We all know that we should be cutting down on sugar. It’s hidden in so many of the foods we eat, from bread to cereal to pasta sauce. So what’s a health-conscious person to do? One increasingly popular option has been to reach for foods that use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. But are artificial sweeteners really a healthier alternative? Let’s take a closer look.
Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe?
The answer to this question is not as simple as a yes or no. While there are some risks associated with some artificial sweeteners, there are also some benefits to others.
Artificial sweeteners are often marketed as being healthier alternatives to sugar because they help reduce calorie intake. And while that’s true, not all artificial sweeteners are created equal. Be sure to do your research to decide if the risks are worth it for you. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Saccharin, Aspartame, and Sucralose
These three artificial sweeteners have all been shown to carry cancer risks in rats.
Saccharin: The most well-known example is saccharin (sold under the brand name Sweet’N Low) which was first used in the early 1900s. Saccharin was later found to cause cancer in rats, but it’s important to note that this has never been proven in humans.
Aspartame: Sold under the brand name Equal, Aspartame has also been linked to cancer risks. Just as with Saccharin, these links have never been proven in human studies either. However, it should be noted that rats process these chemicals differently than humans do, so it is not clear if they pose the same risks to humans.
Sucralose: The brand name for sucralose is Splenda, and it has been shown to alter insulin sensitivity—making it difficult for diabetics to keep blood sugar levels under control. Some studies have shown that sucralose can affect your gut microbiome by lowering the number of good bacteria by half.
Monk Fruit, Stevia, and Other Natural Sweeteners
Some artificial sweeteners, such as monk fruit and stevia, are derived from natural sources. These options are generally considered to be safer than those that are entirely synthetic.
Monk fruit sweetener comes from monk fruit, which is a melon that has been cultivated in Southeast Asia for centuries. It was approved in 2010 by the FDA to be used as a sweetener, and it is about 150-200 times sweeter than sugar. The fruit’s unique antioxidants, called mogrosides, give monk fruit its sweetness without any associated sucrose or carbs. This means that it won’t affect your blood sugar levels.
Stevia is a plant that is native to South America. The leaves of the plant are dried and then ground into a powder, which can be used as a sweetener. It is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. Because it comes from a plant, it is generally considered to be a safer sweetener option, although there is not a lot of long-term data on its effects.
When it comes to artificial sweeteners, there are pros and cons to consider. Although they may be a low-calorie option for sweetness, many don’t provide any real benefit to your health and can potentially put your health at risk. If you are looking for a safer option, you may want to try one of the artificial sweeteners that are derived from a natural source.