Artificial sweetener is a bit of a touchy subject ” food authorities all around the world generally accept it as being safe and it is often recommended as an alternative to sugar for diabetics.
Are Artificial Sweeteners Really Bad For Us?
Probably the most well-known artificial sweetener is aspartame (code 951, brand name NutraSweet and Equal). Aspartame is 200 times sweetener than normal sugar and medical practitioners have often referred to it as a known carcinogen, meaning that it’s poisonous. However, the food and dietary association has passed aspartame as being a safe product for us to consume within reason. But what are the limits?
How Do We Process Aspartame?
When we consume any food, our body breaks it down into different enzymes. Aspartame is broken down into 40% aspartate, 50% phenylalanine and 10% methanol. Phenylalanine is an amino acid which some individuals are allergic to, while methanol is wood alcohol, a known poison. In small amounts, these substances are not harmful, but anyone can exceed the “safe” amount by eating what they think is healthy food ” for example, diet soft drink, diet yoghurt, chewing gum, sweet chilli sauce etc.
What Happens If You Eat Too Much Aspartame?
Depending on the quantities, you could experience the following side effects after consuming a large quantity of aspartame.
- Poorly tummy or diarrhoea
- Hunger and cravings for sugar
- Mood swings
- Increased insulin production, which in turn can increase fat absorption, particularly around the stomach
- Broken sleep
Aspartame could have a greater impact on children, simply because the systems within their body are not as strong as ours. Their nervous system and vernacular system is not as strong as ours, and so the chemicals are much more easily absorbed into their body ” meaning that these potentially dangerous chemicals could affect the chemical make-up of their brain. Some specialists believe that these chemicals can lead to a number of neurological problems, including autism, ADD and ADHD. We therefore recommend that you keep away from artificial sweetener while pregnant and breastfeeding.
Other Types of Artificial Sweeteners
Sucralose: Another artificial sweetener, called sucralose (code 955, brand name Splenda), is found in thousands of food products. It’s calorie free and it is a whopping 600 times sweeter than sugar. When an individual takes in over 1.1mg of sucralose per kilogram of their weight, they could experience a number of side effects. However, sucralose is not as dangerous as some of the other artificial sweeteners, as we only actually retain up to 27% of the sugar and get rid of the rest through our waste system.
Saccharin: (code 954, brand name Sweet ‘N Low) is another artificial sweetener that is 300 times sweeter than sugar. This is actually a derivative of coal tar, and in the 1970s it was put on a list of substances known to induce cancer. When a protein (found in rats) combined with saccharin, the resulting microcrystals damaged the bladder of the rat, causing large tumors to grow. In 2000, the sweetener was taken off the list because it was found that rats had a different structure to humans and so the results were not comparable. However, you might still want to stay away from it.
Acesulfame Potassium: Ace K (code 950) is another sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than normal sugar, often blended with other types of artificial sweetener as it has a bitter aftertaste. It contains numerous chemicals and is thought to be carcinogenic if you consume too much of it. One study on mice found that the chemical affected prenatal development, as the chemical was ingested by the baby through the amniotic fluid. This is thought to affect how much of a sweet tooth the baby has after the birth.
Where Can Artificial Sweeteners Be Found If I Want To Avoid Them?
Artificial sweeteners are found in numerous products, including pharmaceutical products, many foods (check labels), supplements, toothpaste, chewing gum, ice-cream, diet drinks, diet foods and yoghurt.
If you want to avoid artificial sweeteners, we recommend using a small amount of natural sweetener such as honey, agave nectar, stevia or xylitol. All products in the Healthy Mummy range and recipes on the Lose Baby Weight site are free from any artificial sweeteners.