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Decoding Artificial Sweetners

09 Oct 2015

Are Artificial Sweeteners healthier than table sugar? Whether your goal is cutting calories or eating healthier? Understand the pros & cons to make an informed choice. So, to help you decide, here is the real deal on the sweeteners. Today, the most commonly heard term is the 'Artificial sweetener'. They may also be called sugar substitutes, non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) & non-caloric sweeteners. Sugar substitutes are loosely considered as any sweetener that you use instead of regular table sugar (sucrose). - -

How Artificial Sweeteners are derived?

As a sugar substitute, artificial sweeteners are used to cut down the level of sucrose in food. Artificial sweeteners are synthetically produced sweetening agents, created from natural sources such as some specific herbs or sugar or simulated sources. Artificial sweeteners are also referred to as intense sweeteners because they are derived in concentrated form & are multiple times sweeter than natural sugar. So, only a very small amount of artificial sweeteners is needed to stop sugar cravings, as compared to normal sugar.

Food sources:

All artificial sweeteners are chemically processed. They can be added to food like diet drinks, baked goods, frozen desserts, candy, light yoghurt and chewing gum & during the preparation of coffee, & tea. You may also add them when you eat like sprinkling them on top of the fruit. Most diet or low-calorie food products you buy at the store are made using artificial sweeteners.

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Classification of sugar substitutes:


Brand name Sweetness as compared to sugar Calories (kcal/g) Acceptable daily intake (mg/kg body weight)
Equal, NutraSweet, others 180 times sweeter than sugar 4 50
Sunett, Sweet One 200 times sweeter than sugar 0 15
Sweet'NLow, Necta Sweet, others 300 times sweeter than sugar 0 5
Splenda 600 times sweeter than sugar 0 5
No brand name 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar 0 11


# Reference from Harvard School of Public Health. Approved by FDA

Regardless of how they are classified, sugar substitutes are not magic bullets for a healthier option. The above mentioned artificial sweeteners are safe for consumption in the long run in the following order of their safety. They are arranged in the descending order of their safety. (Green is most safe whereas red denotes least safe)


Artificial sweeteners Sweetness compared to sugar Level of Safety
Saccharin 300 times sweeter than sugar Most Safe to use
Sucralose 600 times sweeter than sugar Safer to use
Acesulfame-K 200 times sweeter than sugar Less safe of all the above
Aspartame 180 times sweeter than sugar Lesser safe of all the above

7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter

than sugar

Least safe of all the above

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Saccharin - The Safer Sweetener

Saccharin is a no-calorie sweetener 300 times sweeter than table sugar. Today, saccharin is used in a wide range of low- & no-calorie & sugar-free foods & beverages, including tabletop sweeteners, baked goods, jams, chewing gum, canned fruit, candy, dessert toppings & salad dressings as well as cosmetic products, vitamins & pharmaceuticals. It is also used in tabletop sweeteners under the brand names Sweet n' Low ®, Sugar Twin ® & Necta Sweet ®. Today, health authorities around the world agree that saccharin is safe for human consumption. The US FDA has set the ADI for saccharin for children & adults at 5 mg/kg body weight. This means a 150-pound (68 kg) person can safely consume 340 mg of saccharin every day over his or her lifetime without adverse effects.  Saccharin is not metabolized by humans. It passes through the body unchanged.

The aftermath of artificial sweeteners:

  • Aspartame is not recommended for people with Phenylketonuria(PKU). Their body is unable to break down one of the amino acids used to make aspartame.

  • Sweeteners affect the body's ability to gauge how many calories are being consumed.

  • Some studies show that sugar & artificial sweeteners affect the brain in different ways.

  • Sweeteners may reduce the intake of calories & promote weight loss & in some cases even show weight gain. There is conflicting research regarding this.

  • Diabetics must count these starch-based sweeteners as part of their carbohydrate limits since insulin is required for their metabolism.

Hence, when choosing sugar substitutes, it pays to be a savvy consumer. Moderation is the key to sugar substitutes. Get informed & look beyond the hype.


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