What are artificial sweeteners?
Artificial or synthetic sweeteners are substances that give a sweet taste but do not occur naturally. They are produced from a variety of substances using chemical and industrial processes.
Sweeteners are much sweeter than table sugar, but unlike it are calorie-free or low in calories.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener discovered in 1965. It is a compound of two natural amino acids and is 300 times sweeter than sugar.
It was registered for use in the European Union in 1974.
This sweetener is found in many low-calorie drinks and foods where the sugar has been replaced by aspartame.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends a maximum daily intake of 40 mg per kilogram of body weight, but a growing body of research suggests that aspartame may pose health risks even if the maximum recommended intake is not exceeded.
In fact, even in healthy people, aspartame can cause oxidative stress, which can have adverse effects on the body's cells and tissues, and aspartame can also affect many bodily functions, including immune function.
Saccharin is an artificial sweetener that was accidentally discovered in 1879. There are different methods of synthesising it with higher or lower yields.
Saccharin is 300-400 times sweeter than sugar but does not provide calories, but has an aftertaste that makes it less pleasant and limits its use in large doses.
Its maximum tolerated dose is 5 mg per kilogram of body weight per day.
Like aspartame, saccharin is found in drinks and foods - sweets, cakes, etc. - that are sweet but low in sugar.
Saccharin has been recognised by various health authorities as an artificial sweetener with no health risks, but it remains controversial because some studies suggest that its intake in animals may cause bladder cancer. However, the results of some other recent studies, on the contrary, deny a link between the above.
Cyclamate is a sweetener discovered in 1937.
It is only 30-40 times sweeter than sugar. Cyclamate is often combined with saccharin to give a more pleasant sweetness.
It is estimated to have a maximum recommended dose of 7 mg per kilogram of body weight per day.
Like saccharin, cyclamate has been characterised as carcinogenic in some studies, in particular due to one of its components, but more recent studies have shown that there is no risk of cancer, especially when recommended doses are not exceeded.
Risks associated with the use of sweeteners
Sweeteners have been developed to replace sugar in many products to limit its consumption and associated risk factors.
So, although sweeteners contain very few or no calories, sweeteners are often associated with a higher daily calorie intake, simply because we eat more, which contributes to obesity.
In addition, sweeteners are not digested in the body, but are hydrolysed by the gut microflora, which upsets the balance of gut microflora and reduces satiety (which is why we always feel hungry), and changes quite a lot of functions.
Artificial sweeteners are completely synthetic and cannot enter our diets naturally, so it is important to reduce our intake of these substances and turn to more natural foods in the name of health.
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- Choudary AK. and al. (2017) Revisiting the safety of aspartame. Nutrition Reviews.
- Price JM. and al. (1970) Bladder tumors in rats fed cyclohexylamine or high doses of a mixture of cyclamate and saccharin. Science.
- Morgan RW. and al. (1985) A review of epidemiological studies on artificial sweeteners and bladder cancer. Food and chemical toxicology.
- Toxicological aspects of cyclamate and cyclohexylamine. Critical reviews in toxicology.
- Pearlman M. and al. (2017) The Association Between Artificial Sweeteners and Obesity. Current gastroenterology report.