Artificial Sweeteners, Safe or Scary?

Artificial sweeteners are food additives that have been manufactured to create sweet taste without the food energy associated with processed natural sugars. Developed since the late 1800s, artificial sweeteners have been seen as the "diet" and "sugar free" options for adding into foods. Whilst there has been some governmental review of the safety of these additives, there is still conjecture regarding the safety of these additives. This post covers off the science behind these additives, and also ranks the options based on The Kitchen Coach Artificial Sweetener Ranking System.

Artificial Sweetener Ranking System

My ranking system takes into account the following elements:

  1. Is this additive sourced from a natural ingredient with less than 2 changes to the original form? (To fit with my "how many steps from nature is this food" mantra)
  2. Is there strong consensus in the independent scientific community about it's safety for human health? (Scientific studies are funded by an array of different sources, which may lead to results being hard to trust).
  3. Is the additive allowed in all countries around the world? (This also includes countries which have banned the additive in the past)
  4. Does the artificial sweetener not generate an insulin release in the body when consumed? (One reason people move towards artificial sweeteners is to avoid insulin release and impact their blood sugar levels)
  5. Can the body systems breakdown and remove this additive without ill effect? (As a foreign ingredient, the body generally cannot assimilate chemicals without some ill effect, minor or major).

Each question is valued as Yes = 1 point and No = 0 points. A ranking of less than 3 means that the artificial sweetener is unlikely to be of benefit to you or your body. Do your own research if you are unsure.

Acesulphame-K

Acesulphame-K, also known as Potassium 6-methyl-2,2-dioxo-2H-1,2λ6,3-oxathiazin-4-olate, E950 and Ace-K, is an artificial sweetener used commonly in Australia. It is manufactured in a lab environment, and is incredibly artificial, having no relation to a natural ingredient source. Studies have demonstrated that Ace-K generates a spike in insulin when consumed, which is the body's way to dealing with sugar digestion. The insulin finds no sugar to consume and takes the blood sugar, dropping the blood sugar level. My take on this additive is simple, the sweetener is nowhere near related to any natural food, and is not an ingredient that the body knows how to process.

Common products found in:

Bundaberg Diet Ginger Beer, Coke Zero, Pepsi Max, Red Bull Sugarfree, Saxbys Diet Ginger Beer, Sprite Zero, V Sugar Free, Cottee's No Added Sugar Cordial, Ribena Light, Dairy Farmers Thick & Creamy Light, Nestlé Diet yoghurt, Yoplait Forme yoghurt. Also found in tabletop sweeteners CSR Smart Sticks, Equal Spoon for Spoon, Hermesetas Gold, Hermesetas Granulated, Sugarless.

Ranking:

  1. No - 0
  2. No - 0
  3. Yes - 1
  4. No - 0
  5. No - 0

Ranking 1/5

Aspartame

The most common artificial sweetener on the marketplace, it also goes by the names Equal, Nutrasweet, and E951. Chemically known as Methyl L-α-aspartyl-L-phenylalaninate, Aspartame is manufactured in a lab environment, with no natural ingredient sources. There is massive conjecture in the scientific community about the safety of this additive, yet government-based food additive approval boards allow it to still be used. Some studies have shown aspartame to spike insulin in the bloodstream, but others have shown the opposite.

Common products found in:

Bundaberg Diet Ginger Beer, Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Sprite Zero, Nestlé Diet yoghurt, Yoplait Forme yoghurt. Also found in tabletop sweeteners Be Light (Aldi), Equal, Equal Spoon for Spoon, Hermesetas Gold, Hermesetas Granulated, Sugarless.

Ranking:

  1. No - 0
  2. No - 0
  3. Yes - 1
  4. No - 0
  5. No - 0

Ranking 1/5

Cyclamate

Cyclamate, also known as E952, sodium N-cyclohexylsulfamate, and Sweet'N Low, is banned for use in the USA (which means a lot considering they allow Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners!). There have been studies that show some correlation between cyclamate consumption and cancers. It is manufactured via sulfonation of cyclohexylamine, with no natural ingredients used.

Common products found in:

Cottee's No Added Sugar Cordial, Saxbys Diet Ginger Beer, Aeroplane Jelly Lite, Weight Watchers fruit in jelly, Sucaryl (tabletop sweetener).

Ranking:

  1. No - 0
  2. No - 0
  3. No - 0
  4. No - 0
  5. No - 0

Ranking 0/5

Saccharin

Saccharin, also known as E954 and 2H-1λ6,2-Benzothiazol-1,1,3-trione, was the first modern artificial sweetener. It has been banned in countries in the past, with recent removals from banned lists being controversial in both Canada and USA. It is manufactured in a lab environment with no natural ingredients.

Common products found in:

Saxbys Diet Ginger Beer, Aeroplane Jelly Lite, Weight Watchers fruit in jelly. Also found in tabletop sweeteners Hermesetas, Sugarine, Sugarella, Sugarless Liquid and found in Sucaryl.

Ranking:

  1. No - 0
  2. No - 0
  3. No - 0
  4. No - 0
  5. No - 0

Ranking 0/5

Sucralose

Sucralose, also known as E955, (1→6)-Dichloro-(1→6)-dideoxy-β-D-fructofuranosyl-4-chloro-4-deoxy-α-D-galactopyranoside, and Splenda, was discovered in 1976. There have many studies undertaken which link consumption of sucralose to reduced faecal microflora, increased pH in the intestinal tract, and increased body weights. It is manufactured via chlorination of sucrose in a multistep synthesis, with the sucrose source coming from either sugarcane or beetroot, the end product is far removed from the original source.

Common products found in:

Bundaberg Diet Ginger Beer, Dairy Farmers Thick & Creamy Light, Cottee's No Added Sugar Cordial, Ribena Light, Red Bull Sugar Free, V Sugar Free, Protein Revival milk drink, Atkins Endulge and Advantage bars, and as tabletop sweetener Splenda.

Ranking:

  1. No - 0
  2. No - 0
  3. No - 0
  4. No - 0
  5. No - 0

Ranking 0/5

Sources:

  • Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2900484/

  • INDEPENDENT PEER REVIEWED ASPARTAME RESEARCH - http://www.mpwhi.com/peer_reviewed_research.htm

  • Do artificial sweeteners cause insulin spikes? - http://www.marksdailyapple.com/artificial-sweeteners-insulin/

  • Artificial sweeteners and sugars compared - https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/nutrition/sugar/articles/sweeteners