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Safety of Artificial Sweeteners

Two weeks ago, I wrote the blog about artificial sweeteners.  I read farther and reviewed my collection of articles about the safety and the use of artificial sweeteners (a hefty task, as it went back to 1985!) and that’s why there was no blog last week!  Now I admit I am prejudiced here. I think we should focus on eating whole foods, real foods, natural foods. I don’t think we should be choosing artificial, over processed man made and over refined foods at all. And most artificial sweeteners are made from non-food items and are over processed to begin with.

A great deal of research is going on about these products. Since they are not real or natural foods, no one really knows or can predict what the side effects or problems might be, and proving the reality of the consequences takes a lot of time and research.  Here are several artificial sweeteners that Center for Science in the Public Interest says may cause problems.

Aspartame. It is the most rigorously studied, and “when rats and mice were fed aspartame for their entire lives, the sweetener caused liver and lung cancer in male mice and leukemia and lymphoma in both male and female rats.” Men who report drinking at least one diet soda a day had slightly higher risks of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma than men who drank no diet soda. The study was criticized as the rats were fed the equivalent of up to 2,083 cans of diet soft drink each day. In response to criticism, the same researchers conducted a follow-up study, in which male and female Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to very low doses of aspartame in their feed (20 or 100 mg/kg of body weight) from fetal life until natural death. The results confirmed that aspartame is a carcinogen, even at doses that fall within Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI), which is set at 50 mg/kg of body weight in the United States. The study found a significant dose-related increase in the rate of lymphomas, leukemias, and mammary tumors.   However, a 2015 review involving 599,741 participants concluded that heavy consumption might increase the risk of certain cancers (laryngeal, urinary tract, leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Personally, it’s enough to make me check every single label before putting it in my pantry! I would encourage you to do the same.

Acesulfame Potassium is often mixed with aspartame or sucralose. There is question whether this product increases cancer risk. And it is not recommended for breastfeeding mothers.

Splenda, which is Sucralose, is marketed with 1 gram of glucose for bulk. Some people suspect it may alter the microbiome in your gut and thereby change your blood sugar. And it appeared to cause leukemia and other blood cancers in mice. These studies were not conclusive, but they worry me.

Like all of these substitutes, allulose can cause diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain in some users. It occurs naturally in maple syrup, wheat, and brown sugar. There is no evidence of its causing major illnesses.

Stevia comes from a plant grown in South America. All the information I found says it is safe to use. Buy it in liquid form as Truvia to avoid other additives, or check the label carefully.

Monk fruit extract has been used in China for centuries; it is made by extracting sweet compounds called mogrosides from fruit. No long-term studies have been done on this product; they aren’t required by the FDA, but it appears to be safe.

Many of these studies are done with large dosages of the product in rats and mice over the better part of their lives. So, we could question how likely it is for a problem to occur in people. It is clear, that for some people, a sweetener may cause gastrointestinal distress – gas, bloating, pain, and diarrhea, sometimes alternating with constipation.  Increased blood pressure and adverse effects on those with pre-existing mood disorders are also noted. Some artificial sweeteners may also have an effect on some people’s immune systems. Weight gain has also been noted as we discussed. While the FDA has approved these artificial sweeteners, we really don’t know how the consumption of these chemicals will affect our health in the long run. I suspect that we will continue to discover more dangers and adverse side effects from excess and widespread use of artificial sweeteners.

If you are having GI distress or are concerned about these other symptoms, decrease the amount you use, change sweeteners, or find a different solution.

The more research I do, the more unique issues I find; like the lovely lady who had “excruciating itchy sensations in various parts of her body” and a particular kind of pain in her feet at night. After a vacation in which she had no access to artificial sweeteners, the pains and itches stopped, and when she returned home and resumed the use of artificial sweeteners, the discomforts returned. So, if you have strange pains itching, or cravings, or other unusual symptoms, you may want to try excluding these substances.

The healthiest drinks are water (still or sparkling, flavored or not), unsweetened coffee or tea, low-fat dairy milk, and healthy plant milks.

The research is mixed in that some says artificial sweeteners are safe and others say the same sweeteners are harmful.  Foods and drinks sweetened with stevia or monk fruit are your safest bets. Allulose is also safe, though it may cause GI symptoms. Listen to your body and your spirit. Do not allow yourself to become involved in compulsive over-use of any of these products. Reach for your own good judgement and the wisdom of the people you trust. Limit the amount you use of these and all other refined, processed, and man-made food like objects.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1964906/

https://www.mealenders.com/dont-know-artificial-sweeteners/

https://www.nutrisense.io/blog/sucralose-aspartame

https://www.washingtonpost.com/wellness/interactive/2023/sugar-substitutes-health-effects/

https://www.fwdfuel.com/artificial-sweetener-side-effects/

https://www.ideafit.com/personal-training/delicious-danger-a-research-update-on-artificial-sweeteners/

https://www.mealenders.com/dont-know-artificial-sweeteners/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26202345

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26202345

https:_nutritionaction/The Sweet Spot/March2023/pp8-10

www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/Sept2019

Blessings to you,

Theresa

5 Responses to Safety of Artificial Sweeteners

  1. Sherri Reveal May 10, 2023 at 4:27 pm #

    I can attest to the addictive nature of artificial sweeteners. At one point I started “mainlining” packets of aspartame–consuming up to 20 packets directly from the packets. It became something of a ritual to have lunch at a particular restaurant where the waitress would keep my iced tea glass filled with me putting at least 4 packets in each glass. I also started my day getting a large iced tea at the drive-thru, putting 8 packets in. My co-workers gave me a 500 packets box of aspartame.

    I eventually became sensitive to all sweetener–sucrolose, stevia, whatever. Went cold turkey in Nov. 2019.

    • H. Theresa Wright May 11, 2023 at 12:26 am #

      I remember our talking about that! Tell us what happened when you went cold turkey – did you have cravings? withdrawal symptoms? And how are you now?
      Theresa

  2. Robin Kulibert May 31, 2023 at 5:04 pm #

    Thanks for your research, Theresa. This topic,
    especially concerning Aspartame, is near and dead to me. I can’t help but share personal experience with a little science.

    When I drank Aspartame ages ago, it made my brain feel like the cells were sticking together–a very weird, spacy, altered state. In those days I used a lot of other artifical sweeteners as well.

    Now a quote from an NIH article on the effects of Aspartame on brain chemistry: “The artificial sweetener is broken down into phenylalanine (50%), aspartic acid (40%) and methanol (10%) during metabolism in the body. The excess of phenylalanine…contribut[es] to reduced levels of dopamine and serotonin….Aspartic acid at high concentrations is a toxin that causes hyperexcitability of neurons and is also a precursor of other excitatory amino acid[s] – glutamates.”

    My mother drank a lot of diet soda. She died of ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that, in sporadic cases such as hers, is caused by excitotoxicity, by excessive glutamate. It could very well be that her brain cells got so overestimated they die, due to excessive use of Aspartame and intake of glutamate (as in MSG and it’s derivatives).

    I now have restless leg syndrome (RLS), a neurological disorder caused most often by low dopamine and high glutamate in the brain.

    In short, Aspartame is both a carcinogen and a neurotoxin, and leads to the formation of other excitatory compounds–it’s s no joke. Yet it’s in every pack of gum at the gas station!, let alone all those other sugar free products.

    I’m grateful I had such weird symptoms and stopped consuming it long ago, but who knows if it led to my RLS. And I certainly hope I don’t get ALS, like my mom.

  3. Robin Kulibert May 31, 2023 at 5:07 pm #

    Oops. Near and dear to me, my comment should read.

    • H. Theresa Wright June 1, 2023 at 12:37 am #

      Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and experience!

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