The truth about Artificial Sweeteners

When most people think of foods with artificial sweeteners, diet drinks and candies are what come to mind. But a close look at ingredient lists shows they’re in more and more products. The truth is that low-calorie sweeteners are being introduced widely into the American diet. They’re found in many products, such as high-fiber oatmeal or English muffins, even those not labeled as ‘diet’ or ‘light’. The reason being, many people are trying to cut back on added sugar in their diets, so food manufacturers are looking to scale back on sugar in their products, and make them look healthier, while still preserving the sweet taste that people like. Lowering sugar intake is very well justified, however, consuming more artificial sweeteners may not be the best way to do it. More research is pointing to potential health risks and showing that they may not actually help people lose weight. 

Most artificial sweeteners are more accurately called non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) because they provide no or very few calories and no nutrients. These include acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), sucralose, saccharin, steviol glycosides, and monkfruit. Sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol, are another type of low-calorie sweetener, but they aren’t considered non-nutritive sweeteners. They contain carbohydrates, although less than regular sugar. Research suggests that amounts of NNS below the ADIs may have adverse effects on health, including an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer, and heart disease. NNS can be a good alternative for losing weight, but the long-term effects of everyday use are unknown. Compared with other dietary factors that affect the risk of chronic disease, especially cardiovascular diseases, consuming NNS may not have a major effect, Gardener says. For example, eating more vegetables, nuts, and legumes, and limiting alcohol and red and processed meats, are more important. 


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