There is such a debate about all of the different sweeteners out there. I have done some research on three popular artificial sweeteners and come to my own conclusions about them. Below you will find basic information including the TRUE scientific research on each.
Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet, NutraTaste)
Sweetness Level: 200 times sweeter than table sugar
Digestibility: Aspartame is a combination of two amino acids. You may know that amino acids are the building blocks of protein, but these have been joined in a way that makes them taste sweet. These same amino acids are found naturally in foods like meat, fat-free milk, fruits, and vegetables. Because it is made up of amino acids, aspartame does contain calories. Although it is usually consumed in such small amounts that the calorie amount is insignificant. When aspartame is digested, your body acts as if it is digesting any other amino acid from protein food.
Safety: Approved by the FDA in 1981, there is no scientific evidence that states use of aspartame as dangerous.
Cooking:Aspartame does not do well with heat (it loses sweetness if heated too long), therefore it is most commonly used in foods that don’t require cooking, or is added towards the end of the cooking process.
Saccharin (Sweet’N Low, Sweet 10, often used in soft drinks)
Sweetness Level: 300-500 times sweeter than table sugar, bitter aftertaste
Digestibility: The body cannot break down saccharin therefore it provides zero calories. Also, because saccharine is not digestible, it leaves the body through the urine.
Safety: Saccharin was created by accident in 1878, when a chemist was working on coal tar by-products. There has been a lot of controversy over this low-calorie sweetener during its existence. Research reported that saccharin could cause cancer in rats, but a human’s equivalent to the rat consumption in this research would be approximately 750 soft drinks a day. With that said, there have been no human studies that confirmed saccharin to be cancer causing and for over a decade there has been no warning label on saccharin use.
Cooking: Saccharin stays sweet when heated so it can be used for cooking and baking. Keep in mind that it does not have the volume of sugar so it may not work as well when replacing sugar with saccharin in a recipe.
Sweetness Level: 600 times sweeter than table sugar
Digestability: Although sucralose is made from sugar, it cannot be digested. Like saccharin, sucralose provides no calories because it cannot be metabolized or absorbed for energy use. Because of this, sucralose may be a good alternative for diabetics.
Safety: Because sucralose is fairly new (developed in 1976 and approved for use in 1998), there is not as much research available. The credible research that is available at this point, shows no adverse affects associated with sucralose intake.
Cooking: Sucralose performs very similar to sugar when cooking and baking. However, it doesn’t give as much volume to baked goods as sugar might.
Now, you have the basics. Low-calorie sweeteners are not intended for infants or children. Also, they are only beneficial if you use them in place of high calorie, high sugar foods. Also, keep in mind that it is okay to consume sugar, especially natural sugar- all in MODERATION.
My Take on these little sweeties.
I personally have started this new thing where I am trying to stay away from all things overly processed, including artificial sweeteners. I doubt I will ever be able to cut out my one diet coke a day, but other than that I am trying really hard to steer clear from the Splenda that I once was basically addicted to. My thought process goes kind of like “if it had to be heated, and mixed, chemically concocted, and extracted from coal tar… do I really want to put that into my body?” My answer is no, but your answer may be different! I would just prefer to indulge occasionally on the sugary things that I love rather than have something “sweet” constantly through Splenda-fied everything.