American consumers are obsessed with weight loss. Unfortunately, they are also obsessed with sugary foods. Today’s market contains a number of artificial sweeteners, however, that may satisfy those cravings while helping trim the waistline. Deciding which artificial sweetener to use, however, can be difficult.
Better known as Nutrasweet and Equal, aspartame is the most recent sugar substitute to rise to huge popularity. Although aspartame use was approved by the FDA in 1974, Nutrasweet’s company wasn’t founded until 11 years later. Equal began distribution a couple years before Nutrasweet.
Although originally proclaimed to cause cancer, the studies that seemed to indicate the connection have been largely discounted. Those researches have sometimes refused to share relevant data regarding their studies or used methods considered flawed by other scientists.
Some other claims regard aspartic acid, an element of aspartame. Studies show that aspartic acid can indeed damage brain cells; however, the subjects of the trials consumed large amounts of the acid, more than most people would normally eat or drink. The World Health Organization (WHO) established some guidelines based upon body weight for acceptable amounts of aspartame. According to their formula, a typical adult is safe consuming up to eight servings of aspartame-sweetened sodas per day.
More people complain of milder side effects of the artificial sweetener such as headache and stomach ailments. For some, aspartame does appear to be a migraine trigger. But again, studies fail to consistently support these conclusions.
A down fall of aspartame is that it breaks down in cooking.
Saccharine is less popular than aspartame since users often experience a bitter aftertaste. Commonly marketed as Sweet N’ Low, saccharine was a common artificial sweetener throughout most of the 20th century.
In 1972, the FDA attempted to ban saccharine due to tests that seemed to indicate it was carcinogenic. Rats that ingested saccharine developed bladder cancer. The artificial sweetener was too popular to be successfully banned, however, so the FDA settled for a warning label on products. Later studies discovered that rats’ system was too different from that of humans so the connection between the cancer and saccharine was unlikely. The methodology was also in question since the rats were fed the equivalent of 100 cans of soda per day. Although the FDA then approved saccharine’s use in 1977, warning labels were required for an additional 3 years.
Although saccharine doesn’t seem to be as widely used as sucralose, Sweet N’ Low is typically available in restaurants and coffee shops.
Saccharine is safe for cooking or baking.
Splenda is the brand name for the most common sucralose. Its FDA approval came in the late 1990s. It is often considered the best tasting artificial sweetener, the closest in flavor to sugar. Sucralose is derived from sugar, which may account for its taste.
The makers of Splenda say no research indicates adverse affects such as headache and gastrointestinal problems that some users complain of from sucralose. The company declares the issues are more likely caused by other artificial sweeteners in the products such as maltitol and sorbital.
Sucralose has not been linked to cancer. Milder ailments such as headaches and stomach problems are also often suggested by users. Research does not conclusively support such claims from sucralose, however.
Like saccharine, sucralose can be used in recipes.
What to use
All artificial sweeteners can potentially cause problems for users, particularly those who consume large amounts daily. No studies definitively link any of them to cancer, however, so effects are likely to be temporary if use is discontinued. If physical problems do start, users should eliminate the products from their diet to determine the cause.
The amount of artificial sweetener most people use is less than sugar because sweeteners are, well, sweeter. That makes the danger even less likely.
Regardless of what type of sweetener you use, it is best to attempt to reduce consumption of sweet foods. Doing so helps your body handle these products better, helps you lose weight, and helps create a healthier body.
“Aspartame Controversy.” Wikipedia.org.
Aspartame Consumer Safety Network. Aspartamesafety.com.
“Artificial sweeteners: aspartame-is it really good or bad for you?” essortment: information and advice you want to know. Essortment.com.
“Saccharine: How Sweet It Is!” saccharine.org.