What is an artificial sweetener?
An artificial (or synthetic) sweetener is a substance that brings a sweet taste and that does not exist as such in nature; it was manufactured from scratch by humans thanks to other substances as well as chemical and industrial procedures.
A sweetener has a much greater sweetening power than table sugar, but unlike it, it provides no or very little calories.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener discovered in 1965. It is a mixture of two natural amino acids. It has a sweetening power 300 times higher than sugar.
Its use has been authorized since 1974 in the European Union.
This sweetener is found in many low-calorie beverages and foods where sugar is replaced by aspartame.
EFSA still recommended an acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day.
However, more and more studies show that consuming aspartame even without exceeding the maximum recommended dose could be dangerous for our health.
As a matter of fact, the consumption of aspartame, even by healthy people, could induce oxidative stress which would have a negative effect on the cells and tissues of our body.
It would also have an impact on many functions of our body including the immunological function.
Saccharin is an artificial sweetener accidentally discovered in 1879. There are different ways to synthesize it with a more or less important output.
Its sweetening power is 300 to 400 times greater than sugar without providing calories. However, it has an aftertaste that makes it less pleasant and limits its use in high doses.
The acceptable daily intake is 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day.
It is found as aspartame in drinks and food (sweets, cakes…) that are sweet but low in sugar.
Saccharin is recognized as an artificial sweetener without danger to health by different health authorities.
However, this sweetener is still controversial because according to some studies, its consumption could develop bladder cancer in animals. On the other hand, some other recent studies show that, on the contrary, there is no link between the two…
Cyclamate is a sweetener discovered in 1937.
It is only having a 30 to 40 times sweeter taste than sugar. It is a sweetener often associated with saccharin to have a more pleasant sweet taste.
Its recommended daily intake was evaluated at 7 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day.
Like saccharin, cyclamate, particularly because of one of its compounds, has been characterized as carcinogenic by some studies. However new studies have taken place since then and have shown no risk of developing cancer, especially for the recommended doses.
What are the risks associated with the use of sweeteners?
Sweeteners have been developed to replace sugar in many products to limit its consumption and all its associated risks.
So, indeed sweeteners provide very few calories or not at all, nevertheless their consumption is often associated with the intake of more calories (we just eat more) during a day, which promotes obesity.
In addition, sweeteners are not digested by our body, but they are hydrolyzed by our gut microbiota. This leads to an imbalance of our intestinal flora that induces a decrease in satiety (that is to say we are always hungry), but also quite some modifications of certain functions.
Artificial sweeteners are 100% created, we would find naturally these “products” in our food. It is therefore important to reduce our consumption of these compounds and to turn to more natural foods for the sake of our health.
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- Choudary AK. And al. (2017). Revisiting the safety of aspartame. Nutrition Reviews.
- Price JM. And al. (1970). Bladder tumors in rats fed cyclohexylamine or high doses of a mixture of cyclamate and saccharin.
- Morgan RW. And al. (1985). A review of epidemiological studies on artificial sweeteners and bladder cancer. Food and chemical toxicology.
- Toxicological aspects of cyclamate and cyclohexylamine. Critical reviews in toxicology.
- Pearlman M. And al.(2017). The Association Between Artificial Sweeteners and Obesity. Current gastroenterology report.