By Alina Petre
Artificial sweeteners are often the cause of heated debate. On one hand, they're claimed to increase the risk of cancer and negatively affect your blood sugar and gut health. On the other hand, most health authorities consider them safe and many people use them to eat less sugar and lose weight.
Artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes, are chemicals added to some foods and beverages to make them taste sweet.Photo credit: Shutterstock
This article reviews the evidence on artificial sweeteners and their health effects
What Are Artificial Sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners, or sugar substitutes, are chemicals added to some foods and beverages to make them taste sweet.
People often refer to them as "intense sweeteners" because they provide a taste that is similar to table sugar but up to several thousand times sweeter.
Bottom Line: Artificial sweeteners are chemicals used to sweeten foods and beverages. They provide virtually zero calories.
How Do Artificial Sweeteners Work?
The surface of your tongue is covered by many taste buds. Each taste bud contains several taste receptors that detect different flavors (2).
When you eat, the different food molecules contact your taste receptors.
A perfect fit between a molecule and a receptor sends a signal to your brain, allowing you to identifying the taste (2).
For example, the sugar molecule fits perfectly into the taste receptor for sweetness, like a lock and key, allowing your brain to identify the sweet taste.
The molecules of artificial sweeteners are similar enough to sugar molecules that they fit on the sweetness receptor.
However, they are generally too different from sugar for your body to break them down into calories. This is why they have a sweet taste without the added calories.
Only a minority of artificial sweeteners have a structure that your body can break down into calories. Because only very small amounts of artificial sweeteners are needed to make foods taste sweet, you consume virtually no calories (1).
Bottom Line: Artificial sweeteners taste sweet because they are recognized by the sweetness receptors on your tongue. They provide virtually zero calories because most cannot be broken down by your body.
What Are the Names of Artificial Sweeteners?
- Aspartame: 200 times sweeter than table sugar. Aspartame is known under the brand names Nutrasweet, Equal or Sugar Twin.
- Acesulfame potassium: 200 times sweeter than table sugar. Acesulfame potassium is suited for cooking and baking and known under brand names Sunnet or Sweet One.
- Advantame: 20,000 times sweeter than table sugar, suited for cooking and baking.
- Aspartame-acesulfame salt: 350 times sweeter than table sugar and known under the brand name Twinsweet.
- Cyclamate: 50 times sweeter than table sugar. Cyclamate is suited for cooking and baking. However, it's been banned in the US since 1970.
- Neotame: 13,000 times sweeter than table sugar. Neotame is suited for cooking and baking and known under the brand name Newtame.
- Neohesperidin: 340 times sweeter than table sugar. It is suited for cooking, baking and mixing with acidic foods. It is not approved for use in the US.
- Saccharin: 700 times sweeter than table sugar. It's known under the brand names Sweet'N Low, Sweet Twin or Necta Sweet.
- Sucralose: 600 times sweeter table sugar. Sucralose is suited for cooking, baking and mixing with acidic foods. It's known under the brand name Splenda.
Bottom Line: Many different types of artificial sweeteners exist, but not all are approved for use everywhere in the world. The most common include aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, neotame and acesulfame potassium.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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