Recently, I was asked my opinion on artificial sweeteners (also known as nonnutritive sweeteners). I realized that many people may have the same question on their mind. This post will bring to light the most up-to-date information on the subject.
“It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners when consumed within an eating plan that is guided by current federal nutrition recommendations, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Dietary Reference Intakes, as well as individual health goals and personal preference.”
First, what is the difference between nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners?
Nutritive sweeteners contain carbohydrate, and thus contain energy (calories). Examples of nutritive sweeteners are sugar, honey, sugar alcohols, and agave nectar. Nonnutritive sweeteners offer little or no energy when consumed. These sweeteners are often referred to high-intensity sweeteners because they are much sweeter than normal sugar. Nonnutritive sweeteners can replace energy-containing sweeteners but they do not have the same functional properties such as browning, crystallization, or microbial inhibition.
Are nonnutritive sweeteners safe?
Yes – the FDA regulates and is responsible for evaluating the safety of all food additives, including artificial/nonnutritive sweeteners. Nonnutritive sweeteners are considered safe for pregnant women as well.
Guidance on use of nonnutritive sweeteners:
Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 – substituting nonnutritive sweeteners for energy-dense foods and beverages can decrease energy intake
American Diabetes Association – states that “sugar alcohols and nonnutritive sweeteners are safe when consumed within the daily intake levels established by the FDA.” Choosing nonnutritive sweeteners over nutritive sweeteners is one method to assist with moderating carbohydrate intake.
National Cancer Institute: Noted that there is no clear evidence that the nonnutritive sweeteners available commercially in the United States are associated with cancer risk in human beings.
Approved Nonnutritive Sweeteners:
Acesulfame K, Aspartame, Luo han guo (swingle fruit extract), Saccharin, Stevia, Sucralose
ADI (acceptable daily intake) is the maximum amount considered safe to consume each day over the course of your lifetime. ADIs are intended to be about 100 times less than the smallest amount that might cause health concerns.
Moderation is Key – Like most food, moderation is the name of the game. Artificial sweeteners may help reduce calorie intake and maintain weight, reduce incidence of dental caries, and help control carbohydrate intake for diabetics. So if you want the sweet taste without the added energy, nonnutritive sweeteners may be for you.
Sources: American Dietetic Association, Mayo Clinic, Abbott Nutrition