Artificial sweeteners are always controversial to discuss because of their much-doubted health effects. Though many people consider them to be safe and use them while having diabetes or related diseases to lower the direct sugar intake and to lose weight, experts often think them to be responsible for developing cancer and often causes fatal blood sugar conditions and affect blood circulation,
What Are Artificial Sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners are forms of sugar substitutes. These are added to sweet dishes, beverages, and other foods to provide sweetness without using direct sugar in your diet. These are often referred to as “intense sweeteners” because they provide a sweetness that is thousand times sweeter and better than that of regular table sugar. Though the majority of these artificial sweeteners are rich in high calories, the amount that is consumed contains an almost negligible number of harmful calories that enter your body. (1 Trusted Source).
Artificial sweeteners contain an organic chemical compound called saccharin that was invented in 1879 and is three hundred times sweeter than regular sugar that contains glucose and sucrose but it has been found in studies that have high levels of saccharin can lead to bladder cancer.
What Happens When You Consume Artificial Sweeteners?
Your tongue is filled with numerous taste buds that act as the taste receptors on your tongue surface. When these receptors combine with a food molecule, they originate signals, for example, sweetness, and send it to the brain. Artificial sweetener molecules are of different sizes and shapes compared to sugar molecules, but add the same taste of sweetness to your tongue receptors and do not break down the molecules into calories within your body, thus helping to prevent weight gain. (2 Trusted Source)
Although there are certain kinds of artificial sweeteners that are broken down into calories in your body, they are a minority in groups (3 Trusted Source).
The Commonly Used Artificial Sweeteners:
The following are the common artificial sweeteners that are used in dishes, beverages, sweets, and several desserts (4 Trusted Source).
- Aspartame It is 200 times sweeter than regular sugar.
- Acesulfame potassium or acesulfame K used as sweetener in regular dishes and in baking.
- Advantame This is much sweeter than ordinary sugar (around 20,000 times) and used for cooking and baking desserts.
- Aspartame-acesulfame salt It is 350 times sweeter than regular sugar.
- Cyclamate It is approximately 50 times sweeter than table sugar and is used for cooking and baking since 1970.
- Neotame It is almost 13,000 times sweeter than ordinary sugar and suited for cooking and baking.
- Neohesperidin It is about 340 times sweeter than table sugar and suited for cooking, baking, and mixing with acidic foods.
- Saccharin Saccharin is 700 times sweeter than table sugar.
- Sucralose Sucralose, which is 600 times sweeter table sugar, is suited for cooking, baking, and mixing with acidic foods.
Impacts Of Having Artificial Sweeteners:
Many try to avoid direct intake of sugar in their diet to lose weight and replace table sugar with artificial sweeteners. But this can impact their health conditions in several ways.
1. Effects on appetite
Studies have revealed that the majority of the people who have a high consumption of artificial sweeteners have been shown to gain weight and have high-calorie contents within their bodies. Though they have an exact taste of sweetness, lack the nutrient contents found in other sweet-tasting foods including table sugar, and thus the brain gets confused and there remains a feeling of hunger. Moreover, some scientists suggest, that it is important to eat more of an artificially sweetened food, compared with the sugar-sweetened version, to feel full (5 Trusted Source).
But there are also findings from recent experiments that people have felt less hunger and undergo fewer intake of calories when they replace normal sugar and sweet desserts with artificial sweeteners (6 Trusted Source).
2. Effects on weight
High consumption of artificially sweetened foods, beverages, or desserts has been shown to impact your weight, often leading to high-calorie consumption and obesity (7 Trusted Source).
But, in some cases, it has also been found that artificial sweeteners have also reduced the body mass index and average body weight by almost 2.9 pounds or 1.3 Kg within 4 weeks to 40 months. It can also reduce the average number of daily calories you consume with regular sugar-based foods (8 Trusted Source).
These studies also show that replacing regular soft drinks with sugar-free versions can decrease body mass index (BMI) by up to 1.3–1.7 points (9 Trusted Source).
3. Artificial sweeteners and diabetes
People who have diabetes should choose artificial sweeteners as an alternative to using regular sugar cubes. This will help them have the exact sweetness, without spiking their blood sugar levels (10 Trusted Source).
But on the contrary, some studies show that having artificially sweetened beverages, like diet soda can pose a 6–121% greater risk of developing diabetes. But it has not been certainly proved whether consumption of artificial sweeteners affects the rise in insulin levels. Thus, it is better to say that the consumption of artificial sweeteners is not the only cause of developing diabetes.
However, a recent study on Hispanic women found a negative effect.
Women who drank an artificially sweetened drink before consuming a sugary drink had 14% higher blood sugar levels and 20% higher insulin levels, compared with those who drank water before consuming a sugary drink (11 Trusted Source).
4. Impact on metabolic syndrome
In medical terms, metabolic means a group of health conditions, like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess belly fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels.
Multiple occurrences of these disorders in your body can increase the chances of developing chronic and various cardiac diseases, like stroke, heart attacks, cardiac failures, and type 2 diabetes. Experts say that diet soda drinkers or those who have artificial sweeteners in high proportions have a 36% higher risk of metabolic syndrome (12 Trusted Source).
5. Effect on gut health
The bacteria present in your gut play a vital role in your health, and poor gut health is caused due to varied reasons. One such reason can be unnecessary weight gain, high blood sugar levels, metabolic syndrome, a weakened immune system, and disrupted sleep (13 Trusted Source).
Some experts claim that a high intake of artificial sweeteners can affect the composition and proper functioning of the gut bacteria. But more such studies are required to come to conclusions regarding lowering artificial sweeteners for protecting gut health. (14 Trusted Source)
6. Risk of cancer
Recent studies reveal that a high intake of artificial sweeteners that contain high levels of amounts of saccharin and cyclamate has shown to increase the risk of developing bladder cancer. The high saccharin content in these sweetener alternatives tends to affect cell division in your body, leading to abnormal growth of cells and this finally results in developing benign or malignant tumors.
7. Effect on dental health from artificial sweeteners
Dental cavities, also known as tooth decay occur when bacteria in your teeth ferment sugar and produce acids that are responsible for affecting the enamel of your teeth. Artificial sweeteners do not are known to react or ferment acids on the surface of your teeth and so do not cause tooth decay. This may be because of the presence of sucralose in artificial sweeteners that are not found in regular table sugars. This compound is less likely to cause tooth decay than sugar.
Because of this, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends products containing sucralose to prevent tooth decay (15 Trusted Source).
Safety And Side Effects Regarding Artificial Sweeteners:
Artificial sweeteners are generally considered safe enough for human consumption but at limited levels. But individuals with rare metabolic disorders like phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot digest phenylalanine, an amino acid found in some artificial sweeteners like aspartame.
People who are allergic to sulfonamides that are mostly found in saccharin should avoid these sweeteners because saccharin allergy can be malefic and can cause breathlessness, rashes, or diarrhea.
Moreover, high levels of sucralose in your body, consumed through artificial sweeteners can affect your gut health and disturb insulin levels (16 Trusted Source).
The Bottom Line:
It is somewhat advisable to avoid the direct consumption of regular table sugar and replace it with an artificially sweetened alternative, but the rate of consumption should be within limits and always under the supervision of your medical caregiver, otherwise you are prone to develop disorders like diabetes and may lead to certain malefic health conditions.
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