There is anecdotal evidence that artificial sweeteners cause a multitude of health issues for some people. Those affected have complained of numbness, stomach pain, headaches, rashes, and other symptoms.
Other people have no reaction at all, and the effects have to be determined on an individual basis.
These substances are found in most diet soft drinks, and in most sugar-free desserts, including jello and pudding.
Here’s a list of the most commonly used sugar substitutes:
- Acesulfame-K or Ace-K: used in many diet soft drinks. This food additive was approved even though it failed to meet FDA standards. Many users complain of headaches and other health symptoms.
- Aspartame: an artificial sweetener used in many diet products. Aspartame is a known excitotoxin. Excitotoxins (glutamate, aspartate, cysteine) kill brain cells through a mechanism that causes the cells to fire repeatedly until they self destruct. The Institute for Responsible Technology has a paper here on this food additive. It has been linked to skin rashes, headaches, brain tumors, chest pain, and memory loss. Aspartame is made up of 3 ingredients: Aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. Methanol is commonly known as wood alcohol, which is a deadly poison, known to depress the central nervous system and to create formaldehyde within the liver when metabolized.
- Saccharin: used in Sweet and Low and in 1977, the FDA recommended that it be banned from use. Instead, only a warning label was required on products containing saccharin. In 2000, after expanded research, the FDA withdrew its recommendation to ban saccharin. The International Agency for Research on Cancer issued the following statements about saccharin: “There is inadequate evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of saccharin salts used as sweeteners. There is sufficient evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of sodium saccharin.”
- Sucralose: also known as Splenda. A study in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health found that administering Splenda to rats over a 12 week period cause marked changes in gut microflora and pH. The amounts of beneficial bacteria declined markedly as pH became elevated. There are also many anecdotal stories on the web about reactions to Sucralose. Anecdotal reports cite headaches, rashes, welts, digestive pain, numbness, and other issues after consuming this product. It does come from sugar, but the sugar is chemically altered by the addition of three chlorine molecules. The manufacturer admits about 15% of Splenda is not excreted, causing concerns about a chlorine build up in the body.
- Sorbitol, Maltitol, and other Sugar Alcohols: despite the name, these aren’t sugars or alcohols. They are hydrogenated starch molecules which are a byproduct of grain processing. They can cause serious flatulence and digestive problems in some people.
The Newest on the Market…
Cargill has just come out with a product called Truvia. It’s a blend of Arabian, which is a refined product made from stevia and erythritol, another sugar alcohol. Since it is so new, no unbiased data on safety is available, but Coca Cola and Pepsi are studying this compound for new diet soft drinks to be released in 2009.