Artificial sweeteners have been around for many years and are commonly used in products to make them sweet without the calories. What exactly are artificial sweeteners? They are a chemically processed sugar substitute, also known as non-nutritive, non-caloric or high intensity sweeteners. These sweeteners can be hundreds or even thousands of times sweeter than table sugar. Artificial sweeteners do not raise blood sugar levels because they are not carbohydrates. Therefore, they are a good alternative to sugar for someone with diabetes. As previously mentioned, artificial sweeteners do not provide calories, therefore they are commonly used for weight loss. These sweeteners can be found everywhere including soft drinks, gum, yogurt, ice cream, baked goods, and cereals.
The question on everyone’s mind, “Are they safe to eat?” Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began its approval system in 1958, the FDA has been testing sugar substitutes for their safety. Anytime a company wants to put an artificial sweetener in their product, they have to get permission from the FDA. The FDA reviews all of the scientific research provided and determines the safety by conducting studies typically on mice and rats. Since there are so many different studies that have been done using different test subjects, with different amounts of artificial sweetener, the results have varied and left most people confused.
Currently, the National Cancer Institute states there is not clear scientific evidence that any artificial sweetener approved in the U.S. causes cancer, therefore they are recognized as safe. However, the FDA does set Acceptable Daily Intakes, so moderation is key. Can artificial sweeteners be used in a safe and healthy way? Yes, just don’t overdo it.