When you adopt a low carbohydrate diet or set out to reduce your sugar intake, you’ll come up against this question at some point.
Are artificial sweeteners safe or dangerous? Can they cause health problems in the future?
The information on the web and in media is very conflicting.
Marketers of diet soda claim artificial sweeteners are amazing, almost health promoting. Natural health advocates say they are pure poison.
Who’s right, and who’s wrong?
The Dangers Of Using Artificial Sweeteners
Americans consume an average of 20 teaspoons of sugar a day. That’s not very healthy. Cutting out the sugar with the help of sweeteners does cut calories, but is it worth it?
Calorie reduction is the only health benefit you can hope for. These are chemicals, just like any pharmaceutical drugs, they bear possible dangers and side effects.
Saccharine: The Beginning Of Artificial Sweeteners
Saccharine (Sweet ‘n Low) is the first one on the market and has been widely used since the 1960s. Saccharine is an organic molecule made from oil (petroleum).
It was used without concern until the 1970s when animal studies showed that it caused cancer of the bladder, skin, uterus and ovaries, and other organs.
Why is it still on the market? The experiments that showed increases in cancer rates were done with high dosages. If you happen to be a 75kg rat you would have to drink 350 cans of diet soda a day. Turn out rats are much more sensitive than you and I.
Does that mean its safe? It means it’s at least safer, but natural alternatives are always better.
On top of that, about 3-4% of people can react badly to Saccharin. If you are sensitive to sulfa based (PDF) medications Saccharin can give you a allergic reactions, such as: hives, rashes even life threatening reactions at high doses.
The bottom line is, Saccharin has been proven to give rats cancer and can cause allergic reactions. If you are going to use a synthetic sweeteners, it’s one of the most researched, which means you know what to expect.
Compared to the other artifical sweeteners, saccharine is relatively safe because our bodies do not react the same way as rats.
Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal)
Aspartame replaced Saccharin when it came under attack.
It was discovered in 1965 but was not approved by the FDA until the early 1980’s because of conflicting studies and the possible health dangers. Not a promising start is it?
Aspartame became somewhat popular and was considered a safer and better tasting alternative than saccharine. But is it really safer?
It has one confirmed danger you need to be aware of. Even the makers have been forced to admit this one.
Phenylketonuria (PKU), which is when you are sensitive to the amino acid phenyl-alanine.
Most babies are screened for PKU at birth. If you have PKU, you should avoid aspartame like the plague. The symptoms are mental retardation, brain damage, and seizures. This is where the nastiest aspartame horror stories come from, baby death by seizures and brain damage.
The most worrying fact is that they used amounts within the FDA safe level. You and perhaps your children can easily consume more then these rodents did.
The rodents were examined at death. Many of them had developed leukemia, lymphatic cancer and breast cancer for female rats.
Aspartame is not acutely poisonous unless you have PKU or are very sensitive to some other aspect of aspartame. It’s a bit like cigarettes, this product may harm your health and increases the risk for cancer, but perhaps not immediately.
Would I recommend Aspartame? It gives me a headache and rashes when I take it. Should you have some? I wouldn’t recommend it.
Sucralose, Splenda & C:O
Do you believe sucralose to be the superior and safe sweetener? That’s what we’ve been told, but what if it’s untrue?
Sucralose is marketed as being “made from sugar” so that’s why it`s natural. One of the ways to synthesize Sucralose does involve sugar as one ingredient. The sugar undergoes numerous steps that turn it into a synthetic sweetener.
Splenda is not even sugar free. Dextrose and maltodextrin are added to Sucralose to make Splenda, those are sugars.
In a way its true, sucralose is produced by chlorinating sugar (sucrose). This involves chemically changing the structure of the sugar molecules.
Sucralose is a chlorocarbon It is in the same family of chemicals as DDT and PCBs. As far as I know those aren’t very good for your health.
If you are sensitive to chlorine you may have a strong reaction to sucralose, so be careful. Yes, chlorocarbon means chlorine like in bleach, disinfectants and insecticides.
Turns out it also contains a galactose monosaccharide, another substance that can cause serious reactions in sensitive individuals, this is a genetic sensitivity similar to PKU.
The next claim made by the maker Johnson & Johnson is that sucralose passes through the body unabsorbed. Not so, up to 27% goes into your bloodstream.
Most of it does stay in your digestive track, but it turns out that’s not good either.
A 12 week low dose study showed it disturbs the intestinal flora. Splenda can kill your healthy intestinal bacteria.
The micro-flora is a big part of your immune system, if this study translates directly from rats to humans this is bad news. They also found a reduction in the transport of nutrients from the digestive tract.
The complaints from sucralose users include blurred vision, headaches, joint pain and rashes. If you have any of those reactions to this sweetener, stop using it immediately. If Sucralose really does damage intestinal flora that makes daily use a horrible idea.
Acesulfame-K (Sunette or Sweet One)
Acesulfame K (potassium) has been an approved sweetener since 1988. However, most people are not even aware it’s being used in their food and beverages. It’s often combined with sucralose and/or aspartame.
The safety testing was done in the late 1970s, sounds pretty good right?
Only three animal studies were conducted. The first was inconclusive, it found a variety of tumors in both the acesulfame and control mice. The second test had so many sick animals that the FDA tossed out the results as unreliable.
Third study, 3 groups of 60 rats were fed acesulfame. The ones not eating the sweetener had a tumor, low dose 2 out of 60 got a tumor. In the high dose group, 3 out of 60 had tumors.
Bottom line, shoddy and unreliable trials and no solid information is available. Complaints have been raised by many PhDs, professor and health officials.
There is no real information on the safety for this sweetener. You are the guinea-pig for this trial. Be careful.
A Sweet And Dangerous Love Affair
These sweeteners are hard to avoid. One of my favorite protein powders has sucralose. It tastes fantastic. I will finish off this container, and then, never more.
If you occasionally have a treat and feel fine, good for you. Just be aware that using synthetic sweeteners daily can have severe health effects. If you feel strange right after consuming a sweetener you may have an allergy to them.
Be on the lookout for rashes, heart palpitations, nervousness, anxiety, insomnia or depression. If you get strange symptoms after drinking a few liters of diet soda it might be because of the artificial sweeteners.
In the end you must trust your own body and judge for yourself.