There are millions of people throughout the world that are trying to either lose weight or maintain their health while dealing with diabetes. For these individuals refined sugar is considered one of the worst possible food ingredients they can consume. Refined sugar can actually kill someone with severe diabetes and its consumption makes it very hard to lose weight. To assuage this issue many companies began to develop zero carbohydrate alternatives to sugar. Some of these artificial sweeteners are more popular than others. Each in their term has come under heavy scrutiny from time to time as rumors and innuendo crop up about health risks.
What Types of Sugar Substitutes are There?
There are a wide multitude of artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes in the world. Some of the most common artificial sweeteners are Aspartame, Saccharin and Sucralose. As far as non-artificial sweeteners that are considered for usage there are products such as Stevia and Sorbitol.
Artificial Sweetener Rumors
One of the most prolific rumors that individuals who partake of artificial sweeteners will come across is the cancer rumor. It is believed by many that all artificial sweeteners may cause cancer. While this is proven true in some animal testing, it has not proven true in human beings when they partake of approved artificial sweeteners. There is one type of sweetener (a derivative of cyclamate) that has been banned in many countries, including the US, due to health risks. However, none of the approved artificial sweeteners have been proven to ever cause cancer in human beings.
The amount of artificial sweetener an individual can safely consume varies. For instance, a safe amount of Aspartame can be up to nineteen twelve ounce cans of diet cola per day. This precludes any genetic conditions an individual might have, of course. Aspartame, in particular, is not meant for consumption by anyone that has a condition known as phenylketonuria. This condition causes an individuals body to be unable to digest the phenylalanine in Aspartame.
Pros and Cons of Using Sugar Substitutes
There are many pros and cons of using sugar substitutes. These range wildly in some brands but there are many general positive and negative aspects that apply to all substitutes for sugar.
One of the major positive aspects of sugar substitutes is the simple fact that they contain little to no carbohydrates. The artificial sweeteners have no carbohydrates or sugar in them at all. The non-artificial sweeteners contain some sugar and carbs but not nearly as much as standard refined sugar.
The lower or non-existent sugar in these substitutes is a very good thing for individuals that have a sweet tooth but cannot or choose not to indulge in regular sugar. These products allow individuals that are on diets or that are diabetic to actively indulge their sweet tooth without risking death or weight gain from sugar intake.
Due to the lack of sugar in artificial sweeteners, they are considered to be far less damaging to the teeth. This means dental health can actually be improved by switching from regular to diet sodas. The improvement isn’t from consumption of artificial sweeteners themselves so much as it is from the lack of sugar on the teeth.
The amount of artificial sweetener an individual can ingest safely is staggering compared to what would put an individual into a sugar induced coma. As mentioned previously Aspartame is safe to consume in amounts of up to nineteen cans of diet soda per day. Nineteen cans of regular soda might be enough to actually kill someone without blood sugar related issues, and most likely would kill someone with diabetes. Saccharine, such as Sweet N Low, is considered safe if no more than nine to twelve packets of it a day is consumed. Sucralose, such as Splenda, is safe for the equivalent of 5 mg per day which is roughly synonymous with six diet sodas per day.
There are several cons to the use of sugar substitutes though many are particular to specific individuals. Beyond the disproved rumors of artificial sweeteners being cancer causing agents in humans, there are many somewhat unique drawbacks that some individuals experience from sugar substitutes.
One drawback is psychological. Some individuals find that they eat more when they drink diet drinks due to the belief that they can consume more calories since they aren’t drinking as many.
Other drawbacks are biological and seem to be specific to certain individuals. Beyond phenylketonuria causing the phenylalanine in Aspartame to be indigestible there are other side effects that some people seem to develop. These side effects vary but are considered isolated cases. The most common side effects are light headaches, migraines, diarrhea, dizziness, anxiety, bloating, and minor or severe flatulence.
So are Sugar Substitutes Safe?
If all current indications are correct and the approved substances are taken in moderation then there is currently no clinically proven safety hazard in regards to the use of sugar substitutes. While there may be some minor irritation, bloating, etc, it is still better than partaking of refined sugar. For most people these substitutes are likely a healthy and safe alternative to sugar.