- It takes up to 75 packs of the sweetener a day to notice real health consequences
- There is no convincing evidence that artificial sweeteners cause problems
- More research is needed to determine the full effect
There is no convincing evidence that artificial sweeteners are dangerous and you need to consume up to 75 packets per day before suffering health consequences, according to experts.
In recent years, a series of alarming studies have linked alternative sugars to a host of conditions, from heart attacks to strokes, diabetes, and even cancer.
But experts warn that the evidence is often indirect and the way in which studies are conducted is flawed – often focusing on participants who are at risk of health problems due to old age and preexisting conditions. that condition.
The FDA states that all six approved artificial sweeteners are safe to consume — up to 75 packs a day. A standard 12-ounce diet Coke contains about five packets of sweeteners, according to American Cancer Societythat means you need to drink five liters a day before experiencing health problems.
Meanwhile, just a few sugar cubes a day have been shown by decades of research to lead to problems like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and teeth. Sugar, unlike sweeteners, also has calories, so the risk of obesity is higher when consumed.
Kara Burnstine, Nutrition Educator at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, told DailyMail.com that she recommends clients consume no more than 10 to 12 packets of the sweetener a day.
‘In our battle against weight gain, artificial sweeteners seem to be an effective weapon.
‘They have no calories and no sugar. Using them to replace sugars in our diet should mean fewer calories consumed, weight loss, and a reduced risk of obesity-related diseases,’ says Burnstine.
Also referred to as nonnutritive sweeteners, artificial sweeteners are food additives regulated by the FDA that can be 200 to 700 times sweeter than table sugar.
They activate both sweet and bitter taste receptors, stimulating the ‘reward’ center of the brain.
They also trick the brain into believing that the body has consumed real sugar, which prompts the release of insulin, which burns glucose in the blood.
“Nutritionally, artificial sweeteners do not add calories but are made from different chemicals or some (stevia) from plant extracts,” said Anne Lee, assistant professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia. University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, on DailyMail.com.
The FDA has deemed the following artificial sweeteners safe to consume: acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, and sucralose.
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This means they are considered non-toxic for human consumption. Although they contain little or no calories, they lack important nutrients such as vitamins and fiber.
Recent research has sparked panic around artificial sweeteners. A February study found links between the artificial sweetener erythritol and an increased risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack or stroke.
The researchers looked at the effect of adding erythritol to whole blood or isolated platelets, or small pieces of cells found in blood. to help clot and aid in wound healing.
The researchers noted that erythritol is poorly metabolized and is mostly excreted in the urine.
They too found that circulating levels of many polyols, commonly found in artificial sweeteners, were associated with an increased incidence of cardiovascular events. When present in the blood, erythritol facilitates clotting to occur, which may contribute to the risk of this heart event.
However, most of the participants were over 60, which increases their current risk of heart attack or stroke.
Many studies focusing on the negatives of artificial sweeteners have analyzed specific populations.
For example, while a study in Biological Psychiatry found a potential link between aspartame and an increased risk of depression, the findings were limited to those with pre-existing mood disorders. This does not prove that sweeteners are the cause.
One more study found increased brain activity associated with aspartame, although the participants were specifically children with absence seizures.
Other research has found broader benefits.
A analysis in the journal Nutrition and Cancer, for example, found no evidence that sucralose causes cancer in humans.
A 2019 study from the BMJ examined the effect of artificially sweetened beverage consumption on cancer risk in more than 100,000 participants.
While researchers have found that drinking sugary drinks can increase cancer risk, artificially sweetened drinks do not carry the same risk.
‘There is no convincing evidence that aspartame (Nutrasweet), sucralose (Splenda), or saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low) causes disease or poses a direct threat to human health,’ says Burnstine.
Burnstine adds artificial sweeteners can help with weight loss when replacing sugar — which can actually lower the risk of health issues.
This includes replacing a can of Coke with Diet Coke or replacing honey with a packet of Splenda.
‘They may be beneficial for blood sugar control and therefore of particular benefit to diabetics when used in place of refined sugars, including fruit juice concentrates,’ says Burnstine.
Lee stressed that more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners – but for now the risks appear to be overstated.
‘It is important to have more studies that look at groups of sweeteners as a whole and also compare the effects of different sweeteners on metabolism, microbiome, and long-term health risks to make a final decision. ,’ he says.
‘It is important to consider individual health conditions, such as diabetes and metabolism, to determine the safe amount of natural sugar for our bodies,’ says Burnstine.
‘In some cases, artificial sweeteners may be an appropriate option to reduce total sugar intake and help manage blood glucose levels, while in other cases, natural sweeteners such as fruit or honey might be a better choice.’
‘We always recommend whole foods that are naturally sweetened like fruit over artificially sweetened foods, but a little no-calorie sweetener in your morning bowl of oatmeal or an occasional diet soda will always be better. options than pastries or regular soda,’ Burnstine said.
‘If you choose to use calorie-free sweeteners, choose sucralose or stevia because they have the strongest evidence to suggest they are safe,’ says Burnstine.