Many people avoid sugar and prefer using non-nutritive sweeteners instead. They’re calorie-free, don’t cause your blood sugar to rise and you can use of much of them as you like – right? Not always! There are different types of artificial or non-nutritive sweeteners out there and none of them are created equally. We have created a guide to help you use artificial sweeteners safely so that you can stay on track with your health and fitness goals.
What is an artificial sweetener?
Simply put – artificial sweeteners are a low or zero calorie replacement for sugar. They are much sweeter than sugar but bypass the digestive system and do not contain energy or carbohydrates. Artificial sweeteners can be derived from plant sources like stevia or chemically engineered.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in America has deemed six artificial sweeteners as safe:
- Sucralose (600 times sweeter than sugar)
- Saccharin (300 times sweeter than sugar)
- Acesulfame-K (200 times sweeter than sugar)
- Aspartame (200 times sweeter than sugar)
- Neotame (7000-13000 times sweeter than sugar)
- Stevia (300 times sweeter than sugar)
Are artificial sweeteners safe to consume?
There is limited evidence showing the effects of continuous intake of artificial sweeteners by humans (most of the studies have been conducted on rats). However, some of the research that has been conducted found correlations between aspartame and the development of cancers. Aspartame has also been linked to various cognitive problems such as headaches, migraines, irritability, anxiety, insomnia and depression as well as an increase in cortisol (stress hormone) levels, which makes it harder for you to lose weight around the abdominal area. It has been said that more evidence and research is needed to substantiate these findings before Aspartame is deemed unsafe.
Another artificial sweetener, Saccharin has been found to be extremely addictive. Using artificial sweeteners to lower your calorie and carb intake can be helpful, however it is important to use them in moderation and choose to consume ones which pose the least risk to your health.
Sucralose is considered as one of the safer artificial sweeteners – with more than 100 safety studies published showing sucralose is safe for both adults and children. Sucralose is also 600 times sweeter than sugar and a smaller amount it needed when trying to reach the same sweetness as sugar, with the least bitter aftertaste when compared to Acesulfame-K and Aspartame. Other sweeteners are less sweet and require higher consumption.
What to look out for on food labels
All packaged foods are by law required to disclose the type of artificial sweetener they contain, followed by “non-nutritive sweetener” in brackets. All you need to do is look at the back of your food, drink or supplement packaging and check out what is used as the sweetener. If you are watching your calorie and carb intake, remember that stevia is not a zero-calorie sweetener and xylitol contains 40% of the calories of sugar – meaning it is not low in calories!
Some manufacturers make use of sweetener blends to save costs. These blends usually contain a large amount of aspartame or acesulfame-k (which are both cheaper) and a small amount of sucralose (just enough to show it on the label). It is also important to note that food labels are required to show ingredients in order of proportions in a formulation (largest to smallest), so if an ingredient list has Aspartame at the front, it means this contains a large amount of Aspartame.
As the saying goes, everything in moderation. Consuming a small amount of safer artificial sweeteners is unlikely to harm you. We choose to sweeten our products with sucralose instead of sweeteners which may have nasty side effects and you won’t find any sweetener blends in our products either. We take pride in ensuring our products are formulated with the best and safest ingredients so all you have to worry about is enjoying them and working on your goals!