The Not-So-Sweet Truth.
Alternative sweeteners are considered ‘non-caloric’ or ‘veried calories sugar substitutes’. Often considered by diabetics and those trying to lose or control their body weight. Alternative sweeteners are much sweeter than the nutritive sweeteners (lactose, maltose, glucose, sucrose, invert sugar, and fructose.)
Saccharin (Sweet’n Low)
Aspartame (Nutrasweet/Equal/Amino Sweet)
- Saccharin (Sweet’n Low) – Is the oldest alternative sweetener and considered 300x sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). This alternative sweetener has been linked to bladder cancer in the past, and can cause allergic responses to the sulfonamides in this sweetener. Allergic reactions can include headaches, breathing difficulties, skin irritation and diarrhea. Saccharin can be found in some infant formulas and cause irritability and muscle dysfunction.
- Aspartame (Nutrasweet/Equal/Amino Sweet) – Composed of phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol. It is considered to be 180-200x sweeter than sucrose. It breaks down when heated and is NOT recommended for people with the disorder phenylketonuria (PKU). The toxic methanol in this sweetener is broken down by the liver into formaldehyde which is very dangerous. This sweetener can cause headaches, dizziness, mood swings, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, cramps, convulsions and seizures, memory loss, fatigue, muscle spasms, shooting pain, numbness, tinnitus, joint pain, depression, anxiety, slurred speech, and blurred vision. It has also been linked to birth defects, diabetes, emotional disorders, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, and various cancers (brain, oral, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, breast, ovary, prostate, and renal cancers.) Aspartame is by far the most used artificial sweetener. It is found in most sugar-free gum varieties, soda, and now hidden in non-sugar free, yet ‘low calorie’ products. The manufacturer is also beginning to switch its name to ‘Amino Sweet’.
- Neotame – Is similar in structure to aspartame but has ‘no’ risk for those with PKU. It is considered to be 7000-13000x sweeter than sucrose. It is marketed as ‘safe’ for the general population including children, diabetics, pregnant and lactating women. It can cause hunger and lead to weight gain. There isn’t much in the way of research found regarding this product, but it has been said that it is similar, and possibly more dangerous than its relative, aspartame.
- Acesulfame-K (Sunett) – Contains potassium and is considered to be 200x sweeter than sucrose. It does not get digested by the body. It contains methylene chloride which is a carcinogen and can cause depression, headaches, nausea, and mental confusion, liver and kidney effects, visual disturbances, and cancers.
- Sucralose (Splenda) – It is about 600x sweeter than sucrose. It contains chloride instead of -OH groups which does not allow for digestion or absorption. It is also heat stable. Sucralose was discovered when scientists were trying to create a new insecticide (hints: the chloride). Chloride is a carcinogen and has been used in poisonous gases, disinfectants, pesticides, and plastics. It has been associated with gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, and nausea. It is also associated with skin rashes, hives, redness, itching, swelling, wheezing, cough, runny nose, chest pains, palpitations of the heart, anxiety, anger, mood swings, depression, leukemia, anemia, spontaneous abortions, and itchy eyes. NO long term studies (none longer than 4 days anyway) have been done to show long term effects of this sweetener. It also is shown to interfere with the absorption of some prescription drugs.
- Tagatose (Natrulose) – Is an isomer of fructose and approximately the same sweetness as sucrose. It is poorly absorbed and has a low energy contribution and found as a milk sugar. It has 1/3 the calories of sugar and has a prebiotic effect. It can be useful for weight loss and also has a laxative effect at high doses. (Natural)
- Stevia – Is derived from a South American shrub and is about 100-300x sweeter than sucrose. It has no calories, but it can lower blood pressure, and reduce plaque on teeth. It has been considered a mutagen (corrupts the cell’s DNA) that could cause cancer. It can also be associated with causing dizziness, muscle pains, numbness, nausea, gas and bloating. It may also interact with certain medications.
Obviously most of these alternative sweeteners have more adverse effects than positive attributes. You should know that your body requires at a minimum of 130 grams of glucose a day just to keep your brain functioning. Glucose is the only energy source for brain cells, red blood cells, and muscle cells (during strenuous exercise). Therefore, you should NOT eliminate glucose or normal table sugar from your diet. The elimination of glucose could cause some of the side effects listed above such as dizziness, headaches, and fatigue.
– Nutrition information can be found anywhere, and research should be done before trying out new diet habits. Always consult a doctor if you are wanting to switch to artificial sweeteners, especially if you are diagnosed with diabetes or any other condition that alters the metabolism of sugars.