Artificial sweeteners are non-nutritive, synthetic chemicals and naturally derived sugars. They were introduced back in the 1950’s as a supposedly safe alternative to natural cane sugar in an attempt to satisfy our sweet tooth whilst aiding weight loss. Evidence shows that they are ill effective as weight loss alternatives as our nations are getting fatter.
Basically, we tend to be less satisfied and therefore overeat other foods. Also many artificial sweeteners cause various side effects such as sweet addiction, headaches, and digestive disturbances that lead to inflammation of the digestive tract.
- Acesulfame-K – Also known as Sunette ®, Sweet One ®, Sweet ‘N Safe ®, ACE, ACE K. Found in baked goods, chewing gym, gelatin desserts, diet soda. It is 200 x sweeter than sugar. It is used together with SUCRALOSE because by itself it has a bitter aftertaste. The studies that were conducted in the 1970’s were of mediocre quality with some studies suggesting it may cause cancer. In large doses the break-down product called acetoacetamide was shown to affect the thyroid in rats, rabbits and dogs. The body is unable to break it down effectively and it is believed to have a negative effect on metabolism. The long term exposure to the compound methylene chloride has been shown to cause nausea, mood problems, impaired liver and kidney function, eyesight problems and may be linked to autism.
- Aspartame – Also known as Equal ® and NutraSweet ®. It is commonly found in “diet’ foods, soft drinks, drink mixes, gelatin desserts, low calorie frozen desserts, packets. Studies in the 1970’s suggested that aspartame caused brain tumours in rats. Life-long consumption may increase the likelihood of cancer. It is currently present in over 6,000 foods and drinks and 500 prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. Side effects include headaches, migraines, mood disorders, dizziness.
- Cyclamate – diet foods up until 1970’s after which is was banned in the US – animal studies indicated it causes cancer and harm to the testes.
- Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate (HSH) – similar to sorbitol where it is poorly absorbed by the body. Like other sugar alcohols, it may cause diarrhoea if consumed in large amounts.
- Saccharin – diet and no-sugar-added products, soft drinks, sweetener packets. Sweet ‘N Low ®. Is 300 x sweeter than sugar. Some animal studies have shown it to cause bladder cancer + ovarian, skin, blood vessels and other organs. In 1977 the FDA proposed it to be banned in the US. This was overturned and permitted for use providing it include a warning on labels. In 2000 The US Department of Health and Human Services removed the warning and removed it as a list of cancer-causing chemicals on the WHO.
- Polydextrose – bulking agent – reduced calorie dressings, baked goods, candies, puddings, frozen desserts. Made by combining dextrose (corn sugar) with sorbitol (artificial sugar). May cause a laxative affect in sensitive individuals.
- Sucralose – Known as Splenda ®. 600 x sweeter than sugar. Originally introduced as a natural sugar substitute and considered more safe, but is often used in combination with acesulfame-K (see above). It is a chlorinated sucrose derivative and was discovered through the development of a new insecticide. Cooking with sucralose may generate chloropropanols which are toxic compounds. Studies have shown that sucralose alters glucose, insulin and glucagon-like peptide 1 levels.
- **Stevia – 300 x sweeter than sugar. Obtained from a shrub grown in brazil. A natural form that doesn’t impact our blood glucose, so may be used in cooking to assist with weight control. Limit as it doesn’t help us to retrain our taste buds.