Are Sweeteners Bad For You?
Sweeteners, specifically artificial sweeteners, are low-calorie or calorie-free chemically made products that are intended to replace the sweet taste that is normally provided by sugar in food and drinks. There has been ongoing debate as to whether or not these sweeteners are bad for you or not. We dig a little deeper to give you the science-based facts around sugar-free foods, sweeteners, and where the associated health concerns come from.
How to identify artificial sweeteners in your food?
Sweeteners can be found in many products such as desserts, drinks, cakes, ready-made-meals, toothpaste, and chewing gum. Products that contain these sweeteners are often labelled as “diet”, “low-sugar” or “sugar-free”.
Common sweeteners used in the United Kingdom include:
- Acesulfame K
Although many people are concerned about the safety of using artificial sweeteners, there is strong evidence provided by large studies (these are backed by Cancer UK) that they are safe for human consumption and that they are not linked to an increased risk of cancer.
It is your day-to-day eating or overall diet that is more important than individual ingredients in reducing the risk of cancer. In other words, if you focus on eating a nutritious diet most of the time, including artificial sweeteners in moderation is not harmful to your overall wellbeing.
Enjoying sweeteners in moderation
In addition to the above science-based information, all sweeteners have to undergo intense safety assessments before they can be used in any food or drinks. In the EU, this is done by the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), which has also reviewed the evidence and stated that sweeteners are not harmful when consumed within the daily limits or ADI (acceptable daily intake). This is the maximum amount of sweetener that is recognised as safe to consume every day over the course of your life.
These limits are way more than what most people would have on an average day. For Aspartame, you would have to have more than 12 cans of diet soft drink in one day to reach this limit.
Are artificial sweeteners safe to consume?
Not only are sweeteners safe to use on a daily basis as part of a healthy diet, they also offer health benefits. They can help to control blood sugar levels, prevent tooth decay, and reduce calorie intake. In this way, they may have beneficial effects on diabetes and your personal weight management.
Sweeteners provide a sweet taste without increasing blood glucose levels the way that sugar does after eating it. This is very helpful for people with diabetes who need to monitor their blood glucose levels when eating certain foods. The only thing to be aware of is that having a large amount of sweeteners can have a laxative effect.
The take home message is that sweeteners are a great alternative to sugar for people managing their weight, and there is no need to be concerned about their safety.