Artificial Sweetener Aspartame Related Health Problems

by Pankaj Kotak, M.Sc., N.D.

Artificial sweeteners, from being a fad a couple of decades back have become a part and parcel of our lives now. In fact, many products use artificial sweeteners in combination with natural sweeteners simply because they are much sweeter, even if the products as such are not marked as sugar free. Aspartame is probably the most commonly known artificial sweetener, although there are plenty more. Sucralose is becoming very popular nowadays not only because of its high sweetness quotient (600 times sweeter than sugar and 3 times sweeter than aspartame), but because it is considered safe.

This flies in the face of common belief that artificial sweeteners are not good for health and can even be carcinogenic. This bad press for artificial sweeteners came out in the 1960s, when it was discovered that companies who were supposed to have tested their artificial sweeteners either did not do so or suppressed negative facts. Subsequently, all artificial sweeteners were brought under the purview of the FDA, which has conducted many independent tests on each artificial sweetener to test their safety for human consumption.

Most of these tests have showed that sucralose is not very dangerous. Although doubts may remain with regards to aspartame (the FDA has approved the use of aspartame), sucralose is considered safer, simply because it passes through the digestive system without being absorbed. Tests have showed that only between 11% and 27% of sucralose consumed is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. The rest is excreted via the feces. Out of the small percentage absorbed, the kidneys filter out up to 70%, so that it is excreted via urine, and only about 30% of the digested sucrose is actually metabolized.

Sucralose is also very stable and has shown itself to be nonreactive at varying heat and PH levels, thus it is tolerant at the high temperatures required during baking and processing of foods. Also, because of their very high sweetness quotient, very little sucralose is actually used in most food products. In fact, the fillers that make up the bulk of most artificial sweeteners probably contain more calories than the sweetener itself does.

So, does this mean that sucralose is completely safe?

Since very small quantities of sucralose are used, sucralose is generally considered safe. However, just like any other artificially made product, there is a maximum daily dose that should not be exceeded. The FDA recommends that the maximum daily intake should not go over 1.1 mg per kg body weight. This is invariably much higher than the usual daily intake.

However, it has been found that at very high dosages, sucralose interferes with the good bacteria in the intestines of rats. This results in increased PH levels as well as weight gain, although similar effects have not been duplicated with humans.

Side effects are generally observed when sucralose is taken at a dosage of above 100mg per kg of body weight, which is hundred times more than the daily recommended dosage. Even here, there is a large margin of safety with some people not showing any side effects even at dosages of 1500mg per kg.

As per studies conducted by the FDA, there are no effects that you need to worry about. The FDA has supposedly conducted hundreds of tests to ensure the safety of sucralose. The only fly in the ointment is that when you search for these studies in the public domain, you find that only a handful has been published. When you consider that the FDA invariably publishes all its findings in the public domain, this seems highly suspicious to say the least.

References
  1. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10882819
  2. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18800291
  3. www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007492.htm
  4. www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/artificial-sweeteners

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