Artificial Sweeteners are probably the most controversial public health issue as research keeps mounting on its effectiveness. On one hand, are studies sponsored by the artificial sweetener industry that are more likely to report results and conclusions that favors artificially sweetened beverages. On the other hand, studies done by independent researchers with a conflict of interest with the food industry are more likely to declare its inefficiency.

So, as consumers what should you believe? Do artificial sweeteners really live up to their hype and benefit the calorie-conscious individual. In this article, learn how sugar becomes addictive and find out the real truth behind artificial sweeteners and artificially sweetened beverages.

Bliss Point of Consuming Too Much Sugar

The bliss point is the combined sensory profile of the food you like the most. The flavor, texture and the ratio of three prime nutrients – fat, sugar and salt impact the bliss point of food. It triggers the taste buds which in turn trigger the pleasure receptor, dopamine in the brain.

As a result, this tricks the brain to think that we need more of that food and leads to the path of addiction. Natural foods also have these three ingredients but not in the perfect bliss point ratio that makes you crave for more.  Therefore the more processed sugar you eat, the more you crave for the same.

On the contrary, if you abstain from consuming too much sugar, you will eventually feel satiated and not crave for more food. Your palette will change and foods that increase the bliss point will no longer tempt you.

The Different Types of Sweeteners

Before we jump into the fine details of artificial sweeteners, let’s understand the different types of sweeteners:

1. Natural Sweeteners

Natural sweeteners as implied by its name are just that – not refined or minimally processed. These include raw honey, organic fruits, and plant-based sources. Here are the different forms of natural sugars and their measures of relative sweetness :

As seen fructose is double sweet as glucose. It can be a reason why we crave for food with high fructose corn syrup.

2. Sugar Alcohol

In addition, there are also some natural sweeteners called sugar alcohols such as Erythritol which are naturally found in fruits. As opposed to its name, sugar alcohols do not contain alcohol but are polyols that contain more than two hydroxyl groups.

Unlike artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols do contain calories in them and tend to be less sweet than natural sugar. They are mostly used in chewing gums, lozenges, cake fondant, soft drinks. If you look closely at their food labels, you will see an additive with a number which can signify the presence of sugar alcohol.

Sugar alcohol in a processed form can pose health risks like increased risk for type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and more than the ones found naturally in some fruits.

3. Natural Caloric Sweeteners

In recent years there has been a huge growth of these type of sweeteners. These are non-carbohydrate and contain fewer calories as well. Some well-known natural caloric sweetener is stevia and monk fruit extract.

They have a glycemic index of 0 or in other words, they do not trigger blood sugar levels or the release of insulin. Stevia is naturally derived from a South American shrub and found in an extract or white powder. They tend to leave a bitter after taste.

Another plant-sourced sugar is that of the Monk fruit extract. However, when consuming natural sweeteners you need to beware of its purity and ensure that it is not combined with other sugars or sweeteners.

4. Artificial Sweeteners

Often referred to as high-intensity sweeteners, low-calorie sweeteners, and artificially sweetened beverages, they really have no nutrient value to the body even if they are devoid of calories. They simply provide a sweet sensation to the taste buds, without raising blood sugar levels.

The Truth about Artificial Sweeteners: Here is the list of artificial sweeteners available:

Type Description Sweetness Safety & Side-Effects
Saccharine The first artificial sweetener used since the 1900s 300 times sweeter than sugar Rat studies signify side-effects such as anemia, folate deficiency and it is not recommended for Pregnant or breastfeeding women, Unstable for cooking
Cyclamate Often used with other artificial sweeteners for a combined effect 30-50x sweeter than sugar Banned in the US for its health risks
Ace-k or Acesulfame Potassium Additive number 950 that is popularly used in Diet Coke, Soft Drinks and Mentos 200x sweeter than sucrose Significantly increases insulin response, works directly on the pancreas in rat studies, Concerns over interaction with DNA at high doses potentially causing genetic damage
Aspartame Popularly used in several processed foods for a long time 200x sweeter than sucrose Contains Phenylanine that can be absorbed in the blood and release acidic properties can have an effect on the gut bacteria
Neotame Newest Artifical Sweetener derived from Aspartame 7000-13000x sweeter than sugar  Increases insulin response
Sucralose Derived from Sucrose molecule and to crystallize it is bound to dextrose or maltodextrin 600x sweeter than sugar Causes insulin release in human studies, weight gain or difficulty in weight loss when used in excess
Trehalose Lowers the freezing point of foods and mostly used in icecreams Less Sweeter than sucrose Can affect the gut microbiome


Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe?

Most of the artificial sweeteners used in the market today are FDA approved, yet they pose a whole lot of safety issues and side effects. The most pressing of them all, some studies also point out that the use of artificial sweeteners can increase your risk for Cancer. In rat studies, it is well-known to induce bladder cancer. Nonetheless, more evidence and studies are needed to ascertain whether the same is applicable to humans.

With that being said, the food industry is tied to making you believe that non-caloric artificial sweeteners are safe to consume as they don’t spike your blood sugars or insulin levels and are non-carbohydrates.

Unfortunately, the chemical processes in your body are often more complicated. As you consume more of these artificial sweeteners touted to be healthy, they do something potentially worse. You habituate your body that there is no need to release insulin if it comes across a compound that looks like sugar.

Once your body is used to this phenomenon, it might stop releasing insulin when confronted with carbohydrates. And, all that extra glucose from the carbohydrates can lead to a host of health issues.

In addition, it also tends to activate the brain pathway that triggers an addictive response. No wonder, when we consume too much of processed foods with artificial sweeteners we get more addicted to it. That’s why artificial sweeteners tend to be bad, if not worse than regular sugar!

The Proliferation of Artificial Sweeteners

If you look through the aisle of your local supermarket, you can find artificial sweeteners in several processed products including drinks, baked goods, supplements, shakes, meal replacement drinks and more.

The best replacement for these artificial products is to consume natural whole foods. Even if they do have the amounts of sugars and calories, they add nutrient value to the body. The bitter truth is that there is not really a healthy, inexpensive and safe sweetener available that tastes just like sugar.


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