An artificial sweetener is a food additive which attempts to duplicate the effect of sugar or corn syrup in taste, but often with less food energy.
An important class of sugar substitutes are known as high intensity sweeteners. These are compounds where sweetness is many times that of sucrose; accordingly, much less sweetener is required and energy contribution often negligible. The sensation of sweetness caused by these compounds (the “sweetness profile”) is sometimes notably different from sucrose, so they are used in complex mixtures that achieve the most natural sweet sensation.
The way artificial sweeteners were discovered could have been a scene out of the classic comedy The Nutty Professor.
In 1879, Ira Remsen, a researcher from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., noticed that a derivative of coal tar he accidentally spilled on his hand tasted sweet. While he did not morph into the slim, but obnoxious Buddy Love as the characters played by Eddie Murphy and Jerry Lewis did in their film versions of the comedy, his spill set the stage for the development of saccharin — an artificial sweetener known today to many seasoned dieters as Sweet-n-Low. This is now the most recognized name brand of the saccharin-based sugar substitutes.
Now more than 125 years later, saccharin is joined by a growing list of artificial sweeteners with varying chemical structures and uses including acesulfame potassium (Sunett); aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal); sucralose (Splenda), and D-Tagatose (Sugaree). And there’s a whole host of new ones on the horizon.

List of artificial sweeteners

  1. Acesulfame potassium — 200x sweetness (by weight), Nutrinova, E950, FDA Approved 1988.
  2. Alitame — 2,000x sweetness (by weight), Pfizer, Pending FDA Approval.
  3. Aspartame — 160-200x sweetness (by weight), NutraSweet, E951, FDA Approved 1981.
  4. Aspartame-Acesulfame-Salt — 350x sweetness (by weight), Twinsweet, E962.
  5. Cyclamate — 30x sweetness (by weight), Abbott, E952, FDA Banned 1969, pending re-approval.
  6. Dulcin — 250x sweetness (by weight), FDA Banned 1950.
  7. Neohesperidine dihydrochalcone — 1,500x sweetness (by weight), E959.
  8. Neotame — 8,000x sweetness (by weight), NutraSweet, FDA Approved 2002.
  9. P-4000 — 4,000x sweetness (by weight), FDA Banned 1950.
  10. Saccharin — 300x sweetness (by weight), E954, FDA Approved 1958.
  11. Sucralose — 600x sweetness (by weight), Tate & Lyle, E955, FDA Approved 1998.

Lead acetate
Lead acetate (sometimes called sugar of lead) is an artificial sugar substitute made from lead that is of historical interest because of its widespread use in the past. The use of lead acetate as a sweetener eventually would produce lead poisoning in any individual who ingested it habitually. Lead acetate was abandoned as a food additive throughout most of the world after the high toxicity of lead compounds became apparent.

Industrial use of artificial sweeteners

The food and beverage industry is increasingly replacing sugar or corn syrup with artificial sweeteners in a range of products traditionally containing sugar. In the UK, for instance, it is now almost impossible to find any non-cola soft drinks in supermarkets which are not sweetened with artificial sweeteners, and even things like pickled beetroots and gherkins are increasingly artificially sweetened.
The reason is very simple: although the profit margins on artificial sweeteners are extremely high for the manufacturers, they still cost the food industry just a fraction of the cost of sugar and corn syrup. Corn syrup was introduced by the industry as a low-cost alternative to sugar. So it’s not surprising that the food industry is promoting its “diet” or “light” products heavily, thus moving the customers over to its more profitable, artificially sweetened products.
According to market analysts Mintel, a total of 3,920 products containing artificial sweeteners were launched in the US between 2000 and 2005. In 2004 alone, 1,649 artificially sweetened products were launched. According to market analysts Freedonia, the US artificial sweetener market is set to grow at around 8.3% per year to $189 million in 2008.
Aspartame is currently the most popular sweetener in the US food industry, as the price has dropped significantly since the Monsanto patent expired in 1992. However, sucralose may soon replace it, as alternative processes to Tate & Lyle’s patent seem to be emerging. According to Morgan Stanley, this can mean that the price of sucralose will drop by 30%.

Why use artificial sweeteners

There are four main reasons why individuals use a sugar substitute:

  • To assist in weight loss — some people choose to limit their food energy intake by substituting high-energy sugar or corn syrup with other sweeteners with little or no energy. This allows them to eat the same foods they normally would while allowing them to lose weight and avoid other problems associated with excessive energy intake.However, changing the food energy intake from one food will not necessarily change a person’s overall food energy intake, or cause a person to lose weight. No published study has shown this. One study on WebMD, by the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, actually showed the opposite, where those who consumed diet soda were more likely to gain weight than those that consumed naturally sweetened soda. However, this study only contains data limited to soda sweetened with aspartame. It is not known if the same results will appear in baked goods and other products sweetened with saccharin, sucralose, or other sugar substitutes.
  • Dental hygiene — sugar substitutes are toothfriendly, as they are not fermented by the microflora of the dental plaque.
  • Diabetes mellitus — people with diabetes have difficulty regulating their blood sugar levels. By limiting their sugar intake with artificial sweeteners, they can enjoy a varied diet while closely controlling their sugar intake. Also, some sugar substitutes do release energy, but are metabolized more slowly, allowing blood sugar levels to remain more stable over time.
  • Reactive hypoglycemia — individuals with reactive hypoglycemia will produce an excess of insulin after quickly absorbing glucose into the bloodstream. This causes their blood glucose levels to fall below the amount needed for proper body and brain function. As a result, like diabetics, they must avoid intake of high glycemic foods like white bread, and often choose artificial sweeteners as an alternative.

Controversy

Some people think that artificial sweeteners are not a healthy substitute for sugar and they often cause people to eat more food and gain weight. When the body detects a sweet taste, it expects carbohydrates that contain nutrition, and when the gut finds no nutrition, the message is sent to the brain to eat more in order to get the nutrition needed.
The FDA has had more complaints about Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, Canderel, NatraSweet, Spoonfuls, DiabetiSweet) than any other food additive, and yet it is still on the GRAS list (Generally Regarded As Safe) despite its strong association with brain tumours and seizures. It is a synthetic compound made up of Phenylalanine and Aspartic Acid held in a chemical bond by Methanol, which breaks down into Formic Acid, Formaldehyde and Diketopiperazine (DKP). It is the DKP that is associated with brain tumours. Aspartame breaks down more quickly with heat, and as such, is worse in hot drinks, or in soda pop that may have been in the sun at some point in its journey to our fridges. If you have ever tasted a diet drink that didn’t taste sweet, you know the Aspartame in it broke down into the above mentioned neurotoxins (nerve poisons). Some symptoms of Aspartame toxicity include migraines, depression, seizures, attention deficit disorder, angry rages, joint pain, muscle spasm, and it can mimic diseases like MS, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia. Symptoms like migraines may appear quickly in some people, while in others there may be no symptoms for some time. Once again, biochemical individuality plays a role in how quickly and severely people are affected. If you or someone you care about has any of these symptoms, remove Aspartame from the diet for four to six weeks before medical testing to see if the symptoms resolve, and so that the artificial sweetener won’t cloud the diagnosis.

The FDA has established “acceptable daily intake” (ADI) for each sweetener. This is the maximum amount considered safe to consume each day over a lifetime. ADIs are intended to be about 100 times less than the smallest amount that might cause health concerns.

Artificial sweetener

ADI*

ADI equivalent**

Good for cooking?

Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal)

50 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg)

15 cans of diet soda

No

Saccharin (Sweet’N Low, SugarTwin)

5 mg per kg

8.5 packets of sweetener

Yes

Acesulfame K (Sunett, Sweet One)

15 mg per kg

25 cans of diet soda

Yes

Sucralose (Splenda)

5 mg per kg

5 cans of diet soda

Yes

Neotame

18 mg a day

No consumer products available yet in the U.S.

Yes

Our oppinion

Personally, I think that if you seek to cut down the calories you eat, exercising a little self control would be much more safer and effective than to cheat yourself by adding Nutrasweet to your coffee while you eat a cheesecake. Besides, there are other natural substitutes for sugar (see list below), so there really is no need to fall into those risky (or at least controvertial).
In the case of the people who suffers from diabetes, maybe its use is justified, but always if it is not exagerated.

List of natural sugar substitutes

  1. Brazzein — Protein, 800x sweetness of sucrose (by weight), Exxx
  2. Curculin — Protein, 550x sweetness (by weight), Exxx
  3. Erythritol — 0.7x sweetness (by weight), 14x sweetness of sucrose (by food energy), 0.05x energy density of sucrose
  4. Fructose — 1.7x sweetness (by weight and food energy), 1.0x energy density of sucrose
  5. Glycyrrhizin — 50x sweetness (by weight)
  6. Glycerol — 0.6x sweetness (by weight), 0.55x sweetness (by food energy), 1.075x energy density, E422
  7. Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates — 0.4x–0.9x sweetness (by weight), 0.5x–1.2x sweetness (by food energy), 0.75x energy density
  8. Isomalt — 0.45x–0.65x sweetness (by weight), 0.9x–1.3x sweetness (by food energy), 0.5x energy density, E953
  9. Lactitol — 0.4x sweetness (by weight), 0.8x sweetness (by food energy), 0.5x energy density, E966Mabinlin — Protein, 100x sweetness (by weight), Exxx
  10. Maltitol — 0.9x sweetness (by weight), 1.7x sweetness (by food energy), 0.525x energy density, E965
  11. Mannitol — 0.5x sweetness (by weight), 1.2x sweetness (by food energy), 0.4x energy density, E421
  12. Miraculin — Protein, nx sweetness (by weight), Exxx
  13. Monellin — Protein, 3,000x sweetness (by weight), Exxx
  14. Pentadin — Protein, 500x sweetness (by weight), Exxx
  15. Sorbitol — 0.6x sweetness (by weight), 0.9x sweetness (by food energy), 0.65x energy density, E420
  16. Stevia — 250x sweetness (by weight)
  17. Tagatose — 0.92x sweetness (by weight), 2.4x sweetness (by food energy), 0.38x energy density
  18. Thaumatin — Protein, — 2,000x sweetness (by weight), E957
  19. Xylitol — 1.0x sweetness (by weight), 1.7x sweetness (by food energy), 0.6x energy density, E967

Source: wikipedia, mayoclinic, trusted.md

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