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Understanding Artificial Sweeteners: Pros and Cons by Shaanvhi Jayaram

What are Artificial Sweeteners? 


As our society continues to grapple with the implications of excessive sugar consumption, the use of artificial sweeteners is a topic of interest for many health-conscious individuals. The overconsumption of added sugars can lead to adverse health effects such as weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease, causing many to consider sugar substitutes, commonly known as artificial sweeteners, to reduce their table sugar intake. These sweeteners are designed to mimic the taste of sugar while containing very few calories, with most having fewer than 3 calories per teaspoon. They are often found in foods and beverages labeled as "sugar-free" or "diet," offering a sweet taste up to 700 times sweeter than sugar. However, it may be helpful to weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks when considering the incorporation of artificial sweeteners in your daily diet. 


Some of the most common artificial sweeteners are saccharin (Sweet n' Low), aspartame (Equal), and sucralose (Splenda). These sugar alternatives are commonly used by those with diabetes because they do not raise the level of sugar in the blood. Additionally, there are many sugar alcohols such as xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol, and maltitol, that are used by manufacturers to sweeten many food products. 


The Pros of Artificial Sweeteners


The use of artificial sweeteners has several advantages. One of the most prominent benefits is its ability to reduce the risk of tooth decay and cavities. Additionally, as they offer a means to satisfy sweet cravings without significantly impacting caloric intake, they are an appealing option for individuals seeking to manage their weight. They are a short-term option for those struggling with weight management or obesity, but it is imperative to acknowledge that further research is needed to determine their long-term effects in weight management. 


The Cons of Artificial Sweeteners


While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other health agencies deem artificial sweeteners safe for human consumption, their use is a very controversial topic. Long-term use of these sweeteners also has been associated with various health conditions such as obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Aspartame, a widely-used artificial sweetener, has been linked to health issues including obesity, diabetes, mood disorders, and even early menstruation. Furthermore, sugar alcohols can also pose short-term drawbacks, as they are known to cause bloating, cramps, pain, and diarrhea upon consumption. Additionally, the addictive nature of artificial sweeteners can cause individuals to consume more calories and get an addiction to the taste of sweetness, having an overall negative impact on health. 


Healthier Alternatives 

Considering healthier alternatives for sweetening your foods is essential. Natural sugars are a better alternative for satisfying sweet cravings. Fruits high in natural sugars, such as mangoes, bananas, and pineapples, along with other sugar alternatives like blackstrap molasses, raw honey, and maple syrup, offer options that are associated with fewer risks than artificial sweeteners. It is important to note that all sweeteners, including natural sugars, should be consumed in limited quantities as part of a balanced diet.


References: 

Clinic, Cleveland. “This Is Why Artificial Sweeteners Are Bad for You.” Cleveland Clinic, 19 Mar. 2024, health.clevelandclinic.org/whats-worse-sugar-or-artificial-sweetener.


“Artificial Sweeteners and Other Sugar Substitutes.” Mayo Clinic, 10 Jan. 2023, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/artificial-swe eteners/art-20046936.

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