To Sweeten or Not to Sweeten? Part 1 of 2

To Sweeten or Not to Sweeten? Part 1 of 2
By Johnathan Zamora

Artificial sweeteners have been quite the subject of debate within the last couple of years.  With the obesity epidemic in the United States reaching all time highs – these food compounds, which at one point were praised as newfound “diet saviors”, have now found themselves in the hot seat.  This article will provide you with information on three of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners namely sucralose, aspartame and saccharine. One of the major reasons that artificial sweeteners are in the limelight is because they are being targeted as the cause of additional weight gain.  You may ask “But I thought artificial sweeteners didn’t have any calories so how can they cause weight gain?”  Here is a new answer that is being widely accepted within both the medical and nutrition community as being true:

The theory researchers are pointing to is a direct connection between an overuse of artificial sweeteners which, as a result, triggers an over-consumption of foods high in sugar.  The introduction of artificial sweeteners into thousands of everyday food products has resulted in an overall increase in calorie consumption.  Within the last three years there has been a flurry of studies supporting this fact.  Just because you order a diet soda doesn’t mean you should have a jumbo ice cream sundae or two slices of pie for dessert, but it seems as though more individuals are replacing the calories found in sugary sodas with those found in diet food items and other sweets like cakes and ice cream – but research suggests, it may not be entirely their fault.

Researchers provide the following explanation to support this theory:
When you eat a food or drink that contains an artificial sweetener, the brain signals to the body that something sweet is on its way, will quench the cravings and leave you satisfied. With artificial sweeteners this is not the case.  Since these sweeteners are non-nutritive, meaning they don’t contain calories, the digestive system never receives that sweet satisfaction or the sugar calories it thinks it’s getting.  Over time, and with heavy artificial sweetener use, the body builds an intense craving for sweets.  You may notice an increase in your sweet tooth so please be careful, as this may cause you to over indulge in high sugar foods when given the chance.

Remember, just because something says it’s “sugar-free” doesn’t mean its calorie free.  Paying attention to important factors like calories, fat grams and carbohydrates still remain important when choosing foods low in sugar.

The information below is provided for your reference when choosing a suitable artificial sweetener.  Since people react to different sweeteners in different ways, sample a few products and find one that suits your tastes.

The FDA has established an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for each sweetener.  This is the maximum amount considered safe to eat each day.   For more information, please read this article from The Mayo Clinic – http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/artificial-sweeteners/MY00073

Sucralose (Splenda); Acceptable Daily Intake= 5mg. /kg

  • First discovered by research scientists at Queen Elizabeth College, University of London in 1976 during a collaborative research program.
  • 600 times sweeter than sugar
  •  Found in soft drinks, yogurt, sports supplements, frozen desserts, chewing gum and ice cream
  • There have been no known or published studies or findings related to any danger associated with sucralose consumption.

Aspartame (NutraSweet/ Equal); Acceptable Daily Intake=50mg. /kg

  • First discovered in 1965
  • Composed of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, as the methyl ester.
  • 200 times sweeter than sugar
  • Found in more than 6,000 products and consumed by over 200 million people worldwide.
  • Aspartame has been extensively tested by the FDA, with over two decades of research and over 26 clinical trials in the past 23 years.

Saccharin (Sweet n Low); Acceptable Daily Intake=5mg. /kg

  • Discovered in 1879 by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and is the oldest artificial sweetener used in the United States
  • 300 – 700 times sweeter than sugar
  • Found as a tabletop sweetener, jams, baked goods, canned fruit, candy and salad dressings.
  • The FDA has examined Saccharin over 30 clinical multi-generation human trials and 14 animal trials.  They have concluded that Saccharin is safe for consumption and is used in over 100 countries worldwide.

The key message here is as with all foods, moderation is very important to maintaining a healthy diet together with the types of food you choose to consume.  With scientific evidence being compiled on a regular basis, now more than ever, Americans are able to make informed decisions regarding the foods and food compounds we eat.  Instead, minimize the amount of processed foods you eat and replace them with wholesome, fresh foods like lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, heart healthy fats and fruits and vegetables as much as possible and make them the most commonly eaten foods in your daily diet.

Check here for part 2 of this report: “Natural Sweeteners”

Resources:
www.sucralose.org
www.aspartame.org
www.saccharin.org
www.mayoclinic.com/health/artificial-sweeteners/MY00073

1. Fowler SP et al.  Fueling the obesity epidemic? Artificially sweetened beverage use and long-term weight gain.  Obesity (Silver Spring).2008 Aug; 16(8):1894-900.Epub 2008 June 5.

2. Swithers SE et al.  High intensity sweeteners and energy balance. Physiol Behav.2010 Jan 6

3. Mahar A et al. The Effect of frequency of consumption of artificial sweeteners on sweetness liking by women. J Sci. 2007 Nov; 72(9):S714-8.

Johnathan Zamora
The Fit Chef

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One Response for To Sweeten or Not to Sweeten? Part 1 of 2

  1. Michelle Coutois

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    December 20, 2012 10:02 pm

    Great article Johnathan, both parts were highly appreciated considering that these topics are quite often debated from many angles. Most likely, “when it doubt, mother nature sorts it out”. Mostly the way I think, yet I do use Splenda at times, or nothing at all. Thank you for the post! Many rumors circulate on both sides. I found this on the @leanbody4her twitter with a link to FB! Hope everyone else enjoyed the reading. Straight from the Labrada kitchen.