Health knowledge and news provided by doctors.

Artificial Sweeteners: Helpful or Harmful

icing sugar with artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners were first introduced as a tactic to combat the shortage of sugar. Lately, it has been utilized as a way to help deal with obesity but research has been found that they actually may be making the issue worse. With all the issues noted in studies of the side effects of non-caloric artificial sweeteners, it may be better for a person to stick to a more natural diet (Brown, 2018). Artificial sweeteners are low cost and having a sweetness greater than that of normal table sugar they are commonly used in the baking industry. In spite of their beneficial effects, these sweeteners have documented health issues. In some cases, long-term exposure can lead to enforcer. A careful review of the literature by consumers and health professionals is necessary in an effort to make well-informed decisions about their health (Nisa et al, 2016).


In recent times sugar-free foods are very popular because of the public’s concern about eating fewer calories. To do this the food industry uses various artificial sweeteners which are low in calorie count instead of high-calorie sugar. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved aspartame, acesulfame-K, neotame, saccharin, and alitame for use per acceptable daily intake value. However, the breakdown of these products in our systems have resulted in controversial health and metabolic effects.

Obesity continues to be a major problem around the world. Studies have consistently shown people are concerned about weight and for the most part, are trying to make an effort to either maintain or lose weight. Diabetes has a major goal of controlling the level of blood sugar. To this end, diabetics must choose the right food to comply with dietary recommendations. This prompted the food industry to develop several forms of alternative intense sweeteners touted as having the same sweet taste without the calories.

Sugar can’t simply be replaced by these types of intense sweeteners because of the question of bulk, quality, the intensity of sweetness and physical characteristics. The selection and consumption of food in man play a crucial role in the regulation of human appetite and nutrient intake. A sweetener is a food additive, which mimics the effect of sugar on taste. One group of such sweeteners consists of substances with a very intense sweet taste and is used in small amounts to replace the sweetness of a much higher amount of sugar.

The ones currently approved in the US are aspartame, acesulfame-K, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, and alitame. More common names for these products are: aspartame-Equal/NutraSweet; acesulfame-K- AceK, Sunette, SweetOne; neotame-New Tame; saccharin-Sweet ‘N low; sucralose-Splenda. And while cyclamates have been banned in the US for many years it is still utilized in the EU as SugarTwin (Chattopadhyay et al, 2014).

Non-caloric artificial sweeteners were introduced over a century ago as a means for providing a sweet taste to foods without the associated high energy content of caloric sugars. Non-caloric artificial sweeteners have been increasingly introduced into commonly consumed food like diet sodas, cereals, and sugar-free desserts. They are also being recommended for weight loss and for individuals suffering from glucose intolerance and type-2 diabetes. Most non-caloric artificial sweeteners pass through the gastrointestinal tract without being digested and thus directly encounter the intestinal microbiota that plays a major role in regulating multiple physiological processes.

Microbiota alterations have been associated with a propensity to metabolic syndrome. This study found that non-caloric artificial sweeteners promote metabolic defragments in both lean and obese state of the body. It was also discovered that this had a direct influence on glucose intolerance by affecting gut microbiota. The study then examined the relationship between long-term consumption and various clinical parameters in an ongoing nutritional study. It was found a positive correlation between non-caloric artificial sweeteners and several metabolic-syndrome-related parameters including increased weight and waist-to-hip ratio, higher fasting blood glucose, higher A1C, and glucose tolerance test.

They also found an elevated serum ALT (a measure of liver damage that is likely to be secondary in this context) to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Their results suggest non-caloric artificial sweetener consumption enhances the risk of glucose tolerance and that these adverse metabolic effects are mediated by modulation of the composition and function of the microbiota. In both mice in the lab and humans who have consumed non-caloric artificial sweeteners, there has been shown metabolic issues commonly seen in individuals with diabetes or obesity (Suez et al, 2014).

Associations seen in observation studies between consumption of diet products, predominantly diet soda, and prevalence of obesity has fueled a debate over whether intense sweeteners can promote weight gain. Examples of intense sweeteners are saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, cyclamate, and steviol glycoside. Increasingly, intense sweetening consumption comes through foods. Due to the planned taxes in many countries in the EU, it is likely there will be even more intense sweeteners found in foodstuffs.

This study found seven reviews that had evidence that intense sweeteners affect sweet taste receptors, hormonal signaling, reward systems and learned energy sensing perceptions in a manner that interferes with nutritional absorption, appetite control or other weight regulation mechanisms. In addition, there was evidence that intense sweeteners alter gut microbiota with possible secondary effects involving changes in glucose tolerance, appetite regulation, hormones or other factors that alter the risk of obesity development.

There was found an increased interest in the questions covered by existing studies. Largely intense sweeteners are treated as a group in the reviews rather than the individual compounds with different properties. Providing an overview of the available summarized literature is valuable to avoid duplication of efforts. Analysis of intense sweeteners as a group can be warranted if intense sweeteners affect appetite and weight control through mechanisms related to the sweet sensors in the mouth and gut (Mosdøl et al, 2018).

Artificial sweeteners have increasingly become an area of controversy in the world of food and nutrition. Consumers are often barraged with a number of contradictory opinions and reports regarding the safety and efficacy of sweeteners. Consumption of non-caloric artificial sweeteners can cause migraines or headaches, skin eruptions, muscle dysfunction, depression, weight gain, liver and kidney effects, multiple sclerosis and blurred vision.

Follow eMaxHealth on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Please, click to subscribe to our Youtube Channel to be notified about upcoming health and food tips.

This study attempted to provide concrete information on the effects associated with the consumption of artificial sweeteners in comparison with stevia; a natural sweetener found in plants in South America. A sweet taste is regarded as the most pleasant experience as human beings are born with a likeness for sweets. Sweeteners are food additives that are used to improve the taste of everyday foods. Natural sweeteners are sweet-tasting compounds with some nutritional value. Artificial sweeteners, however, are compounds that have very little or no nutritional value. Diabetes is the fourth major cause of death and currently, Pakistan ranks the seventh position. In 2007, 68% of deaths occurred overall in the world due to diabetes.

When compared to non-caloric artificial sweeteners, stevioside produced from a plant in the Asteraceae family is much safer. It has been shown in this study that it helps to regulate appetite, has no major safety concerns, more intensity in sweetness, cheaper to produce and is helpful in the management of diabetes. Artificial sweeteners are extensively introduced in our diets with the intention of reducing caloric intake. Stevia rebaudiana could become a complement to oral care as well in the form of a mouthwash, toothpaste, chewing gum, artificial saliva, and chewable tablets. It has many therapeutic applications and can be beneficial to obese, diabetic and hypertensive patients (Saad et al, 2014).

Artificial sweeteners or non-caloric sweeteners came in vogue during WWI & WWII when due to agriculture crisis sugar production was falling. During this time saccharin was accepted well as a low-cost alternative to sugar. It was discovered when a scientist was eating supper and noticed his bread tasted sweet and realized he had forgotten to wash his hands after spending all day working in his lab. Since then several artificial sweeteners have been discovered and produced. Aspartame, saccharin, neotame, and sucralose are but a few of them available at present.

In light of the epidemic of obesity in this country, these substitutes ar3e being billed as equal exchanges with sugar. Due to the extreme sweetness of these substances, only a little bit is needed for sweetening. Thus they are being marketed as a safe alternative when in truth there are very serious side effects. Recent safety concerns about non-caloric artificial sweeteners have come from both large and small studies. One of the biggest concerns with non-caloric artificial sweeteners is their effect on the risk of cancer.

Since their discovery over a hundred years ago, non-caloric artificial sweeteners are now identified as being contained in over 6000 food products. Some products with known serious side effects are saccharin-Sweet’N low-bladder cancer; aspartame-Equal/NutraSweet-chronic fatigue, brain tumor; acesulfame-SweetOne-carcinogenic; neotame-New Tame-neurotoxic, immunotoxic and excitotoxic; sucralose-Splenda-possible DNA damage and may affect insulin sensitivity; and stevia-Truvia/PureVia-no known side effects. The last one comes from a plant in South America and actually helps the glucose to be more stable in the bloodstream (Purohit & Misha, 2018).

Work Cited
Brown, A. (2018). Artificial sweeteners: Friend or foe? Microviews in Cell and Molecular Biology,4(1). Oklahoma State University. https://undergradsciencejournals.okstate.edu/index.php/MRCMB/article/view/6945/1471

Chattopadhyay, S. et al. (2014). Artificial Sweeteners-A Review. Journal of Food Science & Technology,51(4). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3982014/

Mosdøl,A. et al. (2018). Hypothesis and evidence related to intense sweeteners and effects on appetite and body weight changes: A scoping review of reviews. PLoS ONE,13(7). https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0199558

Nisa, A. et al. (2016). Artificial sweeteners and their health effects. Pakistan Journal of Food Services,26(3). http://www.psfst.com/__jpd_fstr/893f249e7ae9be8af12cd140a639c501.pdf

Purohit, V. & Mishra, S. (2018). The truth about artificial sweeteners-Are they good for diabetics. Indian Heart Journal,70(1). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0019483218300142

Saad, A. et al. (2014). A review on potential toxicity of artificial sweetener vs. safety of Stevia®: A natural bio-sweetener. Journal of Biology, Agriculture & Healthcare,4(15). https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/fc15/178ca15502d3c0d64e7753eccb88e7bd73db.pdf

Suez, J. et al (2014). Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature, International Journal of Science. https://www.diabetes.org.br/publico/images/pdf/artificial-sweeteners-induce-glucose-intolerance-by-altering-the-gut-microbiota.pdf