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Are Artificial Sweeteners Good or Bad for Your Health?

Are Artificial Sweeteners Good or Bad for Your Health?

The harmful effects of eating too much sugar is well known. But what are the effects of artificial sweeteners on the body?

Companies usually brand artificial sweeteners as a sugar substitute. This is because they can help make food taste sweet, but without the added calories and health risks associated with sugar. But are they really the perfect solution for people looking to cut back on sugar? Or is it just too good to be true? Let’s find out.

What are Artificial Sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners, as the name suggests, are synthetic sugar substitutes. They are sometimes derived from plants, such as with stevia-based sweeteners, or they might be derived from real sugar.

The main difference with artificial sweeteners is while they are sweet, they do not contain any actual sugar, nor do they have the calories that sugar has. This means that diabetics and people looking to cut back on sugar or lose weight can use artificial sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners are also much sweeter compared to regular sugar. This means that if you’re craving for something sweet, you can just add a small amount of artificial sweetener, and you wll be satisfied.

Here are some of the common types of artificial sweeteners:

Before diving into understanding the effects of artificial sweeteners on the body, let’s first check out some of the most common names of available sweeteners.

Aspartame

Aspartame is one of the most widely used artificial sweeteners. You probably already know how aspartame tastes like because it is a common sweetener. In fact, most popular brands of artificial sweeteners contain aspartame. It is also one of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners in soft drinks.

In terms of sweetness, aspartame is about 200 times sweeter than regular table sugar.

Acesulfame-K

Like aspartame, acesulfame-K is a sugar substitute that is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. The K in its name refers to potassium. And again, just like aspartame, it is another popular sugar substitute, but not as widespread as aspartame.

One criticism against the use of acesulfame-K is that it contains a carcinogen. However, its use has been approved by both the FDA in the US and the European Union.

Saccharin

Saccharin, depending on the formulation, is about 200-700 times sweeter than sugar. It is another popular sugar substitute, and it is not uncommon to find saccharin being used in some sugar-free products.

While it is much sweeter compared to aspartame and acesulfame-K, it can have a metallic or bitter taste, especially in higher concentrations.

Sucralose

Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that is about 600 times sweeter than table sugar. It is a popular artificial sweetener, and just like aspartame, it can be found in soft drinks, as well as sugar-free foods.

Sucralose is derived from sucrose, which undergoes a process to reduce the amount of calories it contains. One benefit it has compared to other sweeteners is that it does not have a bitter aftertaste.

Neotame

Neotame is another sugar substitute commonly available in the market. Compared to other sugar substitutes, neotame is about 7,000-13,000 times sweeter than regular sugar. This makes it one of the sweetest sugar substitutes available.

Soft drinks, baked goods, and sugar-free foods can also contain neotame. Just like sucralose, neotame does not leave a bitter aftertaste, so some people may prefer it to other sugar substitutes.

Advantame

Advantame is an artificial sweetener that was developed just recently in Japan. It is probably the sweetest artificial sweetener, at about 20,000 times sweeter than regular sugar.

It has the advantage of not having any bitter or off-tastes, as well as having a longer-lasting sweetness. This makes it taste really great, and people might prefer using advantame to other types of sweeteners.

Stevia

Lastly, there is also stevia. While not an artificial sweetener per se, stevia is a popular sugar substitute.

Compared to other artificial sweeteners, stevia is only about 30 to 150 times sweeter than regular sugar. However, it does have the advantage of being a natural sweetener, so some people might opt to use stevia instead. Some sweeteners use stevia combined with artificial sweeteners, but for the most part, you can buy pure stevia if you want a natural sweetener for your food.

Why is Too Much Sugar Bad for You?

Sugar is essential to our body functions. When we eat, our bodies convert carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar). Our body then uses this sugar as fuel for our day-to-day activities. Thus when we substitute sugar, you’ll see and feel key differents in the effects of artificial sweeteners on the body.

Weight Gain

However, if we eat too much sugar, our bodies will store the excess sugar as fat. This can lead to weight gain, and all of the problems associated with being obese or overweight.

Hyperglycemia

Another problem is when there is too much sugar in our bloodstream. This can lead to a condition called hyperglycemia, which can cause damage to a person’s blood vessels. Too much sugar in the blood can even cause a diabetic coma.

This is also the reason why diabetics need to keep their carbohydrate intake at a minimum, to avoid hyperglycemia.

On the other hand, too little sugar can cause a condition called hypoglycemia, which is just as dangerous.

One of the reasons why sugar substitutes are popular among diabetics is that it helps fulfill their craving for sweets, but without the added sugar. This means that they can better control their sugar intake, and still satisfy their sweet tooth.

Are Artificial Sweeteners Better for the Body?

Whenever people hear the words “artificial sweetener,” they usually think of harmful chemicals and synthetic flavorings. But the reality is that artificial sweeteners are perfectly safe, and fine for use.

If you see any artificial sweeteners in the supermarket or used in soft drinks, those have all passed safety standards. This means that they will not cause any health problems if consumed.

However, it is still important for people to not overdo it when it comes to using artificial sweeteners. Because just like sugar, eating too much artificial sweeteners can be bad for your health.

The effects of artificial sweeteners on the body can vary

What exactly are the effects of artificial sweeteners on the body? One similarity between artificial sweeteners and sugar is that they are both addictive. However, artificial sweeteners are much more likely to cause you to crave sweet foods, and eat more throughout the day.

This is why it is important to eat foods in moderation, since eating too much artificial sweeteners can be detrimental to your health too.

Key Takeaways

So what are the effects of artificial sweeteners on the body? One of the positive effects of artificial sweeteners on the body is that you are eating less sugar overall. For diabetics, this is a great thing, since they can eat sweet foods but not have to worry about their blood sugar levels.

Artificial sweeteners are safe, and diabetics and the health-conscious can use them without worrying about their health. However, it would still be a good idea to only use these products in moderation to avoid certain negative effects of artificial sweeteners on the body.

Learn more about Healthy Eating here.

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Sources

Non-Nutritive Sweeteners (Artificial Sweeteners) | American Heart Association | American Heart Association, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/nonnutritive-sweeteners-artificial-sweeteners, Accessed August 18, 2020

Artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/artificial-sweeteners/art-20046936, Accessed August 18 2020

Artificial sweeteners: sugar-free, but at what cost? – Harvard Health Blog – Harvard Health Publishing, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/artificial-sweeteners-sugar-free-but-at-what-cost-201207165030, Accessed August 18 2020

The truth about sweeteners – NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/are-sweeteners-safe/, Accessed August 18 2020

Sugar substitutes: Health controversy over perceived benefits, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3198517/, Accessed August 18 2020

The 5 Best (and Worst) Sweeteners You Can Eat – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/5-best-and-worst-sweeteners-your-dietitians-picks/, Accessed August 18 2020

What’s Worse for You: Sugar or Artificial Sweetener? – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/whats-worse-sugar-or-artificial-sweetener/, Accessed August 18 2020

Low-Calorie Sweeteners | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/artificial-sweeteners/, Accessed August 18 2020

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated 4 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Chris Icamen
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