Artificial Sugars - Are They Safe?
When people want to cut back on sugar in their diet, they often turn to artificial sweeteners as lower-calorie alternatives to regular white sugar. It seems artificial sweeteners are everywhere in foods and beverages marketed as “sugar-free” or “diet”—soda, chewing gum, candy, fruit juice, ice cream, etc. But are they really healthier, or even safe?
Any sweetener that is used instead of regular sugar is considered a sugar substitute. Some substitutes are natural sweeteners, such as honey and maple syrup; others are artificial or synthetic sugars that are processed and refined. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently approves these artificial sweeteners: acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), neotame, saccharin (SugarTwing, Sweet’N Low), and sucralose (Splenda). Because they are reviewed, approved, and regulated by the FDA as food additives, each artificial sweetener has an established acceptable daily intake (ADI), which is the maximum amount considered safe to consume each day over the course of a lifetime.
Like most food additives, artificial sweeteners come with both pros and cons. If you’re trying to control your sugar intake, most artificial sweeteners are non-nutritive, which means they virtually have no calories; but regardless of whether they’re classified as “sugar-free” or “diet,” they don’t magically help you lose weight. If you have diabetes, artificial sweeteners can provide a sugary taste without raising blood sugar levels; however, be mindful that some artificial sweeteners could be sugar alcohols, which contain carbohydrates that can raise blood sugar levels. It’s best to check with a physician before consuming any sugar substitutes.
As for health concerns, artificial sweeteners may cause bloating, intestinal gas, and diarrhea. Some can also cause an increase in sugar or carbohydrate cravings, which can contribute to weight gain. It’s possible that some artificial sweeteners could be linked to cancer; although, there’s still much debate on this subject, so until research can provide more conclusive evidence, artificial sweeteners are considered safe in limited quantities.
The general consensus among the health community is this: natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables are still healthier than artificial sweeteners; however, if you’re trying to eliminate sugar from your diet, then artificial sweeteners are the way to go. As long as you pay attention to the ADI, then artificial sweeteners should not cause problems.
Source: Mayo Clinic