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Aspartame, Saccharin, and Sucralose: A Comparison of The Three Most Popular Artificial Sweeteners

A comparison of three of the most popular artificial sweeteners: saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose. The three sugar substitutes are described by popular brand name such as Sweet 'N Low and Splenda and compared by taste and user satisfaction. Health concerns and the long-term risk of using artificial sweeteners is also addressed.

Sugar substitutes are called artificial sweeteners when they are made of chemically composed rather than natural substances. Three of the most common artificial sweeteners are aspartame, saccharin and sucaralose. Artificial sweeteners replace the taste of sugar in beverages and special sugar-free food products.  Sugar-free products are used by diabetics and those wanting to cut back on sugar to prevent weight gain or tooth decay. Some sugar-free products are also used as a sugar replacement for candies and in baking. 

 Saccharin: The Pioneer in Artificial Sweeteners

Saccharin is a low-calorie chemical sweetener which has been popular since the 1960s-1970s.  It is found in Sweet ‘N Low, which is used in the place of sugar to sweeten coffee and hot beverages.  Saccharin is also found in diet sodas, toothpaste, candies, and some baked goods.  Saccharin is 300 times sweeter than sugar, but has a bitter aftertaste.  There has been controversy over the safety of saccharin since 1977, when bladder cancer was found in lab rats who were fed large doses of the substance.  Though in the ensuing years no direct link to cancer in humans was found, it is considered by the government to be an “anticipated human carcinogen”, with possible increased risk to certain subgroups.

Aspartame: A Favorite Beverage Sweetener

Aspartame is a low-calorie chemical sweetener that is often used to flavor diet sodas.  This popular sweetener has been around for over thirty years. Marketed as Equal and NutraSweet, it is also used to sweeten coffee and other hot beverages. This artificial sweetener is 180 times sweeter than sugar. Though deemed safe by the FDA, according to some scientific research, aspartame may be linked to brain tumors and lymphoma.  Regular use may also cause dizziness, headaches and mood swings.

Sucralose: A Sweetener Good for Baking

Sucralose, which is found in  Spelnda and Abriva, has zero calories and a taste similar to sugar.  It is found in sugar-free puddings, diet drinks, and many other products.  This artificial sweetener is 600 times sweeter than sugar.  Though sucralose was discovered in 1976, it wasn’t approved for use in the U.S. until 1998, and has only recently become popular as a sugar substitute. Sucralose  is believed to be one of the safest of the more popular artificial sweeteners.  FDA studies show no link between the use of sucralose and cancer. Splenda, a blend of sucralose and maltodextrin, can be used for home baking.

Though saccharin and aspartame have been used for several decades, the long-term effects on health have not been completely determined. Sucralose, a relative newcomer, may be the healthiest choice.  For diabetics and people who need to lose weight, the benefits of artificial sweetners may outweigh the risks.  

 Sources:

David Zinczinco and Matt Goulding.  Eat This, Not That! Supermarket Survival uide: the No-Diet Weight Loss Solution.  New York, NY. Rodale Press,2008.

 WebMD.com, “Which Artificial Sweetener is Right for You?” Elaine Magee, MPH, RD.

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Comments (5)

I'm very glad that there are many choices these days. Splenda is my favorite and I've baked with it a few times. The Splenda brown sugar blend is good too, great for adding to sweet potatoes.

thanks for explaining this so well. So many do not know the difference. Enjoyed!

Ranked #8 in Healthy Living

Thank you Vickie for this interesting post. Voted.

very informative and helpful for people with diabetes

Ranked #122 in Healthy Living

Excellent information about artificial sweeteners, thanks!

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