Artificial Sweeteners, at What Cost?

I just recently read an article in our local newspaper about the dangers of artificial sweeteners and felt it was an important subject to address. I have read a lot about the problems with these sweeteners and was interested in the study out of Purdue University that she quoted. It appeared in the February 2008 issue of Behavior Neuroscience by the American Psychological Association.

“It showed the results of tests on rats using yogurt with sugar and another with saccharin. Those given the artificial sweetener consumed more calories and ended up gaining more weight than the regular sugar group. Artificial sweeteners may disrupt the body’s natural ability to “count” calories based on foods’ sweetness. This finding may explain why increasing numbers of people in the United States lack the natural ability to regulate food intake and body weight.”

There is a lot of controversy on the use of these artificial sweeteners. The US regulatory body currently approves five artificial sweeteners, which it regulates as food additives. These are aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame-K, neotame and sucralose. Depending on what you read and from what source you have very differing opinions. Mainly from the Natural Health Food Industry and the FDA.

According to the National Cancer Institute there’s no scientific evidence that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use in the United States cause cancer. Aspartame does carry a cautionary note, however. It isn’t safe for people who have the rare hereditary disease phenylketonuria (PKU). Products that contain aspartame must carry a PKU warning on the label.

The first study done on aspartame said it increased the risk of urinary or bladder cancer. Subsequent studies have not found the same results. Also some studies have shown there to be a link between aspartame and primary brain tumours while others have shown no link. A study in England is underway to try to prove it one way or the other.
On the health food side of the scales many problems are mentioned along with urinary and brain cancer and weight gain. One of those is what they call excitotoxins meaning they excite the neurons in your brain to death or they kill brain cells. It is also mentioned that they give you things such as migraines, stomach aches, mood swings and insomnia.

One comment I read was from a researcher in a neuroscience lab. It mentioned that all artificial sweeteners break down in the body to toxic chemicals including formaldehyde. They mentioned that everyone that worked in that lab, now only use raw sugars, Stevia, and agave nectar.

It seems there isn’t enough conclusive evidence to prove one side or the other, but I always say if there is the slightest chance why take the risk. And the old saying of where there is smoke there is fire just might apply to the use of artificial sweeteners.

I hope I have given you something to think about.


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