ‘N low)
Aspatarmine (Nutra Sweet)
D. Tagatose (Sugaree)
Acesulfame Potassium (Sunett)
Some people will be surprised not to see the popular STEVIA in the list. This is just leaf extract that does not fall into the chemical compound definition of artificial sweeteners, hence STEVIA is classified as a dietary supplement.
Artificial sweeteners are found in a large number of our daily consumption foods like desserts, chewing gum, most ready-meals, toothpaste etc,
The most common natural sweetener is FRUCTOSE, which is made from fruit sugar, contains four calories per gram. Fructose is naturally sweeter than sugar, so a very little amount is needed to obtain a sweet taste. Thus it seems reasonable to add it to many diet products.
Two Types Of Artificial Sweeteners
Alcohol-based sweeteners like sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol and xylitol. They contain up to two and four calories per gram and can cause gastrointestinal problems. These are the types used in ‘SUGAR-FREE’ diet products.
Synthetic sweeteners are chemical products containing no calories. They came in a variety of forms, tablets, powder and liquid. Some cannot be used for cooking as the heat turns it to be less sweet or even bitter. When used in a moderate amount, they pose no danger to health.
The Benefit Of Artificial Sweeteners
The moderate use of artificial sweeteners can help weight loss reduction because they contain fewer calories than sugar for the same taste. Weight loss is also attributable to a healthier heart and a low risk of diabetes.
Cancer Research UK has said that reasonable use of artificial sweetener does not pose any health risk.
Also because they are often needed in a very tiny bit, food manufacturers said they can prevent tooth decay associated with eating sugary foods and drinks.
The argument for diabetics is that unlike sugar, they do not increase blood sugar level after consumption.
The study at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation concluded that aspartame is especially effective in the relief of pain associated with ‘’osteoarthritis, sickle cell anaemia and multiple sclerosis.
The Ugly Side Of Artificial Sweetener
Increase the risk of dementia and stroke — A cohort study of three thousand persons over ten years concluded that the use of artificial sweeteners increases one’s risk of dementia and stroke.
The study did not, however, look into why these people chose artificial sweeteners over sugar, which could be because they were diabetic, overweight or suffering from an underlying condition, which could, of course, affect the result of the test.
This is important because people will not normally prefer artificial sweeteners to sugar unless there is a need for it.
Consumption of artificial sweeteners can make predisposed individuals become diabetic — The predisposed individuals are those with already big belly fat, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and unhealthy cholesterol level. The Endocrine Society of Chicago found that there is a risk of becoming diabetic up between three to five times in this sort of individuals.
‘’Our stem cell study indicate that low-calorie sweeteners promote additional fat accumulation within cells, compared to cells not exposed to these sweeteners.in a dose-dependent fashion. This means as a dose of sucralose is increased, more cells show increased fat accumulation.’’ George Sabyasachi, Associate Professor, George Washington University.