The use of artificial sweeteners can serve as an aid in coping with one’s sweet tooth, especially when trying to adhere to a healthy diet or contest prep plan. Since artificial sweeteners are non-nutritive, i.e. they have virtually no calories and are not fully absorbed by the body, they do not undermine a calorie-restricted plan. They can also serve as a great alternative for diabetics since they generally do not raise blood sugar levels. Another bonus is that artificial sweeteners do not contribute to tooth decay.
The three most popular artificial artificial sweeteners in use in the United States are the following:
Aspartame – This sweetener was tested in more than 100 scientific studies before the FDA gave it a stamp of approval in 1981 along with a statement by the FDA Commissioner which determined, “Few compounds has withstood such detailed testing and repeated, close scrutiny, and the process through which aspartame has gone should provide the public with additional confidence of its safety.” Since that time it has found its way into carbonated sodas, powdered soft drinks, chewing gum, gelatins, desserts, yogurt, tabletop sweeteners and some vitamins.
Aspartame is composed of aspartic acid and phenylalanine as a methyl ester. During digestion, aspartame breaks down into aspartic acid, phenylalanine and a small amount of methanol which are released into the blood and used in normal body processes without accumulating in the tissues of the body. The acceptable daily intake for aspartame was set at 50 mg/kg of body weight per day. This means that the ADI for a 200 lb. individual would be 4,550 mg.
Sucralose – This nonnutritive sweetener is derived from sugar and is 600 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). It was approved in 1999 for use as a general purpose sweetener and is now found in thousands of products, including cooked or baked goods. The ADI for sucralose has been set at 5 mg/kg of body weight per day. For example, if you weigh 200 lbs., your ADI for sucralose would be 455 mg.
Stevia – Also known as Reb-A, stevia was approved for use in food products by the FDA in 2008. As with other artificial sweeteners, stevia does not affect blood glucose or insulin levels and is safe for use in diabetics. The ADI for stevia is set at 12 mg/kg of body weight daily, or 1,092 mg per day for a 200 lb. individual. Stevia is a 100% natural glycoside found in Stevia Rebaudiana, an herd found in the Chrysanthemum family. It maintains heat stability at 95 degrees Celsius and is non-fermentable and non-discoloring.
For those who are trying to eliminate sugar from their diets, whether for the caloric density or the insulin spikes which it imparts, artificial sweeteners are an ideal alternative for adding flavor and sweetness to foods. Their intense sweetness ensures that large quantities of these substances will not be ingested. They can effectively hold sweet cravings at bay and provide important tools in weight loss and weight maintenance programs.