What are the side effects of artificial sweeteners? This question comes up frequently, but the answers aren’t as clear as they should be. A lot of people use artificial sweeteners to reduce their sugar intake, either because they have diabetes or because they want to eat less sugar in general.
Sugar substitutes are substances that replace sugar and are used to sweeten food or drinks, such as sugar-free candies. Artificial sweeteners can be made from various chemicals or by genetically modified microorganisms (yeasts).
The most commonly used artificial sweetener is sucralose, sold under trade names such as Splenda. Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar, aspartame 150 times sweeter, and saccharin 300 times sweeter. Some artificial sweeteners have been found to aid in weight loss; however, there are also many side effects of artificial sweeteners that make consumers wary of their usage.
All about Aspartame
Aspartame is a sugar substitute found in thousands of foods and beverages, including diet soda. Aspartame was first approved for use by FDA in 1981, and approximately six years later was approved as a general sweetener. The combination of sucralose (brand name Splenda) and aspartame are marketed under trade names such as Amsweet Naturals or Canderel.
However, experts question how safe it is to consume artificial sweeteners like aspartame on a regular basis. Some side effects include headaches, migraines, dizziness and heart palpitations in addition to diabetes symptoms including bloating and weight gain. It has also been linked to mood swings including anxiety, irritability, depression and aggression.
Possible Side Effects
In low quantities, artificial sweeteners are considered safe to consume. However, even in small amounts, these substances may cause a variety of side effects. Some potential side effects include weight gain, diarrhoea and cramping or bloating. Most side effects typically subside after consumers stop using artificial sweeteners; however, some people may be more sensitive to these ingredients than others.
People with diabetes should not use these products as they have been linked to blood sugar imbalances and weight gain. Artificial sweeteners also pose a risk for pregnant women as they can affect fetal development by tricking their bodies into believing they’re consuming real food or calories when no calories are being consumed at all.
Infants born to mothers who used large quantities of artificial sweeteners during pregnancy were likely to experience behavioural abnormalities later in life, including increased anxiety levels.
For most adults, one of these substitutes probably won’t do much harm—but it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning any new supplement regimen. Not only will he or she help you establish an appropriate amount of consumption (or avoid it altogether), but he or she might offer other alternatives that won’t disrupt your bodily processes while still providing similar benefits.
Where You Can Find Them
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of different artificial sweeteners out there. These include cyclamate, aspartame (found in Equal and NutraSweet), saccharin (such as Sweet’N Low), sucralose (Splenda), neotame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), alitame, and thaumatin. You might also see these listed as E 952 or E 954.
How to make a healthier choice
When trying to decide what sweetener to add to your coffee or sprinkle on your food, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First and foremost, all sweeteners should be used in moderation as they can add a significant amount of calories and sugar to your diet.
If weight loss is one of your goals, artificial sweeteners may be beneficial since they have little-to-no calories. However, keep in mind that studies show artificial sweeteners may actually hinder weight loss. In some cases, people who consume large amounts of artificial sweeteners consume more food overall than those who do not use them.
Effects on weight
While artificial sweeteners might not make you gain weight directly, they can lead to some serious health risks and side effects. Drinking diet soda won’t prevent you from losing weight, but it may actually cause you to gain more weight over time by making your taste buds crave sweets more than ever.
Those who drink diet soda are also more likely to overeat later on in an attempt to satisfy their desire for sugar—and that extra snack could have hundreds of calories. This can easily translate into unwanted pounds gained over time without changing your diet or exercise habits. All in all, an initial drop in calories from using these products is almost always offset by higher caloric intake later on.
Artificial sweeteners and cancer
The sweet stuff can be a killer: A recent research has said that those who consumed high amounts of artificially-sweetened drinks were at an increased risk for lymphoma and leukaemia. Studies show that aspartame (sold under brand names NutraSweet, Equal, etc.) and saccharin (Sweet’N Low) may increase one’s chances of developing these cancers.
Elevated cancer risk was not found among heavy consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages. Those with greater than or equal to one serving per day of diet soda had a 38 percent increased risk for leukaemia, said lead author Deirdre Tobias from the American Cancer Society.
Artificial sweeteners and dental health
If you’re looking to cut down on sugar in your diet, it’s tempting to substitute that Coke or candy bar with an artificially sweetened alternative. While it might seem like a reasonable way to stay healthy and avoid cavities, new research shows you might be doing more harm than good by swapping out your sweets for diet options.
A study from Israel published in The Journal of Dentistry revealed that artificial sweeteners (specifically saccharin) are associated with greater plaque production and dental caries, which causes cavities. In other words, if you’re avoiding sugary foods for health reasons—artificial sweeteners will only have adverse effects.
Some people may think artificial sweeteners are safe because they’re not as bad for your body as regular sugar. This can be true, but it is possible to experience side effects that are even worse than those caused by regular sugar. Research has shown that artificial sweeteners cause cancer in lab animals, make you crave sugary foods and don’t help you lose weight anyway.
When you drink diet soda, it may be similar to rewarding yourself with cookies or cake; drinking diet soda feels good because it tastes sweet and makes us feel like we’re treating ourselves well. Eating junk food when you get home won’t undo all of your good work for the day.