The label says “sugar-free” and also says it’s healthier than the regular version. When it comes to sweeteners and health, that closely relates to safety. It’s great that my drink is sugar-free, but would I be better off with the sugar added version? Labels say way too many things these days. The word play allows items to sound safe for you, yet usually contain hidden warning labels. Let’s check out some common artificial sweetener’s to see if they really are safe.
It’s one of the most extensively studied ingredients on the market. Most of the press points to serious long term health risks. Aspartame is mainly composed of aspartic acid and pheylalanine. It is the most common artificial sweetener in “sugar-free” foods. The daily intake is set at 50 milligrams per kilogram. This would mean that a person weighing 90 kilograms (roughly 200 pounds) would need to consume 4500 milligrams. A 12 ounce diet pop contains around 180 milligrams. So, if a person drank 25 cans of pop in a day, they would reach the upper limit. The most common word associated with aspartame is cancer. People have been led to believe that aspartame causes cancer. The studies performed with aspartame, using extremely high doses, have not consistently linked aspartame to cancer. There has also been mention of a conversion of formaldehyde created in the brain due to methanol formation. Unfortunately, this is true, however the levels appear to be negligible based on studies. It is also important to note that methanol is also created when consuming fruit juices (and at a higher rate).
Verdict: Safe, when consumed within the range of daily consumption (50mg/kg). There are other options, especially with the notion of formaldehyde creation.
Sweet ‘n Low
This is most commonly seen as the pink packet sweetener. Due to it being packaged in little pink envelopes that contain Sweet ‘n Low. It is a combination of 3 components/ingredients; granulated saccharin, dextrose, and cream of tartar. The daily intake is set at 5 milligrams per kilogram. So, the 90 kilogram (roughly 200 lbs.) example from above could consume 450 milligrams in a given day. Studies were linking Sweet ‘n Low to cancer in the past, but those studies were later deemed as flawed. There are five artificial sweetener’s approved by the FDA, of the five, Sweet ‘n Low is considered the safest.
Verdict: Safe, consume within suggested limits.
It is made from sucralose, dextrose, and maltodextrin. Splenda claims to be made from sugar, which appears to be valid. However, it does take quite a few chemical alterations to make it turn from cane sugar to splenda. The daily intake is also set at 5 milligrams per kilogram. So, the recommended upper limit is the same as the example above (for a 90 kg individual), 450 milligrams per day. The negative studies linking splenda to health risks had used doses that far exceeded the recommended daily upper limit.
Verdict: Safe, consume within suggested limits
Stevia comes with an asterisk, because it gets lumped in with artificial sweetener’s. However, stevia is not artificial, because it comes from the stevia plant. Stevia does have an aftertaste like artificial sweeteners, which can be unappealing to some people. So, less is going to be more. The plant has been used by populations for over 1000 years. Stevia is also deemed safe for diabetics. There are no current dosing recommendations for stevia by the FDA. As always, use in moderation.
It appears that a lot of bad press on artificial sweeteners is simply due to misrepresentation of data. The key is to use them in moderation and not in excess. The dosing in studies seems to always be at a level that far exceeds suggested dosing. So, for your next bowl of oats, it’s ok to sprinkle on some of your favorite sweetener.