Today artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes are found in a variety of food and beverages marked as “sugar free” or “diet”. There are six artificial sweeteners FDA approved; they are saccharine, aspartame, sucralose, neotame, acesulfame potassium, and advantame. Stevia is also a popular one, but is not FDA approved.
The terminology of artificial sweeteners can be confusing. Some manufacturers call their sweeteners “natural” even though they are processed or refined, and some artificial sweeteners are derived from naturally occurring substances like sucralose which comes from sugar.
Artificial sweeteners can be attractive alternatives to sugar because they add little to no calories to your diet. This may be helpful with weight loss; however, some research has suggested that consuming artificial sweeteners may be associated with increased weight while other research shows it does not. If you have diabetes, artificial sweeteners generally don’t raise blood sugar levels because they are not carbohydrates. You also only need a fraction of the amount because artificial sweeteners tend to be a lot sweeter than sugar. Another benefit to artificial sweeteners is they don’t contribute to tooth decay and cavities.
Artificial sweeteners were once thought to cause cancer. But according to the National Cancer Institute and other health agencies, there is no sound scientific evidence that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use in the U. S. cause cancer or other serious health problems. Numerous research studies confirm that artificial sweeteners are generally safe in limited quantities.
Aspartame is cautioned with individuals with phenylketonuria (PKU). Aside from the effects in people with phenylketonuria, no health problems have been consistently linked to aspartame use. Research on artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, continues today.
Overall, the general consensus is artificial sweeteners can be healthy when used in moderation and recommended amounts. Just remember, processed foods, which often contain sugar substitutes, generally do not offer the same health benefits as do whole foods such as fruits and vegetables.