Artificial sweeteners: Risks and health issues

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    Artificial sweeteners' risks include cancer and diabetes

    Unlike sugar, which grows naturally, artificial sweeteners are synthetically made, meaning they are produced in a lab. Natural sweeteners like stevia might be a better choice. (Shutterstock)

     

    It’s a well-known fact that too much sugar can be bad for your health, leading to diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, inflammation, and many other serious health problems.

    Because of this, many people opt for products labeled “Sugar Free” or “Diet” that contain sugar substitutes, thinking that they are making a more health-conscious choice.

    Yet when sugar is eliminated from products like chewing gum, sodas, baked goods, fruit juice, yogurt, and ice cream, something else must replace the sugar to ensure the product’s sweetness, something that may be even more detrimental to your health than sugar – artificial sweeteners.

    Unlike sugar, which grows naturally, artificial sweeteners are synthetically made, meaning they are produced in a lab.

    The chemical structures of these synthetic sugar substitutes have been linked to numerous health problems, some even more serious than the health risks associated with natural sugar.

    5 FDA-approved artificial sweeteners’ risks

    Aspartame

    While the addition of aspartame may make your Diet Soda sugar-free and calorie-free, it can also cause a wide range of serious health problems.

    Although aspartame is an FDA approved artificial sweetener, the FDA later released a list of 92 symptoms related to this sugar substitute, which is made up of Phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol.

    According to the FDA, some possible side effects linked with excessive aspartame consumption include headaches, anxiety, memory loss, arthritis, nausea, depression, seizures, neurological disorders, vision problems, brain tumors, weight gain, and more.

    Saccharin

    Although studies showed that saccharin can cause bladder cancer in animals, the FDA recently removed the requirement that foods containing the sweetener must label it as a probably carcinogen on their packaging.

    No direct connection between saccharin and bladder cancer in humans has been made, but other side effects of this sugar substitute include increases insulin levels, headaches, digestive problems, and other allergic reactions.

    Acesulfame

    Artificial sweeteners' risks include cancer and diabetes

    The chemical structures of synthetic sugar substitutes have been linked to numerous health problems. (Shutterstock)

    This potassium salt contains methylene chloride, a known animal carcinogen and a possible human carcinogen.

    While acesulfame has not yet been proven to cause cancer in humans, it is also one of the least studied artificial sweeteners, meaning that it is the one whose long-term side effects we know the least about.

    Some of the short-term side effects of acesulfame include mood problems, eyesight problems, headaches, nausea, and possibly hypoglycemia.

    Sucralose (Splenda)

    Sucralose, more commonly recognized as Splenda, is synthesized by chlorinating sugar.

    According to Fit Day, the chemical structure of the chlorine in sucralose is almost identical to that of the pesticide DDT, which was banned in 1973 because of its possible carcinogenic properties.

    One of the major health concerns of ingesting sucralose is that it can cause shrinking of the thymus gland, which plays a crucial role in regulating the immune system.

    Other side effects include headaches, muscle aches, diarrhea, bladder issues, skin irritation, and inflammation.

    Neotame

    While neotame is FDA-approved, it has yet to become as widely popular as other artificial sweeteners.

    Similar in structure to aspartame, it also carries similar risks, such as spikes in insulin levels, weight gain, depression, and brain tumors.

    Neotame is marketed under brand names of sweeteners such as Equal, NutraSweet, and Indulge.

    Choosing artificial sweeteners may help reduce your sugar intake, but is this swap worth the possible negative side effects caused by artificial sugar substitutes?

    Many long-term side effects of artificial sweeteners are still unknown, but even the short-term side effects may be severe enough to deter someone from choosing Sweet’N Low over a packet of natural sugar.

    Artificial sweeteners' risk

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    Benefits of natural sweeteners

    Both sugar and artificial sweeteners can be hazardous to your health, so is there any way to sweeten your food or drinks healthily?

    Fortunately, there are several natural, chemical-free sweeteners that can give you that sweetness you crave without all of the health risks you don’t.

    Agave Nectar

    Agave nectar is derived from the agave plant (most commonly known for giving us tequila), and although slightly more caloric than table sugar, it is 25 percent sweeter, which means you will use less of it.

    This healthy sugar substitute also contains a prebiotic that helps nourish good intestinal bacteria.

    Stevia

    FDA-approved as an all-natural sweetener, Stevia has zero calories and is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar.

    Unlike sugar, however, it lowers blood pressure, lowers blood sugar, contains antibacterial properties, and aids in calcium formation.

    Honey

    As one of the oldest and most beloved natural sweeteners, honey still remains a great substitute for sugar and artificial sweeteners.

    Honey can help lower cholesterol, reduce a person’s weight, fight infections, and play a role in preventing certain cancers and heart disease.

    Blackstrap Molasses

    This molasses is a by-product of processing sugarcanes, but offers several health benefits that sugar doesn’t.

    Blackstrap molasses contains many minerals and nutrients essential to your health: iron, B6, magnesium, calcium, and a heavy dose of antioxidants.

    If you choose natural sugar over worrying about artificial sweeteners’ risks, just remember that moderation of anything is key to maintaining a healthy mind and body.

    Too much sugar, artificial sweeteners, and even natural sweeteners, can cause unwanted health problems.

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