Sugar is considered a cornerstone of many health issues that plague modern civilization. It is a known fact that Americans consume an excessive amount of sugar every day. Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose, or cyclamate, were invented as a potential solution to this problem. They interact with the same taste buds as molecules of sugar, yet a human organism does not receive any calories from them as it cannot break them into anything nutritious. However, these food ingredients became a target for false accusations and are regularly shown in a negative light. This paper will address scientists’ concerns about artificial sweeteners and their effects on human health.
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The rising mortality rates from the mass consumption of sugar-rich products gave humanity a much-needed push in the right direction. Thalheimer (2014) states that these synthetic “non-nutritive, non-caloric, or high-intensity sweeteners” are a suitable alternative to regular sugar, because they “are not carbohydrates, so they do not raise blood sugar levels.” Moreover, according to Thalheimer (2014), artificial sweeteners “are a popular option for weight loss” because they produce almost no calories and do not cause any teeth-related problems. These benefits are what made this group of food additives highly discussed, and a subject for many studies.
There is more to artificial sweeteners than just the prevention of weight gain and diabetes. Thalheimer (2014) argues that “different studies show different results, which can create a lot of confusion for people.” Warner (2006) notes that “fears about aspartame and cancer have plagued the artificial sweetener since it was first approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 1981”. This information has been disproven since then by many research results, yet the negativity that surrounded this type of food additive remains strong up to today.
The main concern about the adverse effects produced by artificial sweeteners is that they alter organisms’ perception of high-calorie products. Klass (2019) explains that “different amounts of these sweeteners may affect the young, perhaps influencing their taste preferences or the bacterial flora in their guts.” Regular consumption of artificial sugar alternatives could potentially make a person more prone to eating unhealthy food (Klass, 2019). However, this tendency is explained by the fact that people with less healthy eating habits are more likely to use diet drinks. When using artificial sweeteners, people might put too much value in this fact, and confuse themselves into believing that it balances out otherwise unhealthy food. This unexpected outcome is not a direct effect of these additives, but rather it is a change in perception, which can be controlled by managing a proper diet. There is little incentive to buy diet food and drinks if a person leads a healthy lifestyle.
Several accusations were based on a claim that artificial sweeteners are carcinogenic. Warner (2006) states that “The Calorie Control Council and the American Beverage Association, both of which represent beverage companies, hailed the study as further evidence that aspartame is a safe food additive.” No studies have shown that any component in FDA-approved sweeteners has the potential to cause any type of cancer (Klass, 2019). Nowadays, they tend to be called non-nutritive to reflect the fact that they do not contain any vitamins, minerals, or calories (Klass, 2019). While they do not provide any valuable nutrients, there are no harmful ingredients in them either.
On the other hand, studies that were aimed to prove their benefits produced meaningful results. Bakalar (2019) compiled over 50 related studies and “found no convincing evidence that nonsugar sweeteners had any effect in adults on eating behavior, cancer, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, mood, behavior or cognition.” However, Bakalar (2019) also “did find a slight benefit in promoting weight loss and improving fasting blood glucose levels.” While there are no negative sides, the usage of diet food additives has its benefits.
Switching to low-calorie food is a step in the right direction. The issue with the perception of unhealthy food signifies that there is a particular need for additional studies and measures taken by the government to improve global health. Thalheimer (2014) reminds that “the FDA reviews all the scientific evidence provided by the company to make sure the product is safe.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will not approve any product that is unsafe for consumption, therefore, there is no need to evade artificial sweeteners.
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In conclusion, there is no scientifically proven reason to believe that FDA-approved artificial sweeteners have any direct negative impact on people’s health. They serve as a slightly healthier replacement for sugar but are entirely unnecessary for anything other than a taste. Their value as a means for weight loss is insignificant, and the primary focus for people with weight problems should be a proper doctor-approved diet. Additional research is needed to understand all the subtle connections between artificial sweeteners and unhealthy food diets (Klass, 2019). It is safe to assume that there is no need for concerns about the dangers of sugar replacements if a person leads an otherwise healthy life.
Bakalar, N. (2019). Safety: Assessing artificial sweeteners. The New York Times, p. D4(L).
Klass, P. (2019). Debating sugar substitutes. The New York Times, p. D4(L).
Thalheimer, J. (2014). EN’s guide to artificial sweeteners: We’ve got the scoop on the safety of artificial sweeteners, which have been used for years in products like diet soda, chewing gum, and yogurt. Environmental Nutrition, 37(11), 7.
Warner, M. (2006). Study finds no cancer link to sweetener. The New York Times, p. C4(L).