The Truth about Artificial Sweeteners
I’ve covered sugar in a few recent topics. Check them out here (does sugar feed cancer?) and here (The mystery of sugar: difference between simple sugars and complex carbs).
But what about artificial sweeteners? There are so many different kinds, it can get very confusing! Splenda. Saccharin. Asparatame. Acesulfame K. Stevia. Sugar
alcohols. When it comes to cancer, there is a lot of controversy over
artificial sweeteners and what they do to the body.
FIRST, it’s important to understand that for most people, the consumption of simple sugars in the form of corn syrups and added sugars FAR OUTWEIGHS any health risk from consuming artificial sweeteners.
So if you’re someone who regularly drinks sodas, sweet tea and eats a lot of sweets, it is definitely worth your effort to cut back and switch to ‘diet’ drinks. This article is to focus on which artificial sweeteners have the least risk.
The increased risks of diabetes and heart disease from consuming sugar drinks probably outweigh the risks posed by artificial sweeteners.
I keep all things in perspective. 🙂
What’s Wrong With Drinking Something Sweet?
I have mixed feelings about artificial sweeteners. In general, I think that the less “artificial substances” we consume, the better. I also think that drinking artificial sweetened drinks keeps people accustomed to sweet tastes. How sensitive your taste buds are to sweetness is called “sweet acuity”.
A large portion of sugar intake in America is from our fluids. So if you choose to take in fluids that are calorie free, which ones are the safest?
The best beverage choices for nourishing our bodies is water, seltzer water, seltzer mixed with a little juice or unsweet tea. I would even add some black coffee or to the list, based on the phytochecmicals you can get. But sometimes we just want something a little different!
What Do We Know About Artificial Sweeteners?
When it comes to cancer, artificial sweeteners have had a lot of buzz, but most of the well designed studies (required by the FDA before they can be approved as a food additive) do not show a clear causal relationship between artificial sweeteners and cancer.
While different countries have different conclusions on current data, it’s still safe to say that consuming artificial sweeteners in moderation is a fine choice for most people.
Of course, you do not NEED to consume artificial sweeteners to have a healthy diet. It’s up to you to make that choice for yourself.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) did an article on their website at the end of last year called It’s Sweet…. but is it Safe? It’s a great resource. If you want more than I’ve got in this article, you’ll definitely want to check it out!
According to the same article, here is a short list of artificially sweetened drinks and which
sweeteners are used. If your favorite diet soda is not on the list, you
can tell which sweetener is used by looking at the ingredient list on
the beverage you are considering.
- Coke Zero: Aspartame, Acesulfame-potassium
- Crystal Light Peach Iced Tea Drink Mix: Aspartame, Acesulfame-potassium
- Diet Coke: Aspartame
- Diet Dr Pepper: Aspartame
- Diet Mt. Dew: Aspartame, Acesulfame-potassium, Sucralose
- Diet Pepsi: Aspartame, Acesulfame-potassium
- Pepsi Next: Sucralose, Acesulfame-potassium (and High-Fructose Corn Syrup and Sugar)
- Red Bull Sugar Free: Aspartame, Acesulfame-potassium
- Sam’s Choice Diet Cola (Wal-Mart): Aspartame
- Tab: Saccharin, Aspartame
- Vitaminwater Zero: Erythritol, Stevia Leaf Extract
The short answer for what ones are safe can be found from the CSPI’s guide to food additivies, which can be found at www.chemicalcuisine.org. [Photo credit: image to the right comes from CSPI].
On the short list they suggest to avoid Aspartame, Acesulfame-K, Saccharin.
So based on the list above… that leaves you with Vitaminwater Zero. Yikes.
Should I Avoid Artificial Sweeteners Completely?
Is having an occasional
diet soda (or a regular soda for that matter) going to cause a problem?
But the more important question is whether that diet soda is providing your body anything that supports its function. Next time I will discuss some real food and more nourishing ways to add sweetness to your foods.
What Does Julie Do? It always amuses me that people actually care what I do. But they ask!! I rarely drink soda. If I want a special drink, I’ll have a Le Croix, maybe mixed with juice (virgin mimosa, anyone?). If I have soda, it’s probably a regular soda about 1/2 the time and diet soda 1/2 the time. And I probably drink 2 sodas a month, on average.