Are artificial sweeteners a good idea to use?
A satisfying diet drink does exist!” says Dr Pepper about its diet soda. I discovered Dr Pepper when I arrived in the USA. And I know it tastes good. But is a diet soda better than the normal one? Are artificial sweeteners safe to use?
What are artificial sweeteners?
In the USA, they are 6 molecules whose taste is hundreds of times much sweeter than real sugar, which means that with a tiny bit of this, you get the taste of a few teaspoons of sugar. But as the nutrition facts say, you get nearly 0 calories. It seems like a good solution to lower the calorie amount of beverages and food and fight against the sugar related disease, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity.
|Sold as||Sweetness||Glycemic index||Cal/g|
|Advantame||no brand name||the newest, stable with high temperature||30 000||0||0|
|Aspartame||Nutrasweet, Equal, Canderel, AminoSweet, NatraTaste||contains phenylalanine, be careful if you have phenylcetonurie||180||0||4|
|Acesulfame K||Sunett, Sweet One||stable at temperatures below 400°F (thus suitable for cooked/baked food)||200||0||0|
|Neotame||no brand name||synthesized from aspartame||8000||0||0|
|Saccharin||Sweet’N Low, Necta Sweet, Sweet’N Low Brown, Sweet Twin||the first artificial sweetener to be discovered more than 100 year ago. The safety of saccharin has been debated for almost as long as it has been in existence, initially stemming from the fact that it is a coal-tar derivative. Germany and France have banned it in foods for more than 100 years.||300||0||0|
|Sucralose||Splenda||despite the name ending in -ose, it’s not a basic sugar like glucose or sucrose.||600||0||0|
Some facts about the 6 low calories artificial sweeteners available in the USA
Artificial sweeteners might not help to lose weight.
Each artificial sweetener has a different absorption and metabolism when ingested. But they have some common points. They don’t increase the glucose (blood sugar) level directly, but the sweet taste still sends a message to our brain saying “Sweet! I want more!” Our fat tissues release the leptin hormone when there is a peak of insulin and glucose, telling our body to stop eating. But when there is no peak of glucose, there is no leptin produced and we continue eating, as we don’t feel full. Added to the idea that we can eat more of something else with a calorie-free beverage, artificial sweeteners might also lead to obesity.
Sweeteners and sugar are available everywhere in restaurants. Here some Saccharin (in pink) and some Sucralose mix (in yellow).
It’s not because it’s not absorbed that it doesn’t affect our body.
Another inconvenient fact about artificial sweeteners is that they influence our gut bacteria, the microbiome. When they aren’t absorbed, the bacteria we all have in our colon use them. And usually, it produces more painful gas, especially among people who have an irritable bowel syndrome. They might be better than sugar when considering tooth decay, as they are not used by the mouth cavities-provoking bacteria.
Some other toxicity?
Aspartame is transformed into different substances in our body, including formaldehyde, a carcinogenic substance. Germany and France have banned saccharin, due to uncertainty about its safety. But how has the FDA approved these substances? They are “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS. The manufacturer themselves can to the procedure, giving information about how secure the product is. You can imagine that manufacturers can be very reluctant to say that their product is unsafe. But what about independent studies? The truth is that there are some animal studies, but very few well-conducted human studies. Do the same with a medication, and it will never reach a pharmacy shelf.
Stevia leaves. Not imported to the USA for pest-control reasons, Stevia plant is a popular low calorie natural sweetener in other countries.
So what to think?
Unless it’s a vital medication/ substance, “in doubt leave it out!” And artificial sweeteners are not vital. You’ll tell me that you have a sweet tooth and have a hard time avoiding ……………..(fill the blank). Well, you can get sweet taste from natural food (and, even better, “whole” food). Ancient people used honey, agave syrup, and dates for a long time as sweeteners. We are discovering new natural sweeteners like Stevia, a South-American plant though it has been used for a long time in some other countries. You can also diminish progressively the sweets you eat, baby step by baby step. Replace candies and soda by whole fruits and water. Try to use spices like cinnamon instead of sugar. There are many ways to avoid artificial sweeteners, and added sugar in general.
One way to become aware of your sugar intake during one month is to take the “Track down the sugar” challenge. Completely free, you receive one e-mail a day to help you, support you toward this goal.