Alternative Sweeteners – What’s in Your Coffee?
Alternative sugar sweeteners have gotten a bad reputation and are associated with cancer, Alzheimer’s, and obesity. D2D decided to go on a fact-finding mission to see if consuming these artificial confections contribute to health issues or if they indeed are a healthy alternative to sugar. What is the difference between Equal, Splenda, Sweet’n Low and Stevia anyway? Here’s what we discovered…
You have many choices to satisfy your sweet tooth. Last week we wrote about the hazards of consuming too much sugar. This week we are taking the confusion out of the alternative sweetener market. In fact, 84% of Americans are actively trying to limit sugar and 43% are turning to sugar substitutes. There are two kinds of alternative sweeteners: artificial and natural.
First, let’s distinguish between the natural sweetener – Stevia – and the artificial sweeteners such as Splenda, Equal, and Sweet’N Low. Stevia is made directly from the stevia leaf while the others are created in a lab, hence the difference between a natural sweetener and an artificial sweetener. The creation of natural sweeteners, from the Stevia plant, has caused an 8-10% decline in the purchase of artificial sweeteners. But, natural sweeteners are generally more expensive than artificial sweeteners due to their higher ingredient costs. As of 2015, Splenda is still the sweetener of choice in the United States and outsells Truvia, Sweet’N Low, and Equal.
Don’t artificial sweeteners cause cancer? What gives?
The artificial sweeteners, Splenda, Equal and Sweet’N Low, have a very storied past with the public and many people believe some sweeteners to be worse than others. For reference, 39% of consumers think it’s best to avoid food and drinks containing artificial sweeteners, and 38% say that some sweeteners should be avoided more than others. This has been a contributing factor to the recent decline in sales of artificial sweeteners and its associated products, like diet sodas.
-Christine Zoumas, MS, RD, Program Director at University of California, San Diego, Moores Cancer Center
The Agony and the Irony of Splenda, Equal and Sweet’N Low…
“Based on all of the research done so far, there is no clear evidence for a benefit, but there is evidence of potential harm from the long term consumption of artificial sweeteners”
-Dr. Meghan Azad, PhD, University of Manitoba
Artificial sugar begets more sugar.
Other controversies surrounding artificial sweeteners.
Again, while the research has not been peer reviewed or widely accepted by the scientific community, there are several separate research trials of Splenda, Equal, and Sweet’N Low that have shown causal relationships between artificial sweeteners and negative gut microbiome health, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
Do Diet Drinks Count?
The ingredient list on many of these diet drinks show sucralose or aspartame, both of which may be blended with acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), a supplemental sweetener commonly used in the beverage industry.
Though aspartame used to be the primary sweetener of choice for the most popular beverages, blends of sucralose, aspartame, and sucralose-only options are entering the marketplace as consumer’s demand what they perceive as a more “natural” artificial sweetener.
And other options are also being added to the grocery store shelves, such as stevia-sweetened sodas and drinks. Because of its taste and its natural origin, stevia sweetened sodas, drinks, and food items are gaining in popularity. From just 2014 to 2017, the market value of stevia has grown 71% to $578 million from $338 million.
Here’s a list of the most popular diet drinks in the market today and their associated sweeteners:
Which is your sweetener of choice?
So we know that Splenda, Equal, Sweet’N Low, and Stevia have no calories, but how is that possible? And how does it affect our bodies? Click on the sweeteners below to learn what makes them sweet, how they look under a microscope and how much of the sweetener you can have per day per FDA guidelines (hint: it’s A LOT – but don’t think it’s an open invitation!):
The chemical structure of sucralose
Limitation on consumption: As per FDA guidelines, acceptable daily intake of sucralose is 5 milligrams per kilograms of body weight per day. So if you weigh 150 lbs., it is safe for you to consume upwards of 340mg of sucralose per day, which equates to 28 Splenda packets or 9 cans of diet soda. That should leave PLENTY of room for even the sweetest of sweet-tooth’s!
The chemical structure of aspartame
Sweet’N Low (saccharin)
The chemical structure of saccharin
Steviol, the basic building block of stevia’s sweet glycosides
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