What’s the difference between all artificial sweeteners?
There are several artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes available on the market.
- Aspartame is a low-calorie artificial sweetener used in a variety of products, including diet sodas, chewing gum, and sugar-free desserts. It is much sweeter than sugar and is made up of aspartic acid and phenylalanine.
- Saccharin has been in around for many decades. It can be found in tabletop sweeteners, diet drinks, and processed foods. It has a very high sweetness level and is calorie-free.
- Sucralose is a non-caloric artificial sweetener derived from sugar. It is widely used in many food and beverage products, including baked goods, diet sodas, and tabletop sweeteners.
- Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. It is many times sweeter than sugar and is popular as a sugar substitute in various food and drink products.
- Neotame is an artificial sweetener that is chemically similar to aspartame. It is used in a range of food and beverage products, including baked goods, soft drinks, and processed foods.
- Acesulfame potassium, often referred to as Ace-K, is used in combination with other sweeteners to enhance sweetness. It is found in sugar-free chewing gum, desserts, and beverages.
- Monk fruit extract is a natural sweetener derived from the monk fruit. It is intensely sweet and is often used as a sugar substitute in beverages, sauces, and baked goods.
- Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in some fruits and fermented foods. It has a sweetness similar to sugar but with fewer calories. Erythritol is often used in sugar-free and low-calorie products.
While these sweeteners and substitutes are great options for reducing your sugar intake, they can affect everyone differently. You also need to introduce these sweeteners to your diet slowly, to ascertain whether they are suitable for you.
The addicting science behind sugar & artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners can certainly seem appealing, all the sweet, sweet taste of sugar, and with fewer (or no) calories. But sugar or actually, no sugar, is better for you than artificial sweeteners.
Nutritionally, sugar doesn’t have much to offer you in terms of your health. There aren’t any nutrients in it, no vitamins or protein, so none of the good things that keep your body functioning at its best.
What sugar does have going for it, is that it lights up your nervous system. Eating sugar releases dopamine in your body and that’s the feel-good chemical that brings on pleasure. It’s the same chemical that’s released when people who smoke, light up!
Artificial sweeteners also give you that sweet taste your body is wired to crave. The issue is that artificial sweeteners can be up to 700 times sweeter than sugar. The result is that they completely bombard your nervous system with that dopamine-releasing sweetness.
If eating sugar sets off a firework in your brain, artificial sweeteners light up your system like closing time at Disney World. The confetti is flying, the music is blasting, and love is in the air.
But soon, the excitement quiets down, and your brain wants that feeling back. So, you reach for more artificially sweetened foods, and you don’t worry about it all that much because — hey, it’s low-calorie, right?
When you’re consuming artificial sweetener, your body starts to crave more of it. And it can be easier to give in to that craving because you think you’re making a healthier choice. That mindset and that sweetness addiction leads to effects throughout your body.
Long term effects
Again, both artificial sweeteners and regular sugar are addictive. But the research shows that long-term use of artificial sweeteners may be particularly detrimental to your body.
Early research suggested there was a connection between cancer and artificial sugar especially Aspartame. But that connection hasn’t been definitively proven. But research has shown that consuming artificial sweeteners can lead to a number of other health conditions including:
- Heavy body weight.
- Metabolic syndrome.
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Heart disease.
- Early menstruation.
- Mood disorders.
- Mental stress.
- Autism (when consumed during pregnancy).
Researchers note, however, that more research is needed. Additional studies can help prove whether aspartame causes these conditions or is just associated with their development.
What about Splenda?
Splenda (sucralose) is a little different from other artificial sweeteners and It’s a relative newcomer, created in 1992. While other sweeteners are chemically manufactured, Splenda is derived from sugar. That means it tastes more like regular sugar (though, it’s about 600 times sweeter). It’s commonly found in food items like yogurt, candy and ice cream.
Splenda starts out as sugar but is altered to pass more quickly through your system. That means it doesn’t get stored in your blood and doesn’t affect your blood sugar in the way that sugar does.
But that alteration is what makes Splenda less than ideal, to create Splenda, some of the sugar molecules are swapped out for chlorine. And chlorine isn’t something you really want to be consuming regularly.
Whether you go for sugar, artificial sweeteners or no sugar, your body needs fuel for energy, so natural sugars seem to be the healthiest of choices, so far…!