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Are Artificial Sweeteners Bad For You?

Are Artificial Sweeteners Bad For You?

Life without sweetness is impossible, but there are many reasons to avoid it, or you must cut the sugar and turn to artificial sweeteners.

Keep reading and learn about artificial sweeteners and their health impacts. Artificial sweeteners shouldn't be mixed with nutritive sweeteners because they vary in usage and benefits.

1. What are Artificial Sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes contain zero calories but taste similar or better than sugar. The small amount of these artificial sweeteners is sweeter than natural sugar, honey, or corn syrups. These are categorized as follows:

1.1. Low-Calorie Sweeteners (LCS)

Low-calorie sweeteners (LCS) are artificial or natural substances that sweeten food and beverages without adding calories. LCS is much sweeter than sugar. It's used in minor amounts to achieve the same or better taste as sugar.

Common LCS are

  • Aspartame as Equal
  • Sucralose as Splenda
  • Acesulfame potassium
  • Stevia

LCS are commonly considered safe for consumption, even though after extreme consumption some people may experience side effects such as nausea, headaches, and digestive issues. It would be essential to highlight that LCS does not provide the same health benefits as natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, or brown sugar.

1.2. Non-nutritive Sweeteners (NNS)

Non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) are artificial/natural sweeteners. They provide no calories. Food and drinks are sweetened without adding calories.

NNS include:

  • Aspartame
  • Sucralose
  • Stevia
  • Monk fruit extract

1.3. Sugar Substitute

Sugar substitutes are used to replace sugar in food and drinks. They are often used to reduce the calories and carbohydrates. Common sugar substitutes include aspartame, sucralose, stevia, and monk fruit. These sweeteners are many folds sweeter than sugar.

They are available in different forms, such as:

  • Powders
  • Liquids
  • Tablets

1.4. High-Intensity Sweeteners

They are also artificial sweeteners that contain fewer calories. Examples of these sweeteners are:

  • Aspartame
  • Sucralose
  • Saccharin as Sweet n’ Low
  • Acesulfame Potassium
  • Neotame

These sweeteners are used in diet soda, sugar-free candy, and sugar-free baked food. It is also used in medications and dietary supplements. They are generally considered safe to use. However, some people will experience the same side effects as other artificial sweeteners.

2. How Do Artificial Sweeteners Work?

Artificial sweeteners work by stimulating the taste receptors on your tongue and then sending signals to your brain. The brain detects the sugar and releases the hormones that create a feeling of pleasure.

These substitutes are used to sweeten food or drinks without adding sugar because the smaller qualities give the same sweetness as sugar.

3. Types of Artificial Sweeteners - Six Artificial Sweeteners

These six artificial sweeteners are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  of the USA. Here they are:

3.1. Acesulfame-K

Ace-k or acesulfame-k is a synthetic sugar substitute often found in markets. It is also known as E/E950 in European. You will be surprised to know that it was discovered accidentally in 1967 by German chemist Karl Clasuss.

3.2. Aspartame

Aspartame is commonly used in food and beverages. It is sold under the trade names like Canderel, Equal, or NutraSweet. Intake of this artificial sweetener could cause health issues like seizures, headaches, anxiety, and irritable moods, and insomnia.

3.3. Neotame or Newtame

It's a non-caloric artificial sweetener that does not have any flavor. It keeps the original taste of products. Neotame doesn't stay in your body and metabolizes faster than other artificial sweeteners.

3.4. Saccharin

Saccharin is a non-nutritional artificial sweetener. When used in high quantities, it gives a bitter aftertaste like a metallic substance. This is mainly used  in candies, drinks, desserts, and medicines. Saccharin was produced by Constantin Fahlberg in 1879 and is still used in different names by big companies.

3.5. Sucralose/Splenda

This artificial sweetener is known under the E number E955 in Europe. It places the hydroxyl groups in C1/4/6. Sucralose is three times sweeter than sucrose, Aspartame, and Ace-k. It's used in food and beverage products.

Sucralose is a sugar substitute in candies, breakfast bars, soft drinks, coffee pods, and canned fruits. It also prevents dental cavities  and is safe for diabetic/non-diabetic consumers . Moreover, it doesn't affect your insulin levels. This is mostly available under the name Splenda in the USA and Canada.

3.6. Advantame

Advantame has a non-noticeable flavor and tastes sweet a bit longer than Aspartame. This is a non-caloric sweetener that is 20,000 times sweeter than sucrose . It is chemically more stable and can be mixed with natural and artificial substitutes. This is commonly used in bubblegums, milk products, flavored drinks, and jam.

These sweeteners are often preferable for people trying to reduce sugar intake to manage their blood sugar levels or plan to lose weight.

4. Difference Between Artificial/Natural Sweeteners

The main question is, are artificial sweeteners bad for you? Well, it's obvious that artificial and natural sweeteners are different in calories but similar in taste. What are the differences? Let's compare them together to find out.

Artificial sweeteners are human-made, with zero calories but taste similar to sugar. The substances are used to sweeten food to control intake and health issues. These sweeteners are used for fitness, health, weight maintenance, and dieting.

They don't provide nutrients that fuel your body during exercise. Remember, these are not highly recommended during exercise as they lower blood sugar levels, often making you eat more. Consult your dietitian/nutritionist before using these artificial sugar substitutes. The right amount of these sweeteners can maintain good health and a fit body.

Natural sweeteners are gathered from plants/fruits with some nutrition and are used as a substitute for sugar in food and beverages. These sweeteners are an aspect of a complete dietary plan for bodybuilders.

This is used to sweeten drinks and food products or as a supplement in liquid form. It controls your sugar craving during bodybuilding to keep you healthy and fit.

5. Substitutes of Artificial Sweeteners - Natural Options

Common substitutes and sweeteners used are:

5.1. Maple Syrup

This is made from the sap of the maple tree in cold climates. Starch is stored in the trunk and roots of this tree in winter and then converted to a sugar substitute in spring.

5.2. Date Paste

This is one 100 percent from dates. Dates are cleaned and softened in hot water before mixing into a paste.

5.3. Honey

Honey bees refine the sugary substance of plants. That is why this is the best and most healthy natural sugar substance. It is made and naturally stored in bee colonies to nourish and convert into honey.

5.4. Coconut Sugar

This sugar substitute is made from the sap of the flower buds of coconut palms. Another form of coconut sugar is obtained from Sago Palm, Sugar Palm, Date Palm, Kithul Palm, and Palmyra Palm.

5.5. Agave Nectar

Agave/Maguey syrup is produced from different species of agave, for example, Tequilana and Agave Salmiana.

5.6. Monk Fruit Extract

A small round-shaped native fruit from southern China is crushed to extract the juice. The Mogrosid part of the fruit is used to obtain sugar substitutes.

5.7. Stevia Extract

A herbal shrub, stevia rebaudiana from South America, has been used in food and medicine for hundreds of years. It is also used as a dietary supplement.

5.8. Xylitol and Acesulfame Potassium

It is a chemical compound freely soluble in water. Xylitol makes sugar-free food items such as chewing gum, chocolate bars, and supplements.

6. Common Foods Containing Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are used in different foods and beverages. They are:

  • Baked goods
  • Dairy products
  • Candies
  • Chewing Gum
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Frozen desserts
  • Canned foods
  • Medicine
  • Supplements

Numerous products are known as sugar-free but contain more than one sugar substitute.

7. Are Artificial Sweeteners Bad for Use - Some Negative Impacts

Are Artificial Sweeteners Bad for Use - Some Negative Impacts

7.1. Cancer

From the 1970s, some concerns about the safety of artificial sweeteners surfaced. Research  has been done to apprehend and understand the dangers of these substitutes. It's found that when rodents were given large doses of saccharin, they developed bladder cancer.

Other studies by the FDA cleared that artificial sweeteners have no association between sugar substitutes, types of cancer, and humans. The effects are different on the human body than on animals.

7.2. Causes of Gut Bacteria

Microbiota (gut bacteria) plays an essential role in health. Artificial sweeteners may critically affect your gut bacteria. Some sweetener substitutes, such as Stevia, xylitol, and sorbitol, may break down the gut bacteria and cause harm.

7.3. Weight Gain Issues

The intake of artificial sweeteners, especially in diet sodas, can lead to weight gain and abdominal fat over time. Consuming too much food/drinks with artificial sweeteners can unfit your health.

Taking artificial sweeteners in the right amount can help you lose weight. In other words, they are not appetite suppressants.

7.4. Health Concerns with Type 2 Diabetic Patients

Eventually, your pancreas, or mixed gland, can't keep up, so your blood sugar level increases. High blood sugar damages your body and can cause many serious health issues, like heart disease, kidney disease, and eyesight problems.

Artificial sweeteners may help reduce caloric intake and insulin resistance, but they can lead to type 2 diabetes with regular consumption for an extended period. Taking in a suitable amount should be considered to reduce health issues.

7.5. Increased Risk For Stroke Or Dementia

A study from 2017 stated  that aged people who intake artificially sweetened soda had a higher risk of stroke and dementia. Old people should avoid drinks using sweetener substitutes.

7.6. Poor Regulations of Blood Sugar

Artificial sweeteners do not increase blood sugar levels but increase insulin levels. The pancreas mistakes them for sugar and releases insulin, but its response is to lower blood sugar levels. Often increased insulin levels can lead to insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. Over time it may decrease insulin sense organ functions.

8. Benefits of Artificial Sweeteners

  • The use of artificial sweeteners causes few risks, but it also provides benefits in losing weight and controlling sugar levels.
  • Exercises positively affect insulin action in human skeletal muscle, leading to increased glycogen synthesis.
  • This means that dynamic one-legged exercise can effectively improve insulin sensitivity and responsiveness in healthy individuals.

All in all, these sweeteners are beneficial if you use them to lessen the amount of sugar in your diet.

9. FAQs

9.1. Are Artificial Sweeteners Legit to Use?

EFSA says adding artificial sweeteners to food and drinks is allowed if it is safe. You have to take the minimum amount according to your body weight and age. The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) is the safe level of artificial sweeteners. It is recommended to take 5mg per kilogram of your body.

9.2. How Are Artificial Sweeteners Good For Bodybuilders?

Nutritive artificial sweeteners benefit bodybuilders. They give you a sweet taste without adding sugar. These substitutes maintain blood sugar levels, control cravings, and keep you on track to support your diet and fitness goals.

9.3. Who Can Use Artificial Sweeteners?

People of all ages can take artificial sweeteners, except children. However, it is better to avoid its intake if you have phenylketonuria, diabetes, are pregnant, breastfeeding, or are allergic to sulfonamides. You must consult your doctor before taking any artificial sweetener in case of severe health issues.

10. Last to Say

Artificial sweeteners have lower calories than sugar, which can help with weight management. That is why you might wonder, are artificial sweeteners bad for you?

But, in one way, artificial sweeteners are better than you have thought. They can be used to sweeten food and drinks without adding extra calories. It reduces sugar intake, which can benefit people with diabetes.

For instance, non-nutritive sweeteners can reduce tooth decay, as they do not promote the growth of bacteria that cause cavities. Moreover, it can help to lessen sugar use and reduce weight gain.

In other words, artificial sweeteners or substitutes are safe for health when taken in small amounts. Excessive usage may cause health issues. So, keep a balance in use to sustain the perks.

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