Sweetener Savvy

Hype vs. Facts

"The Medical Letter", which many physicians rely on for prescribing recommendations, has published issues on aspartame (Equal), sacharrin (Sweet and Low), and sucralose (Splenda). Aspartame is the safest and most tested. Sacharrin causes bladder cancer in animal studies (and has been banned in Canada). Sucralose may cause immunologic (body's defense against infections and cancer) and neurologic (nerve) problems.

A few folks, in addition to phenylketonurics, do have trouble with aspartame with headaches and allergic reactions. I recently read of it causing joint pain. It's still the safest for most people. In fact, a recent review of the scientific evidence on aspartame by the American Dietetic Association found the following: Aspartame does not increase appetite. Aspartame does not cause weight gain and may be associated with weight loss. "Aspartame consumption is not associated with adverse effects in the general population."

Another sweetener that gets no attention has found its way into many drinks, yogurt, and snacks. That sweetener is acesulfame, which has been linked to cancer. Whenever I see it on a nutrition label, I call the consumer hotline and complain. Using this less tested potential carcinogen to replace the safe aspartame is a PR stunt because no one knows about acesulfame and it has not been the victim of a media witch hunt like aspartame has.

Erythritol (Stevia) has not been tested, so may or may not be safe. It's natural, but so is arsenic. 11/22/2013 update: Truvia has been tested and seems safe. Other Stevia supplements may contain chemicals that impair fertility and cause birth defects. (Mother Jones published online today.)

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Comments 7 comments

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hi, really good information here, I have always been a bit wary of sweeteners, now I understand why! cheers nell

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hitalot 6 years ago

Sweet and low is good it never hurt anybody ?

cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 6 years ago from northeastern US Author

Hi, hitalot,

Sweet and low is the one that may cause bladder cancer and is banned in Canada. I prefer to use aspartame, sold as equal and it's discount twin, natrataste. My second choice is splenda. Sweet and low comes in dead last of the three in my book. i'd rather use sugar than sweet and low. i carry natrataste in my purse, so i'm not at the mercy of restaurant's whims. they may only provide the cheapest one, sweet and low.

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cathylynn99 6 years ago from northeastern US Author

acesulfame, used in sodas and prepared foods, may cause cancer.

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Ghost32 5 years ago

Neither my wife nor touch a product with ANY of the artificial sweeteners. I'm a tad puzzled that aspartame is considered the safest of those, too. During my time as a social worker for Blaine County in north central Montana, we received a bulletin warning that aspartame could kill a person with a certain type of developmental disability without warning.

Unfortunately, I don't recall exactly which form of DD was involved, but Googling aspartame turns up a truly horrific list of possible side effects.

Then again, Pam and I are "throwbacks" in a sense. We not only use "real sugar" (turbinado); we actually stick to real BUTTER as well! (Okay, so neither of us has ever had a weight problem except on the low side for her anorexia. On my part, if I'm over a bit, I just stop eating for a while.)

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cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US Author

you are right. folks with phenylketonuria (PKU)cannot use aspartame. the warning is on the diet soda cans. folks with PKU who avoid phenylalanine (a protein building block found on aspartame) don't develop developmental delays. folks are tested at birth, so if they have PKU, they can take appropriate measures. PKU is rare. a few folks are allergic to aspartame. they shouldn't use it either. for the rest of us, internet warnings on aspartame promoting stevia can be ignored.

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Ghost32 5 years ago

That's it! PKU! Thanks for refreshing my memory.

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