You would need to consume 75 packets of Splenda a DAY to suffer any health issues – so why all the fear?
- It takes up to 75 packets of sweetener a day to see real health effects
- There is no convincing evidence that artificial sweeteners cause problems
- Further research is still needed to determine the full effects
According to experts, there is no convincing evidence that artificial sweeteners are dangerous and one would need to consume up to 75 sachets a day before experiencing any health consequences.
In recent years, a series of frightening studies have linked the sugar alternative to a host of conditions, from heart attacks to strokes, diabetes and even cancer.
But experts warn that the evidence is often indirect and the way studies have been conducted has been flawed – often focusing on participants already at risk of health problems due to old age and pre-existing conditions.
THE FDA states that all six approved artificial sweeteners are safe to consume – up to 75 packets per day. A standard 12-ounce Diet Coke contains about five packets of sweetener, depending on the American Cancer Societywhich means you would need to drink five liters a day before you have any health issues.
Meanwhile, decades of research have shown that just a few sugar cubes a day lead to problems like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and teeth. Sugar, unlike sweeteners, also contains calories, so it poses a higher risk of obesity if overconsumed.
Kara Burnstine, nutrition educator at Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, told DailyMail.com that she recommends customers consume no more than 10 to 12 packets of the sweetener per day.
“In our fight against weight gain, artificial sweeteners seem to be an effective weapon.
“They are calorie-free and sugar-free. Using them to replace sugars in our diets should mean fewer calories consumed, weight loss and a reduced risk of obesity-related diseases,” Burnstine said.
Also called non-nutritive sweeteners, artificial sweeteners are FDA-regulated food additives that can be 200 to 700 times sweeter than table sugar.
They activate both sweet and bitter taste receptors, stimulating the “reward” center of the brain.
They also trick the brain into believing that the body has consumed real sugar, causing the release of insulin, which burns glucose in the blood.
“Nutritionally, artificial sweeteners do not add calories but are made from various chemicals or certain (stevia) plant extracts,” said Anne Lee, assistant professor of nutritional medicine at the University. Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, at DailyMail.com.
The FDA has deemed the following artificial sweeteners safe to consume: acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, and sucralose.
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This means that they are considered non-toxic for human consumption. Although they contain few or no calories, they lack valuable nutrients such as vitamins and fiber.
Recent research has fueled the fear surrounding artificial sweeteners. A February study found links between the artificial sweetener erythritol and an increased risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack or stroke.
Researchers looked at the effect of adding erythritol to whole blood or isolated platelets, or small pieces of cells found in blood to help coagulation and wound healing.
The researchers noted that erythritol is poorly metabolized and is mainly excreted in the urine.
They too found that circulating levels of multiple polyols, commonly found in artificial sweeteners, were associated with an increased incidence of cardiovascular events. When present in the blood, erythritol facilitates clotting and may contribute to this risk of a cardiac event.
However, the majority of participants were over 60, which increased their current risk of heart attack or stroke.
Several studies looking at the negative effects of artificial sweeteners have evaluated very specific populations.
For example, while a study in Biological Psychiatry found a potential link between aspartame and an increased risk of depression, the results were limited to those who already had mood disorders. It was not possible to definitively prove that sweeteners were the cause.
Another study found increased brain activity associated with aspartame, although the participants were specifically children with absence seizures.
Other research has found more widespread benefits.
A review in the journal Nutrition and Cancer, for example, found no evidence that sucralose causes cancer in humans.
A 2019 BMJ study examined the effect of artificially sweetened beverage consumption on cancer risk in over 100,000 participants.
While researchers found that drinking sugary drinks may increase cancer risk, artificially sweetened drinks did not pose the same risk.
“There is no compelling evidence that aspartame (Nutrasweet), sucralose (Splenda) or saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low) cause disease or pose a direct threat to human health,” Burnstine said.
Burnstine added artificial sweeteners that may promote weight loss when replacing sugar, which may actually reduce the risk of health problems.
This includes exchanging a can of Coke with Diet Coke or exchanging honey for a packet of Splenda.
“They may be beneficial for blood sugar control and therefore particularly beneficial for diabetics when used in place of refined sugars, including fruit juice concentrates,” Burnstine said.
Lee pointed out that more research is still needed to fully understand the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners — but for now, the risks seem exaggerated.
“It would be important to have more studies that look at sweetener groups as a whole and also compare the effects of different sweeteners on metabolism, microbiome and long-term health risks to make a final decision” , she said.
“It’s important to consider individual health conditions, such as diabetes and metabolism, to determine the safe amount of naturally occurring sugar for our bodies,” Burnstine said.
“In some cases, artificial sweeteners may be an appropriate option to reduce overall sugar intake and help manage blood sugar, while in other cases, natural sweeteners like fruit or honey may be a better choice. .”
“We always recommend naturally sweetened whole foods like fruit over artificially sweetened foods, but a little calorie-free sweetener in your bowl of oatmeal in the morning or an occasional diet soda will always be much better choices than pastries or regular sodas,” Burnstine says.
“If you choose to use calorie-free sweeteners, choose sucralose or stevia because they have the strongest evidence to show they’re safe,” Burnstine says.
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