Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Artificial Sweeteners: Sucralose (and Aspartame and Acesulfame-K) not so great either

Several artificial sweeteners are on the market, all of which claim to be totally safe, at least when used moderately. But are they really safe? Online searches turn up many sites which claim so, yet there is much anecdotal evidence to the contrary. Where are the scientific studies to put us at ease?

Short answer: there aren't many.

Personal anecdote: circa summer 2004, there were a whole bunch of "Sparkling Ice" flavored spring water drinks from Canada that became very popular around here (Northern Virginia). The package described them thus: "Sparkling Spring Water with Juice and Vitamins C&E. No sodium or caffeine. Lightly carbonated." Sounded healthy, and I was trying to lose weight. I bought several and brought them home.

Thought they were pretty tasty but had an odd aftertaste - but I liked them enough to keep drinking them. My husband (who can't have aspartame since a childhood ulcer and can ID most spices in cooked dishes) and our older child (who is a very picky eater and something of a canary when it comes to odd ingredients) immediately hated their aftertaste and would not drink them.

Curious, I re-read the labels. They contained sucralose, a word with which we were not familiar. We did some research but found little hard research. What we did find was disturbing enough that we immediately stopped buying and drinking "Sparkling Ice" and we now read labels very carefully to avoid further sucralose (we were already avoiding aspartame and saccharin)...

What little scientific study had been done on sucralose before its FDA approval as a food additive/sweetener was primarily short-term. Under a year. Sometimes just a few months. It takes much longer than that to see long-term retention and/or damage. And yes, these products and/or their by-products do stay in your body after ingestion.

Aspartame (aka. Nutrasweet(R) or Equal(R)), Acesulfame-K (aka. Ace K or Acesulfame potassium - the "K" is for potassium), and Sucralose (aka. Splenda(r)) are household words nowadays - or should be. They're in all sorts of products, from sodas to yogurts to medicines to toothpaste! It's nearly impossible to avoid them. But you should try. First thing to look for is "light" or "fat free" or "sugar-free" or "reduced sugar" on the label. Could be that the company really just used less sugar than previously, which would be fantastic, but that is often not the case. Only *very* careful label-reading will tell you what's really in there.

The next time you're in the medicine aisle at your grocery or drug store, check out the cough syrup labels. The kids' medicines. The kids' toothpastes. Try the dairy aisle in your grocery store. Nearly all "0% fat" yogurts contain an artificial sweetener. Try the cereal aisle. These sweeteners are now in many breakfast cereals, including those marketed primarily to kids - so the companies can claim they have "less sugar" than before.

Why not just cut the sugar, let kids and the rest of us taste the actual ingredients, and cut down on everyone's cavities and worries in the process? Unless you are diabetic and must do so for dietary reasons, do you really want to be ingesting these sweet but untested products? Do you really want your kids to be the companies' test subjects?

For information on artificial sweeteners, try these links for starters. Please note that there are many, many others out there.

1 comment:

Leslie Lim said...

Thanks to the writer of this article. I appreciate your effort in making this informational blogs. I know it's not easy to do this but you have done a really great job. Congrats. I'm pretty sure your readers enjoying it a lots.