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Which artificial sweeteners are safe?

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Showing 1-25 of 31 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 12, 2009 12:13:59 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 12, 2009 12:37:54 PM PST
©courtesy The Cook and the Cardiologist
We wrote this elsewhere recently, and are re-posting it now in response to the many questions asked here, on Twitter, and on various online publications. Also helpful is information you'll find on the Mayo Clinic site. See Mayo Clinic: "Artificial sweeteners: A safe alternative to sugar?"

I hope too that you'll follow me on Twitter:
If you're new to Twitter & need help getting the hang of it, just holler and I'll help! Twitter is easy, fun, and more. It's a source of comfort. You feel connected to a real-time pulse of real and wonderful people. In Twitter's search bar, on the right of each page, type anything you want to connect with. R U feeling happy? Depressed? R U diabetic, Democrat, or a tea-partier? Want to lose weight or start a new work-from-home business? Write *anything* in that wonderful search field, & you'll find friends, connection.

Now back to the subject of sugar in all its commercially hyped, sneaky, not-great-4-u hidden forms (see this We hope our following article helps.

"It's no secret that humans love sugar. Unfortunately, sugar doesn't return the favor. The average American consumes 142 pounds of sugar per year, up from 100 pounds 30 years ago. There is a staggering amount of sugar in products like baked goods, candy and ice cream, but sugar also shows up in everything from ketchup to microwave meals.
A typical can of a non-diet soft drink contains 40 to 50 grams of sugar, the equivalent of 12 teaspoons. Five soft drinks per day, plus all the other sources of sugar in the typical Western diet, produce the familiar "high" followed by the equally familiar "crash," which results in cravings for more sugar. It's a vicious, disease-inducing circle.

It can't be repeated enough: Excess sugar is metabolized into fat by your body. Too much fat leads to heart disease, diabetes and cancer. All three diseases are overwhelmingly caused by overweight. (Same page, at the bottom in the red & green text, shows how to calculate how many teaspoons of sugar the carbs you eat will metabolize into:

We are as confident in the safety of the following sweeteners as we are taken with their taste.

The Safety of Splenda and Aspartame

Artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin (Sweet and Low) and aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet, and NatraTaste) contain no calories or carbohydrates.
Saccharin got a bad rap a few years ago because it produced bladder cancer in rats exposed to prodigious amounts. However, those tests didn't hold up in humans since no one would eat a truckload of saccharin. Still, because it has a slightly metallic aftertaste, we don't use it.
Instead we like aspartame and love Splenda (sucralose). (Supermarkets now carry their own, cheaper brands of Splenda made from the same molecule. They're fine.) We've experienced no side effects from either product. Both have decades-long track records and many studies in humans. Physicians have been calling these substances a "godsend," but we still had questions and wrote to the government. We received responses from the following organizations.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists aspartame and sucralose among its tested and approved artificial sweeteners, adding that Splenda is only 1% sucralose, which is also approved.
The National Institutes of Health, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institutes, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development sponsor Splenda. (For more information on Splenda, contact the FDA at
1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332) or by e-mail at

However, there are other sweeteners that aren't so safe. They include fructose, Stevia and sugar alcohols.

Fructose (including agave, which is 94% fructose)
Fructose, with its longer shelf life and the fact that it's cheaper than other sweeteners, has become the trans fat of the sugar family.
Sold as just another member of the sugar family, fructose is not safe to consume, especially in quantity. A derivative of honey, berries, tree fruits, agave and sweet potatoes, fructose has been commercialized into a refined sugar, which is absorbed more slowly than sugar but also damages the body far more. Fructose and high-fructose corn syrup have been added to processed foods, soft drinks and, more ominously, so-called "diet yummies." Manufacturers of those yummies tell people they can "cheat and eat" as much as they like. Fructose is popular with commercial food companies because it has a long shelf life and it is cheaper than other sweeteners.
However, in addition to causing the health problems associated with sugar, fructose:
* Causes a spike in blood sugar and blood sugar levels equivalent to ordinary table sugar
* Is only metabolized in the liver and is not taken up and utilized by all body cells like glucose. This is a problem for your liver. After prolonged high use of fructose, the liver looks like that of an alcoholic-fatty and scarred. The medical term is cirrhosis.
* Does not suppress appetite so increased weight is common, particularly central obesity (around the middle of the body), which is the worst metabolic location for fat.
* Provokes insulin resistance, causing or making diabetes worse
* Increases LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and metabolic syndrome (a cluster of diseases including cardiovascular disease). It increases clotting.
* Binds to cellular protein and contributes to aging and the appearance of aging

For many years the FDA refused to approve Stevia, which is an herb, because of its possible cancer-causing effects. Pro-stevians-and their lobby-argued that it's 1) natural and 2) has been used by South American natives for centuries, but no one knows how long or in what state of health those people lived. We found no years-long studies or control group studies done on Stevia. And that, to us, is troublesome. Cancer can take years to develop, as is the case with smoking.
But recently the FDA issued a "letter of no objection" regarding rebaudioside, a modified form of Stevia-but only the rebaudioside-as a Generally Recognized as Safe (or GRAS) substance. In other words, the FDA has not granted approval to Stevia itself, but has said it will not object to companies using rebaudioside in foods and beverages. (See

For us, "generally recognized" isn't good enough, and still keeps Stevia in a gray zone that does not inspire confidence. There have been hundreds of drugs and medical products okayed by the FDA-Vioxx, IUDs, Hydroxycut, for example-only to be recalled a few years later amid reports of injury and death. (See
We only feel safe using products that have been tested and studied for decades with, as physicians say, "no red flags."

Sugar Alcohols
Sugar alcohols are one of the five main sweeteners in commercial use today (saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, and acesulfame are the others). Sugar alcohols are derived, but changed, from sugar molecules. They are sold under the names sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, lactitol and maltitol as well as others ending in "ol." Sugar alcohols still have most of the calories of sugar (2 to 3 calories per gram as opposed to 4 calories per gram of standard sugar), and they still affect blood sugar levels. Their benefit is that they metabolize more slowly than regular sugar, so they last longer and hold off those need-sweets-again-crashes.
Unfortunately, products containing sugar alcohols deceptively say they are "sugar free" or are marketed as "no sugar added." That is completely misleading. They'll still break down to sugar, plus they often cause bloating and diarrhea.
You may be wondering why, if Splenda and aspartame are so great, do manufacturers still use sugar alcohols? Because only sugar, in one form or another, makes the cookie stiff, the gum bulky or the candy solid at room temperature. Splenda and aspartame are fine in your coffee or no-fat yogurt or to bake with (Splenda), but they alone can't keep the muffin from falling apart. That's why you'll find sugar alcohols in more and more products.

Any questions? Write or tweet me! Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Posted on Jan 7, 2010 7:36:51 PM PST
No Msg! says:
Aspartame is arguably one of the worst FDA approved substances ever. Stevia is much safer. Most alternative health experts prefer stevia to other sweeteners.

This is old info, though, because now the FDA is allowing stevia to be used because some corporations have decided that they can profit from it. Read up on Monsanto and Donald Rumsfeld's role in aspartame approval...

Posted on Mar 10, 2010 6:28:13 AM PST
TinkHerToy says:
NONE of the artificial sweeteners are safe in my opinion, And this one thing I know....ALL artificial sweeteners leave a uukkky, nasty aftertaste which I cannot stomach...yes, even the stevia. BUT...I've found AGAVE NECTAR with a very low glycemic index, its the ONLY natural sweetener with fiber!!!!! It's so much sweeter than sugar...when I use to make a pitcher of tea I would use 1 cup of granulated sugar. Now I use Agave Nectar and I only use 1/4 cup!!!!! And for my baking, I've switched to using MOLASSES, a wonderful sweetener with naturally occuring nutritious minerals! Now if I could only find a cheese-hater forum......

Posted on Apr 8, 2010 8:08:13 AM PDT
GW says:
I remember the days when we were told cranberries were lethal.
So, I've been stickin' to the Jellied stuff with the "can rings".
It must be safer. (& I admit it, I like the cutting guides)

Anyways....I only have it once a year on Turkey Day.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 8, 2010 9:04:41 AM PDT
TinkHerToy says:
Look at the ingredients list on the can, does it have High Fructose Corn Syrup? THAT stuff is lethal! Well, it is in constant large amounts, if the only HFCS you have is that on T-Giving, I guess it can't hurt you then. I have learned to cook my own cranberries, it's not so hard, and I can control the sweetener. I buy fresh cranberries and freeze them, I can make a cup of candied cranberries to go with a nice roasted acorn squash, for example. YUM!

Posted on Apr 8, 2010 9:33:07 AM PDT
I think that ANY sweetener that is approved by the FDA and manufactured/distributed/promoted/forced upon us by Big Food companies is not safe. Did ya know that Aspartame was originally manufactured as a chemical weapon?

Did ya also know:
Aspartame is being identified by a growing number of researchers and physicians as an underlying cause of chronic ill health in America and other countries throughout the world.

* It interacts with other substances such as pharmaceutical drugs to produce adverse reactions.

* All metabolites of aspartame (formaldehyde, methanol, diketopiperazine and formic acid) are toxic to the human body and are especially toxic to the brain.

* Aspartame comprises over 80 percent of consumer complaints filed with the FDA.

* The FDA has generated a list of 92 symptoms associated with aspartame consumption that include nausea, dizziness, irritability, insanity, blindness, deafness, weight gain and death.

* The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claim that 500,000 people each year simply "drop dead" for no apparent reason from what it labels "sudden cardiac death."

* Dementia among all ages (especially the elderly) and learning disabilities among children, in the U.S. and abroad, have been skyrocketing since 1981.

As of today, the number of scientific and studies showing that aspartame is, indeed, an underlying cause of chronic physical and mental illness and death out number studies proving its safety by at least 400 to zero. Proof of this fact can also be determined by what happens in many cases when people stop using aspartame: Their chronic symptoms disappear.


In reply to an earlier post on Apr 8, 2010 9:51:34 AM PDT
TinkHerToy says:
EVERY sweetener has to be approved by the FDA or it couldn't be sold. Nothing is forced upon us, I read labels...every label of everything I buy. I will agree that they have been very sneaky and in some cases downright immoral in the way it has been used and marketed to people who: A. Truly Don't Know any better, or B. Truly Don't Care about their personal health. Personally I avoid ALL artificial sweeteners just because they all have an aftertaste that is very objectionable to me. I have had to learn how to ditch the HFCS and the C&H bag for healthier sweetening applications, like agave nectar for my coffee and molasses in my home-baked bread. If it's an Artificial sweetener, what good could it possibly do to your Natural body?

Posted on Apr 8, 2010 7:25:04 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 8, 2010 7:25:35 PM PDT
V. Edwards says:
No artificial anything is safe! I've actually gotten very sick off Aspartame and Sucralose. I got stomach cramps so intense, I thought my abdomen was going to explode. No lie. (Not trying to be gross, but severe diarrhea as well) It was crippling and I couldn't walk upright. Poor me was in 6th grade when this happened. It first began after I started drinking those flavored waters. I was fine for a few weeks, but that poison built up in my system. I tried a piece of sugar-free gum and it set off that avalanche of symptoms. Sorry for the rant, but nothing artificial is safe.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 8, 2010 7:41:39 PM PDT
V. Edwards says:
In America whatever makes the moolah, companies try to sell it. Look at these medicine commercials, "Side effects may include viral infection, lymphoma, kidney failure, glaucoma,etc" I've heard and seen commercials where the side effects are those or very similar. How can the FDA approve those medications when people are getting sick and dying off those meds? Then a few months or weeks later they have recalls. It's ridiculous. It's about profit not human life. Always is and will be. America the greedy and hypocritical.

Posted on Apr 9, 2010 12:02:12 PM PDT
GW says:
I admit that I'm not up on all this debate.....but I just made a couble of gallons of lemonade using lemons from my own tree.
I put SUGAR in it. Is that OK?

(Too late anyway....we already drank it. But I'd like to know for NEXT TIME.)

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 9, 2010 12:21:05 PM PDT
MMMM. Now THAT sounds DEEEElicious! Sugar is probably the lesser of the evils....I have gone back to using sugar when I don't use Stevia. I just won't use the artificial stuff!

As they say......everything in moderation....Besides, home made lemonade is probably best with real sugar....... ;)

Posted on Apr 10, 2010 1:22:16 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Apr 11, 2010 9:09:04 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 10, 2010 6:44:06 PM PDT
TinkHerToy says:
hey, you posted that same thing on my other isn't helpful, it's just an ad.

Posted on Apr 11, 2010 9:57:41 AM PDT
GW says:
Thanks for your nice profile.
I just HATE the way people clam up these days not wantin' anyone to know anything about them, & having blank profiles.

I say show everyone you have a personality!
(everyone except corporate america & the gov't, that Tink?)

Posted on Apr 11, 2010 3:52:31 PM PDT
alb says:
Wow, this article goes against the things I have always heard. I haven't been taking care of myself so I've been eating whatever I can afford and whatever is convenient. I suffer from so many ailments and I am 27 years old. I decided not too long ago to experiment with eating organics and I eliminated every food item if it contained an ingredient I didn't recognize or couldn't pronouce. Of course this requires a lot of time and money until you get the hang of it and learn some tricks to get around the costs. I only did this for about a week because my schedule suddenly changed, making my time and finances very tight. I have to say, I felt soooo good when I did this. I felt deprived at first but then I discovered there are so many ways to treat myself without poisoning myself. I do not care what the FDA approves because I have absolutely no trust them. Consuming something not approved by the FDA doesn't phase me any more than consuming something they do approve of. I am very interested in going back to the healthy lifestyle and am currently researching ways to make it convenient for my schedule and budget. As for the sweeteners, I would much rather use straight sugar than any of those artificial sweeteners. I am currently using organic evaporated cane juice but I am learning to cut way back on it because it is still sugar and will still impact my insulin levels. I feel better knowing what it is though and that its not been chemically altered. I've used organic agave nectar as well (and I loooooove it!) but i stopped because it's processed the same way HFCS is. I've started baking my own bread again and found a place to get my organic produce whenever our local farmers aren't producing anything.

Posted on Aug 12, 2010 7:10:28 AM PDT
Aaron Hoopes says:
Although many people have consumed aspartame, most have no idea what it is made of. They simply believe what they have been told: that it is a wonderful replacement for sugar and they won't get fat! The truth is a little less wonderful. Aspartame is made up of three components; Phenylalanine, Aspartic Acid and Methanol.
Phenylalanine makes up about 50 percent of aspartame. It is an amino acid normally found in the brain. However ingesting aspartame, especially along with carbohydrates, can lead to excess levels of phenylalanine in the brain. Excessive levels of phenylalanine in the brain can cause the levels of serotonin in the brain to decrease, leading to emotional disorders such as depression and schizophrenia or make one more susceptible to seizures.
Aspartic acid makes up about 40 percent of aspartame. Aspartic acid is also an amino acid. It significantly raises the blood plasma level of aspartate when ingested. Aspartate acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain by facilitating the transmission of information from neuron to neuron. Too much aspartate in the brain kills certain neurons by allowing the influx of too much calcium into the cells. Aspartate is referred to as an "excitotoxin" because it "excites" or stimulates the neural cells to death.
Some acute reactions to excess aspartate include: headaches/migraines, nausea, abdominal pains, fatigue, sleep problems, vision problems, anxiety attacks and depression.
Methanol makes up the last 10 percent of aspartame. It is also known as wood alcohol and is considered a poison. When metabolized it turns into formaldehyde and formic acid. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that interferes with DNA replication and causes birth defects. Formic acid is found in fire ant venom. Methanol occurs naturally in some fruits and vegetables; however, it never occurs naturally without ethanol, which neutralizes the methanol. In aspartame there is no ethanol to neutralize the methanol, leaving it highly toxic. Symptoms of methanol poisoning include dizziness, headaches, nausea, gastrointestinal problems, vertigo, chills, memory loss, numbness and shooting pains in the arms and legs, behavioral disturbances, and neuritis. The most well-known problems from methanol poisoning are vision problems such as retinal damage and blindness.
Any one of these chemicals that make up aspartame is dangerous. The three of them together make a poisonous cocktail that should be avoided at all costs.

excerpt from: Zen Anti-Diet

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 12, 2010 7:42:31 AM PDT
TinkHerToy says:
Thanks, Dubs! I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam....

concerning the last poster, you SEE?? I KNEW there were myriad good reasons to avoid any and all artificial sweeteners...beside my numba one terrific reason: they all taste NASTY and leave that horrible aftertaste in your mouth.

I'll stick to cocktails made with vodka......................

Posted on Aug 24, 2010 8:59:28 AM PDT
bothellbuyer says:
I avoid all artificial and natural sweeteners myself. I have a really powerful sweet tooth. But a recent, sudden on-set health problem caused me to eliminate all foods with added sugar in addition to a list of other potentially inflammatory foods. After a couple weeks I simply LOST the craving for sweeteners as long as I had access to raw fruit at least once a day. I do miss bread and other starchy carbs but an occasional serving of quinoa with sunflower seeds, garlic and alfalfa flakes (usually with salmon on a bed of baby greens) helps me past that wishful moment. My transient migratory pain flares (which could be debilitating) have subsided and I've lost 28 lbs since mid-May. I only have another 20 or so to go and I'll be at my target weight. Just wish the Rheumatologist could come up with a diagnosis (sigh).

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