Artificial sugar sweeteners: How safe are they?

Artificial sugar sweeteners are chemical substances with low or zero calories. They are used to sweeten the foods and beverages instead of sugars. Nowadays, they are widely used in many food items like desserts, soft drinks, and ready-to-eat meals, chewing gums, cakes, and fruit juices.

Artificial sweeteners are widely used as they give sweetness of sugar without any calories. People who are on a weight-loss diet or those who have diabetes prefer to have synthetic sweet substitutes instead of sugar However; many researchers concludes that artificial sweeteners are not the good way to cut down your calories. These no-calorie taste enhancers pose some hidden health risks that range from minor headaches to severe conditions like heart problems.

Dangers of consuming artificial sugar sweeteners:

  • Evidence suggests that artificial sweeteners are hundred to thousand times sweeter than normal table sugar. These high-intensity sweeteners make your taste buds less receptive when you eat natural sources of sweetness such as fruits, honey, and table sugar.
  • Consuming sugar substitutes stimulates appetite and increases carvings. People who consume sugar substitutes are at increased risk for weight gain and obesity. Adolescents who drink diet beverages are significantly at greater risk for increased body mass index and increased cholesterol levels.
  • Various studies have reported that Metabolic syndrome which is a cluster of conditions like excess body fat, high cholesterol levels, increased fatty deposits, high blood sugar levels and blood pressure, is a common condition in consumers of no-calorie foods and drinks.
  • Saccharin, one of the popular artificial sugar substitutes, is proved to be the leading cause of developing cancer in people consuming artificial beverages and foods, explains Dr. Jahanvi Wangikar, Dietician, Apollo clinic Aundh, Pune. She further adds that saccharin can cause cancer of bladder, ovaries, uterus and skin. The primary concern with saccharin is bladder cancer.
  • Aspartame (another low-calorie sweetener widely used in carbonated drinks and low-calorie diet) is a possible cause for developing minor adverse reactions (migraines, abdominal and joint pains, change in vision and insomnia) to life-threatening conditions (mental retardation, brain tumors, epilepsy, brain cancer and even Parkinson’s disease).
  • People who consume at least one “diet” labeled drink per day are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes when compared with non-consumers.

Tips to eliminate artificial sweeteners:

  • Check labels and avoid foods or drinks that contain:
    • NutraSweet
    • Acesulfame Potassium
    • Saccharin
    • Splenda
    • Aspartame
  • Do not consume products labeled “low-calorie,” “diet,” “sugar-free” or “no sugar added.”
  • Replace your sugar substitutes with natural sweeteners like “organic honey” or fruit juices.

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