Iím not the only one to find the recent news about
artificial sweeteners more than just a little confusing.
Hereís my snapshot on this topic:
sweeteners are "nutritive" meaning they provide
calories. (Calories are units of energy that power our
brains, muscles and the rest of our body machinery.) Sugar
alcohols like sorbitol and mannitol are known as nutritive
sweeteners, for example.
(aka "artificial") sweeteners are calorie-free
because our bodies do not digest them for energy. They
basically pass unchanged through our digestive tracts from
the mouth (where we perceive their sweet taste) to the other
end. These substances are several hundreds to several
thousands of times sweeter than sugar; thus these high
intensity sweeteners are used in teeny tiny amounts.
Acesulfame-K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, sucralose and
tagatose are non-nutritive sweeteners currently approved by
the US Food and Drug Administration.
plethora of scientific studies show that these sweetening
agents are safe for humans. Some recent animal studies,
however, may indicate we may not have the entire storyÖyet.
at Marquette University, for example, compared the effects
of high amounts of sugar and the sweeteners aspartame and
acesulfame on mice that are genetically prone to get
diabetes. They found that large amounts of any of these
substances increased the risks for these animals to become
obese and develop diabetes.
going on? We already know that excessive amounts of sugar
can make us fat and contribute to conditions like diabetes
and heart disease. And sweeteners can certainly help us cut
back on added sugar and excess calories.
some research suggests that when we consume a sweet taste
without its usual calories, the bodyís ability to regulate
our appetites could be getting confused. (Perhaps that is
why one person I know who will remain anonymous feels like
eating M&Mís while drinking a diet Coke.)
area still being explored is our microbiome ó the good and
bad bacteria that reside in our lower intestines. These bugs
feed on what comes down the track including dietary fiber
and perhaps, according to some recent studies, non-nutritive
researchers at Case Western University, for example, fed
large amounts of sucralose (Splenda) to rats with a gut
disorder known as Crohnís disease, their symptoms got
worse. The sweetener had no effect on normal mice. How then,
do these undigested sweeteners affect bacteria in our human
We donít know. We do know that our bodies have the
machinery to handle moderate amounts of sugar and artificial
sweeteners. In excess, according to one researcher from
these latest studies, both may have negative effects.
like the American Diabetes Association and the American
Heart Association tell us to consume sugar as well as
non-nutritive sweeteners "judiciously." Iíll go