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About the Artificial Sweetener


A World Health Organization’s (WHO) committee categorised artificial sweetener aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. However, another committee simultaneously assessing the levels that can be safely consumed has said there is no need to reduce the previously established acceptable daily intake (ADI) for the sweetener.


GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Low-Calorie/Artificial Sweeteners
  2. How Your Body Reacts to an Artificial Sweetener
  3. Benefits of Artificial Sweeteners
  4. Disadvantages/Side Effects of Artificial Sweeteners

Low-Calorie/Artificial Sweeteners:

  • Low-calorie sweeteners (LCS) are sweeteners that have fewer calories compared to sugar and other caloric sweeteners like fruit juice concentrates and corn syrups.
  • They are also known by other names such as non-nutritive sweeteners, artificial sweeteners, sugar substitutes, and high-intensity sweeteners.
  • Some LCS are labeled as “sugar-free” or “diet” and can be used as general-purpose sweeteners.
  • LCS are commonly found in various beverages and foods, including frozen desserts, yogurt, candies, baked goods, chewing gum, breakfast cereals, gelatins, and puddings.

How Your Body Reacts to an Artificial Sweetener?

Processing Regular Sugar:
  • When you consume regular sugar, it enters your bloodstream and is transported to cells, where it can be converted into energy or stored for later use.
  • Sugar can be stored as glycogen (the body’s storage form of sugar) or converted into fatty acids and stored in fat cells.
Artificial Sweeteners and Body Response:
  • Artificial sweeteners are typically man-made chemicals that the human body is not naturally designed to process.
  • Some artificial sweeteners cannot be absorbed by our bodies. For example, sugar alcohols like xylitol or sorbitol remain in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which can lead to gas, bloating, or diarrhea.
  • If an artificial sweetener is absorbed, the body recognizes it as a foreign substance or toxin.
  • Instead of being distributed to different cells in the body, artificial sweeteners are primarily processed by the liver.
  • The liver is responsible for eliminating artificial sweeteners from the body, similar to how it metabolizes alcohol.

Benefits of Artificial Sweeteners:

  • Adds sweetness without adding actual sugar, making it an appealing option for reducing sugar intake.
  • Artificial sweeteners have significantly fewer calories than real sugar.
  • Most artificial sweeteners contain such a negligible amount of calories that they can be labeled as “No Calories.”
  • Can serve as a transitional tool for individuals shifting to a healthier diet by gradually reducing sugar consumption.
  • Useful for people managing diabetes or pre-diabetes as they do not affect blood sugar levels the same way real sugar does.

Disadvantages/Side Effects of Artificial Sweeteners:

  • Studies on mice have shown that long-term ingestion of artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, can alter the gut microbiome and lead to glucose intolerance.
  • The altered gut microbiome and glucose intolerance were reversible with antibiotic treatment and transfer of fecal matter, suggesting a potential role of artificial sweeteners in metabolic disorders.
  • Concerns have been raised about the possibility of artificial sweeteners exacerbating metabolic disorders and increasing the risk of progression to diabetes and obesity.
  • Artificial sweeteners may not satisfy sugar cravings, potentially leading to overeating to fulfill those cravings.

-Source: Indian Express

December 2023