Aspartame is made from two amino acids, while sucralose is a modified form of sugar with added chlorine. One 2013 study, however, found that sucralose may alter glucose and insulin levels and may not be a “biologically inert compound.”
“Sucralose is almost certainly safer than aspartame,” says Michael F. Jacobson, executive director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. Diet Pepsi will still contain another FDA-approved artificial sweetener — acesulfame-potassium, or ace-K — which some researchers have said needs further testing and research. “The fact that Diet Pepsi will be specifically marketed as ‘aspartame free’ is a blunt acknowledgment that consumers have soured on aspartame and the new cans should increase consumer awareness even further and spur other food and beverage companies to abandon it, including Diet Coke.”
Coca-Cola KO, -0.28% introduced Coca-Cola Life in the U.S. last year. It has about half the calories of a regular Coke, and uses both cane sugar and the natural plant sweetener Stevia, a sugar substitute that has been growing in popularity in recent years.
There are many different sweeteners used in products around the world, but several popular sweeteners are Stevia, aspartame, and sucralose. Stevia is a natural product extracted from plants and whereas both sucralose and aspartame are artificially made and evolved from sugar and amino acids. Sucralose is considered generally safe, but there is some evidence pointing to potential dangers of aspartame. Stevia is one sweetener that is scientifically researched and has been declared safe. Another interesting aspect about Stevia is the beneficial effects it can have on the body when consumed. Keep in mind that there are many other sweeteners out there, but because Stevia, aspartame, and sucralose are some of the most popular sweeteners, we will compare these three in depth in this article.
Sucralose is an artificially made zero-calorie sweetener and is a chemical derivative of glucose. It is about 600 times sweeter than sugar and for a large part considered safe, but some studies have shown detrimental effects in the body. A large review on sucralose found several studies reporting dangerous effects with sucralose consumption but is generally safe to consume. Study design is everything when it comes to determining the safety of products and the designs of some of these studies required the findings to be thrown out. But what we do know is sucralose was studied to see if there were any beneficial effects on the body and an extremely large review paper found no benefits with consumption of sucralose. The conclusion is that sucralose then is generally safe, with potentially some negative side effects, however there are no scientifically backed benefits from consumption.
Aspartame is another popular sweetener used in products but has a history of negative effects on the body. Aspartame is around 250 times sweeter than sugar and commonly used around the world in food and even pharmaceutical products. It is an amino-acid derivative but contains several potentially toxic metabolites with negative effects throughout the body. Unlike other sweeteners, when aspartame is digested, different parts of the molecule can enter the brain and change levels of neurochemicals. These aren’t the only negative effects of aspartame though. Studies have shown consuming aspartame can disrupt red blood cells, change brain homeostasis, and even impair liver function. There is some evidence aspartame can impair heart function, dampen immune system function, and negatively change composition of gut bacteria. More research can always be done, but current evidence suggests aspartame may not be totally safe to consume.
Stevia, unlike the other two sweeteners, comes from several different plant species and has been used for centuries in South America to sweeten drinks. In terms of sweetness, it is very similar to the other sweeteners, however Stevia may have other benefits relating general health along with being all-natural. Stevia is about 300 times as sweet as sugar and it contains 0 calories so it makes for a great sugar substitute. When consumed, Stevia passes harmlessly through the intestines or is absorbed and easy handled by the liver before being excreted by the body. Scientists have concluded that Stevia is safe to consume at any age and research up until now has not shown any carcinogenic or allergy-like properties. What’s even more interesting is that Stevia has been shown to have some benefits on other processes in the body when consumed in normal amounts.
Research on Stevia has shown some very interesting effects on processes like glucose regulation, obesity, and even blood pressure due to some of the compounds found inside Stevia. The next part of this article is going to breakdown why Stevia is a good choice of sweetener to consume and why Upper Echelon Nutrition uses this in our products. First, let’s talk about the effects on glucose regulation.
When consuming Stevia, scientists found an increase in glucose tolerance. That sounds fantastic, but what exactly is glucose and why do we care? Glucose tolerance is simply how efficient is our body at handling glucose into the blood. When healthy and as training adaptations increase, our body increases our glucose tolerance and becomes better at handling glucose in the blood. There is strong evidence Stevia consumption in recommended doses can help improve glucose tolerance. A higher glucose tolerance helps with staying in a healthy state and is just one benefit from Stevia consumption.
Other research has suggested Stevia may also help with blood pressure regulation to help decrease blood pressure and improve health in people consuming Stevia. Stevia has also been shown to help with cancer prevention, increase oral health, and combat obesity.
As we cover artificial sweetener side effects, it is beneficial to understand the amounts that are considered safe, especially when compared against sugar consumption. Sugar has prominent drawbacks, including increased risk of tooth decay, weight gain, and the possibility of developing or worsening diabetic state.
In comparison, many of these sweeteners have been implicated as the cause of serious disease in laboratory, animal, and human testing. It is important to understand the risk/benefit profile of each sweetener to be able to make informed decisions about the foods you choose to consume. The list below describes the Acceptable Daily Intakes (ADI)* of several prominent artificial sweeteners. Importantly, it also details the amount of artifically-sweetened foods that would provide a dose equivalent to the ADI.
Saccharin (ADI = 5 mg/kg): Equivalent to 9-12 powder packets/day
Aspartame (ADI = 50 mg/kg): Equivalent to 18-19 cans of diet soda/day
Acesulfame K (ADI = 15 mg/kg): Equivalent to 31-32 cans of diet lemon-lime soda/day
Sucralose (ADI = 5 mg/kg): Equivalent to 6 cans of diet cola/day
*ADI (and related Dietary Reference Intake, or DRI) are international health standards designed to replace the nearly 50-year-old Recommended Dietary Allowances that are currently found on Nutrition Facts statements. The ADI represents the amount that is 100 times less than the smallest amount that could cause negative health effects in humans if consumed every day over the course of a lifetime.
They are both considered generally safe for use within their stated safe limits. Sucralose is a better choice if you have phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic condition, as aspartame contains the amino acid phenylalanine.
Sugar substitutes are typically sweeter than ordinary sugar. However, how does the taste of sucralose compare to aspartame? Let’s find out.
Sucralose is very sweet. To be more specific, it’s about 600 times sweeter than sugar (1). It’s therefore required in very little quantities to achieve the same taste as common sugar. It’s also mixed with bulking agents like maltodextrin or dextrose before use (14).
Aspartame is also sweeter than ordinary sugar, about 200 times sweeter, but less sweet than sucralose. Aspartame-based sweeteners also have filler agents meant to tone down the intense sweetness (1).
So what’s the verdict? Sucralose is sweeter than aspartame, but both are sweeter than common sugar. What about safety? How will a sucralose vs aspartame safety ranking turn out? We find out in the next section.
Sucralose is widely sold under the brand name Splenda, while aspartame is typically found as NutraSweet or Equal. While they're both high-intensity sweeteners, they differ in terms of their production methods and sweetness.
Like other artificial sweeteners, sucralose is highly controversial. Some claim that it’s entirely harmless, but new studies suggest that it may have some effects on your metabolism.
For some people, it may raise blood sugar and insulin levels. It may also damage the bacterial environment in your gut, but this needs to be studied in humans.
The safety of sucralose at high temperatures has also been questioned. You may want to avoid cooking or baking with it, as it may release harmful compounds.
The best and safest artificial sweeteners are erythritol, xylitol, stevia leaf extracts, neotame, and monk fruit extract—with some caveats: Erythritol: Large amounts (more than about 40 or 50 grams or 10 or 12 teaspoons) of this sugar alcohol sometimes cause nausea, but smaller amounts are fine.
Some studies have shown that sucralose can change your gut microbiome by lowering the number of good bacteria by half. Research done on animals shows that sucralose can also increase inflammation in the body. Over time, inflammation can lead to problems like obesity and diabetes.
There's no evidence that Splenda (sucralose) causes cancer. Some research suggests it can cause inflammation, particularly in your bowel. Chronic inflammation of the bowels is a risk factor for some types of cancer.
It's considered safe in small amounts, except for people with phenylketonuria, a genetic disease. Sucralose, also known as Splenda, passes through the body easily and does not build up in body fat. It's also 600 times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way.
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