Artificial Sweeteners

“Limiting sugars is only one part of building healthy eating habits.” More and more soft drinks, desserts and coffee sweeteners contain sugar substitutes, often called non-nutritive or artificial sweeteners.

These additives fool the taste buds into thinking they are sugar, but they contribute virtually no calories. Three such sweeteners are currently approved for use: saccharin, aspartame and acesulfame-k.

SACCHARIN

… has been in use as a sweetener for nearly a century. No evidence has linked the use of saccharin to health problems in humans. However, some laboratory studies have shown an increase in bladder tumors in rats fed large amounts of saccharin. Though saccharin is considered safe at levels humans use, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends limiting saccharin use as a table-top sweetener. A further disadvantage of saccharin is that some people who use it notice a bitter aftertaste.

ASPARTAME

Aspartame is commonly known as Nutrasweet and has been on the market since 1983 It is closely related to naturally occurring body chemicals and researchers consider it extremely safe. However, it should not be used by people suffering from an extremely rare genetic disease called phenylketonuria, or PKU. And it can’t be used in baked goods because prolonged heat causes it to break down.

ACESULFAME-K

Acesulfame-k is sold under the name Sunette. Like aspartame, it has been extensively tested for safety. It remains stable even when heated and has no known health risks. Acesulfame-k may give a slight aftertaste when used extensively. It is commonly used in combination with other artificial sweeteners and is available as a tabletop sugar-substitute called “Sweet One.”

Many foods on the market today use sugar substitutes to give us the taste we love without the calories of sugar. But limiting sugar is only one part of building healthy eating habits. It is still important to eat a variety of low-fat foods, including plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

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