Shun The ‘Devil Crystals’ and Ignore the Sweeteners?

Subarna Ghosal

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artificial sweetners

Why Should We Avoid Sugar?

We know that sugar-white crystals mainly give empty calories. Empty calories are those foods that provide high amounts of energy with zero nutritional value.

Sugar is broken down by the body easily. Hence sugar gets converted to fat that leads to detrimental diseases.

Additionally, Sugar makes us hungrier and gives rise to ‘hunger craving’ that leads to more eating ultimately causing harm to health.

Our favorite sugary drinks do not make us feel full or give us any essential nutrients, though on the hand are responsible for weight gain and other short term and long term health-related issues.

Large amounts of sugar are turned into fat in the liver thereby increases belly fat as it contains no essential nutrients. Sugary drinks are highly addictive because of its delicious taste. They are also responsible for increasing the risk of cancers and gout and affecting dental health. “Sugar Addiction” is the new addiction that has been identified in various researches these days.

What Are Artificial Sweeteners:

  • Artificial sweeteners are substances that are used instead of sugar and its products.T hey are called non-nutritive sweeteners and sometimes no-calorie sweeteners.
  • This group of substances has a taste similar to the usual dietary sugars that are metabolized not completely rather incompletely resulting in less calorie gain.
  • As they provide the same sweetness without calorie gain, artificial sweeteners seem to be one solution to effective weight loss. The average 12-ounce can of sugar-based soda gives about 150 calories, all from sugar. The same amount of diet soda provides almost zero calories.


The American Heart Association (AHA) and American Diabetes Association (ADA) asked to be little cautious  to the use of artificial sweeteners instead  of sugar to fight off obesity diabetes, all risk factors for heart disease

Their statement is  Sweeteners are not magic bullets, hence the careful and smart use of non-nutritive sweeteners could help us to reduce added sugars in our diet, thereby lowering the number of calories we eat.

Dr. Christopher Gardner, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford University in California stated that reducing calories could help us attain and maintain healthy body weight, and thereby lowering our risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Dr. Ludwig observed and said that there is a concern among people who use artificial sweeteners is that they may replace the lost calories through other foods hence offsetting weight loss.

This can happen because we like to cheat ourselves by saying “I’m drinking diet soda, so it’s okay to have a pastry.” The AHA and ADA also added this concern to their recommendation.

A 1998 survey conducted by the Calorie Control Council reported that around 144 million American adults routinely eat and drink low-calorie, sugar-free products such as desserts and artificially sweetened sodas.

Different Types of Artificial Sweeteners –

The (Food and Drug Administration) FDA has approved on five ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS.

  • Acesulfame  K Potassium
  • Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low)
  • Aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal)
  • D-Tagatose (Sugaree)
  • Sucralose (Splenda)

There are also many leading companies which promote  their products as being the healthiest ones  because these have  no calories- Acesulfame- K, Aspartame, Sucralose, Saccharin, and Stevia

Characteristics and uses of Artificial Sweeteners :

  • Acesulfame K- called acesulfame potassium, is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar.
  • It is marketed under the names of Sunett, Sweet & Safe.
  • It is commercially used in candies, alcoholic beverages, chewing gums, baked goods, and soft drinks.


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  • Aspartame is a very sweet compound, more than  200 times sweeter than white sugar.
  • Aspartame is marketed under the names of NutraSweet, Equal and Sugar Twin brands.
  • It is used in predessert mixtures, baked goods commercially
  • Cons- It’s blamed that Aspartame causes weight gain and cancer
    However, since it got approved by the FDA in 1981, studies have found no evidence and the FDA, the World Health Organization, and AHA suggested aspartame in moderation poses no threats.
  • However, the CSPI feels differently, and gave it their lowest ranking in a review of food additives and also made cautious for people with phenylketonuria, an inherited genetic disorder.


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  • Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar and is commercially available as Splenda. It has been used widely in the preparation of aerated drinks, candies, bakery products, and ice-creams.
  •  In 1998, the FDA approved the commercial use of Sucralose. A few studies showed that Sucralose may negatively impact the immune system though no follow-up studies have been able to establish this.
  • The CSPI has deemed it safe for use, and several studies have found that it is not carcinogenic.
  • This sweetener is heat stable and is thus used in baking and preparation of low-calorie bakery products for diabetics.


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  • Saccharin is 200-700 times sweeter than sugar.
  • It got marketed under the names of sweet n low, nectar-sweet etc.
  • Cons: Rat studies in the early 1970s made a connection between consuming Saccharin and cancer of the bladder, prompting US Congress to mandate in 1981 that all foods containing it bear a warning label.
  • But later we got to know that these results only occur in rats not humans as there was lack of any evidence on saccharin causing cancer to humans.
  • Hence saccharin was deleted from the U.S. National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens in 2000.
  • But the CSPI placed it on their avoid list and acknowledged that Congress’s removal of the label will likely result in greater use of the sweetener.


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  • Stevia is a new product which is gaining lots of attention. It is a natural-sourced sweetener( originates from plant stevia). It is around 400 times sweeter than sugar.
  • Stevia is found in food and beverage products around the world, including teas, soft drinks, juices, waters, flavored milk, yogurts, baked goods, cereals, salad dressings, sauces, confectionaries etc.
  • its extracted from the stevia leaf extract, also called rebiana, is a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners.
  • Although crude stevia extracts dint get FDA approval, refined stevia such as Truvia is regarded as Safe (GRAS) approval from the FDA in 2008.
  • In 2013, the consumer advocacy group Centre for Science in the Public Interest considered rebiana, a natural high-potency sweetener obtained from plant stevia, to be “safe,” though it deserves to be of better taste.

Other sweeteners that got approval from FDA such as


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  • It’s a non-nutritive sweetener
  • It is around 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar
  • It is used in many foods and drinks can be used for baking and as a tabletop sweetener
  • Neotame has received approval from the FDA.

Monk Fruit

monk fruit
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  • It’s a non-nutritive sweetener
  • It’s been derived from a plant-based extract of monk fruit, a round green melon.
  • It’s around 150 to 250 times sweeter than sucrose
  • It is heat stable and can be used in cooking and baking and is more concentrated than sugar.
  • Generally recognized as safe by the FDA


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  • It’s a non-nutritive sweetener.
  • It’s around 20, 000 times sweeter than sugar
  • Used as a general sweetener and is heat stable and hence used in  baking
  • Not very common
  • Generally recognized as safe by the FDA

Important Tidbits on Artificial Sweeteners

  • Stevia did not get FDA-approval, hence it’s not sold as an artificial sweetener; however, it is sold as a dietary supplement.
  • Since these supplements are not regulated as well as those that have received FDA approval, therefore have no guarantee of purity.
  • The FDA was planning to ban saccharin based on the reports of a Canadian study that showed that saccharin caused bladder cancer in rats. But Public responses kept saccharin on the shelves (as there were no other sugar substitutes at that time), but with a warning label that said this product may be hazardous to our health as this product contains saccharin which has been determined to cause cancer in rats.
  • Aspartame is another sweetener that though thoroughly tested by the FDA and considered safe for the general population but has had its share of critics who blame the sweetener for causing everything from tumors to chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • But we came to know that the only people for whom aspartame is a medical issue are with the genetic condition which is a disorder of amino acid metabolism known as phenylketonuria (PKU).

There are doubts and much research needed on whether artificial sweeteners are shown in the future to have therapeutic.

  • As of now, their main purpose is to help people reduce calorie intake and also fighting diabetes. But if we don’t need to watch our calories or our blood sugar, there is no real reason to use the sweeteners unless we just happen to like the taste.

“But if we to control our sugar and calorie intake, artificial sweeteners are a safe and effective way to do that.”

  • Many of us have questions about the safety and health effects of sweeteners.
  • Studies have been done on FDA-approved sugar substitutes, and they are safe and effective.
  • Based on these studies, the FDA states they are safe for use for the population.
  • There is not much rather little evidence to promote the use of or avoidance of sugar substitutes during pregnancy. FDA-approved sweeteners are okay to use in moderation.
  • However, the American Medical Association suggests avoiding during pregnancy due to slow fetal clearance.


The FDA regulates all sugar substitutes that are or used in prepared foods in the United States. The FDA also set an acceptable daily intake (ADI) which is the amount that can be safely taken each day over a person’s lifetime.

son’s lifetime.

The US Food and Drug Administration set guidelines for ADI of high-intensity sweeteners which include artificial and natural zero-calorie sweeteners.

NameTaste of sweetness(times)ADI
Monk Fruit300Any
Stevia Reb3004


In 2012, the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association concluded in a report that smart and sensible use of artificial sweeteners could help lower calorie and carb intake.

Artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes help in weight management. But they aren’t a magic tablet and hence should be used only in moderation.

But we need to keep in mind that processed foods, which often contain sugar substitutes, generally don’t offer the same health benefits as whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables.

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