Artificial Sweeteners: Not as Sweet as They Seem by Brian Stegall

By at January 1, 2012 | 10:20 am | Print

Artificial Sweeteners: Not as Sweet as They Seem by Brian Stegall

In today’s world with ongoing issues with obesity, heart disease, diabetes and many others due to over-indulgence in food, everyone is looking for ways to cut calories. This weight consciousness has turned many to products such as Sweet ‘N Low, Splenda, Equal and many others to become common for use in just about everything from sweetening coffee in the morning or to even assist in making sweet snacks that much healthier by cutting out the calories that are associated with regular sugar. In all these products ranging from packets of artificial sweeteners to diet sodas containing no calories, is this method a viable healthier option for still enjoying food and soft drinks without the extra caloric intake, or are the possible health complications that have been associated with them outweighing the lack-of-calorie benefits?

Since the 1950’s, the soda industry has been capitalizing on diet sodas for their consumers to be able to guiltlessly enjoy their favorite carbonated soft drink without having to worry about the negative effects of the extra caloric intake. Diet sodas such as Diet rite, Diet Pepsi, Diet Coke and many others commonly use sugar substitutes such as Sucralose (Splenda), Saccharine (Sweet ‘N Low), Aspartame (Equal) to replace sugar for the sweetness that people enjoy when they partake in when choosing to drink their products. The other common form to replace sugar (I.e: large containers to use for baking and packets) in the household or at restaurants to use from baking to sweetening iced tea is where you will find the brands listed earlier. All these are marketed for the weight conscious consumer who is hoping to make a healthier choice in their consumption. All these products are marketed for those that are concerned for their health, it is common place to think that sugar and carbohydrates are the root of the problems in today’s world regarding obesity and the diseases and complications associated with it.

Over the last few years, there have been studies conducted to test the viable safety of these artificial sweeteners. Tests conducted on laboratory animals showed links to many different types of cancers due to the sweeteners they were fed. Saccharine and Cyclamate (another substitute) had “caused bladder cancer in laboratory animals.”( It should be mentioned that Saccharine has been under scrutiny and investigation and “Of the three FDA approved sugar substitutes, saccharine has the most evidence against it” ( and is considered the most likely to cause complications after prolonged usage. Other studies regarding the most common sugar substitute Aspartame concerning leukemia, brain cancer and lymphoma to lab rats that were fed incredibly high doses of aspartame and those rats were found to have a more likely occurrence of these cancers. in 1996, a report “suggesting that an increase in the number of people with brain tumors between 1975 and 1992 might be associated with the introduction and use of the sweetener in the United States”( And again Aspartame was scrutinized in 2005 where found that lymphomas and leukemias in rats were more common when given incredibly high amounts of aspartame, between 8 and 2,083 cans per day of diet soda. These tests showed to be inconsistent to a point where the FDA didn’t declare these sugar substitutes as unfit for human consumption. Of the approved sugar substitutes, Sucralose (Splenda) is the most recent to be approved and put on the market of sugar substitutes. It’s made from sugar, and it’s actually not possible for it to be digested and there haven’t been any issues connected to sucralose and it appears to be “the safest alternative to sugar on the market.” (

The most common use of sugar substitutes is from consumers attempting to lose or control their weight, cutting calories and carbohydrates from their diet can yield results along with following a healthy diet and exercise. Sugar substitutes being an easy way to be able to cut those calories out should yield weight loss seeing that they’re no longer ingesting the extra calories from everyday items like soda, sweetened tea or even baked goods. Studies have shown that there has been a link between these sugar substitutes in gaining weight rather than losing it. It would seem contradictory seeing that when a reduction in caloric intake would cause weight gain. According to the American Psychological Association this has to do with the biology of the human body and how it reacts when foods are digested, as the artificial sweeteners had altered the metabolic response to food compared to the metabolic response to regular sugar and also can cause one to over-eat and make it harder for the metabolic system to burn off the extra calories that are taken in. In addition, the regulatory system is also changed by the substitute where the subjects that had the substitute sugar also ingested more calories and gained more body fat than those that were eating foods that were sweetened with regular sugar. This would also help to explain the obesity issue in humans that has risen in correlation to the increased use of artificial sweeteners.

Another point to look at is the study done by the American Society of Clinical Nutrition ‘Effect of drinking soda sweetened with aspartame or high-fructose corn syrup on food intake and body weight’ compared two groups – one drinking Aspartame sweetened soda, and high fructose corn syrup soda showed that there was no real gain or loss of weight between the two groups. Between the two, the group that had been drinking high fructose corn syrup sweetened sodas had gained body mass, but not significantly more than the aspartame sweetened group. The study showed that due to high fructose corn syrup, there was weight gain in both males and females while consuming (.23-.53kg) and while drinking the aspartame sweetened sodas the females gained weight (.25-.29kg) and males lost weight (.22-.47kg). (American Society for clinical nutrition). Another study done by the American Psychological Association that linked the substitute sweeteners to not only a gain in weight, but a change in metabolic response to other foods that made it more difficult to lose the weight afterwards. These are factors to be considered when trying to implement artificial sweeteners into a diet where calories are being cut in order to lose or maintain a healthy weight.

In a world that is constantly looking for the next magical fix to weight loss, consumers and manufacturers alike are searching high and low for the next magic bullet and sensational thing to hit the market. The reason why they’ve gained so much popularity is because they allow the consumer to substitute the sweetness of sugar without adding the extra caloric intake to their diet. The current FDA approved sugar substitutes are not without their problems, they accomplish the goal of not adding calories to foods and drinks, but the studies that have been done on them are discouraging to the consumer in comparison when looking at increases in likelihood in certain cancers (although found inconclusive) still would be enough to discourage people who care enough to research into these substitutes.
Works cited
United States Department of Health. National Cancer institute, “Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer.” 5 aug, 2009. Web. 16 Nov 2011

Gallus, et al. “Artificial Sweeteners and cancer risk in a network of case-control studies” Annals of Oncology. (2006) Web.

“Artificial Sweeteners” Bay Area Medical Information, 11 Nov. 2011. Web. 15 Nov. 2011

“Artificial Sweeteners: Understanding these and other sugar substitutes.” Mayo Clinic, 09 Oct. 2010. Web. 15 Nov. 2011.

American Psychological Association (2008, February 10). “Artificial Sweeteners Linked to Weight Gain.” ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 17, 2011, from
Paddock, Catharine PhD. “Artificial Sweeteners Could Make You Gain Wieght, Study” medical news today. (11 feb. 2008). Web. 15 Nov. 2011

Tordoff, Et. Al. “Effect of drinking soda sweetened with aspartame or high-fructose corn syrup on food intake and body weight” American Society for Clinical Nutrition. (1990) Web.




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