It’s hard to walk down the aisles of any grocery store and find food products that don’t contain artificial sweeteners, sugar and high fructose corn syrup. With multiple brands competing to convince you their products ingredients are “all natural” and beneficial to your health, it’s important to know the facts about these three ingredients.
Artificial sweeteners have been considered a solution to the problems caused by sugar intake. They lack calories and are advertised as a healthy alternative to high fructose corn syrup and sugar. However, studies have shown that consuming artificial sweeteners might make you gain weight faster than if you were consuming regular sugar. Artificial sweeteners slow your metabolism and ultimately trigger you to eat more. The three main ingredients in artificial sweeteners — aspartame, saccharin, and acesulfame potassium — have all been linked to cancer as well as Alzheimer’s disease, autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
Aspartame is compromised of amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. People with phenylketonuria, a hereditary disease, need to limit their intake of phenylalanine, and there is now a “contains phenylalanine” warning label on aspartame products for this reason. NutraSweet and Equal are two of the most popular aspartame sweeteners, but it can also be found in cereals, sodas and candy. Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar.
Saccharin was first discovered during the early 20th century as a solution for sugar shortages during WWI and WWII. It's even sweeter than aspartame, as it's 300 times sweeter than sugar. In the late 1970’s, it was removed from the market because it was believed to cause bladder cancer. However, in recent studies, the same results have not been found, so it's been included as a sweetener option to the general public. The two most common saccharin products are Sweet N’ Low and Hermesetas.
Acesulfame Potassium is another no-calorie sweetener that can be found in frozen desserts, sodas, candy and baked goods, and like aspartame, it's 200 times sweeter than sugar. The body is unable to metabolize or store acesulfame potassium so it has no nutritional benefits whatsoever. A popular product containing acesulfame potassium is Splenda. There have been limited studies on this sweetener, and further testing is necessary to determine its overall effects on health.
Sugar can be extremely toxic to your health — especially when consumed in large amounts. Refined table sugar is chemically processed and stripped of all beneficial properties and has been linked to numerous health ailments, including: obesity, diabetes, liver damage, and heart problems.
Natural sugars found in fruits are ok to consume in moderation. The recommended daily dose for women is no more than 6 teaspoons per day, and nine teaspoons for men. Naturally occurring sugars include fructose, honey and lactose. Fructose can be found organically in fruits and vegetables, and is the best option for feeding your sugar craving. Honey is compromised of fructose, glucose and water, and offers another healthy alternative for sugar consumption. Lastly, lactose is found in milk and dairy products and offers another natural way to consume sugar. However, many people suffer from varying degrees of lactose intolerance, so it's important to know what amount of lactose works best with your body.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HCFS)
HCFS is a calorie-providing sweetener found in most processed and store-bought foods. Manufacturers use HCFS to produce foods due to its low cost and role in maintaining a long shelf life. In the late 1960s, the industrial production process for HCFS was developed in Japan, and within a decade, it could be found in soft drinks and processed foods around the world.
Although there's still further testing that needs to be done specifically on HCFS, it has been closely correlated to refined table sugar and in its effects on the body. High fructose corn syrup, like sugar, has also been linked to obesity, liver damage, diabetes, and heart problems. It also is believed to be a major cause of tooth decay, dementia and cancer.
What This Means for You
Knowing the facts helps you to make better choices when shopping for food. Be sure to always check the list of ingredients so you know what sweeteners are in your food. Look for organic, natural options that don’t contain artificial sweeteners or HCFS. And if you do consume products with high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, saccharin, or acesulfame potassium, be sure to monitor your daily intake and limit your consumption as much as possible. No matter what, if you’re concerned about your health, the best bet is to cut back on your daily sugar intake.