How safe are artificial sweeteners?

The Asian Age.

Life, Food

Not all among the available artificial sweeteners in the market are safe for regular consumption.

Sucralose is made from sugar and is made from a chemical process where the chlorine atoms replace the Hydrogen-oxygen atoms. (Photo: Representational/Pexels)

There are several alternatives to sugar available to those watching their weight or diabetics. These alternatives promise less sugar but are not always good for consumption by children.

Some of these options can be quite questionable. A report published by the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) said that more research needs to go into sweeteners and their effect on kids with risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity.

The AAP will also soon make it mandatory to mention the amount of sweeteners present in each product so that families can keep a track of their consumption levels. They will also be required to mention any non-nutritive sweeteners present in the food.

“Considering how many children are regularly consuming these products — which have become ubiquitous — we should have a better understanding of how they impact children’s long-term health,” said Dr Carissa Baker-Smith, lead author and paediatric cardiologist.

What are non-nutritive sweeteners?

Studies have shown that these types of sweeteners are consumed by 1 in 4 children and 80 per cent of these kids consume them on a daily basis.

There are 8 such types of sweeteners in the market that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are:

Saccharin: This is 300-400 times sweeter than sucrose but it leaves a bitter, metallic aftertaste in the mouth. This is often used to sweeten yoghurt, candies, drinks and even medicines. Studies show that this, along with aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose should be avoided as far as possible. There is a lack of research on how safe they are, therefore it is advisable to regulate consumption.

Aspartame: Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sucrose and it is most commonly used as a sugar substitute in fast food and drinks such as diet soda. It is also the main component for artificial sweeteners available in the market.

Acesulfame potassium: It is used to lend sweetness to food and drinks without adding any calories. It is most commonly added to fruit drink and they generally have ‘no sugar added’ written on the packaging. It is one of the artificial sweeteners that is well researched about.

Sucralose: The famous Splenda is made from sucralose. Sucralose is made from sugar and is made from a chemical process where the chlorine atoms replace the Hydrogen-oxygen atoms.

Neotame: This is quite sweet compared to the others and is 8000 times sweeter than sugar. It enhances the existing flavours of the food.

Advantame: This sweetener is a derivative of aspartame. Its widely used in sweet beverages, soft drinks and in baking products.

Stevia: This is naturally derived from the leaves of the stevia plant. When consumed in moderation, it is safe and won’t cause side effects.

Luo Han Guo/Monk Fruit: This sweetener is generally considered safe by the FDA but  as there is not enough testing done, people are advised to use it with caution.