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Are artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes good for you?

June 3, 2012
Reinbeck Courier

GRUNDY CENTER Almost weekly, Crystal Petersen, RDLD, Food and Nutrition Services Manager at Grundy County Memorial Hospital (GCMH) has been asked the question, "Are artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes good for you." As a registered dietitian and a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Crystal has the privilege of accessing our organizations evidence based library. The library is a trusted resource for information about many topics related to disease and nutrition for health professionals, especially dietitians. Experts in nutrition and health review thousands of research articles and make conclusions based on what was found in the research. Following are some answers, based on these conclusions, to some commonly asked questions regarding artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes.

Question: Is it true that artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes may increase my appetite and even cause weight gain?

Answer: Research has shown that adults may be better able to manage their weight and prevent weight gain by replacing foods and beverages with a lower sugar/no sugar counterpart. Additionally studies do not show that sugar substitutes cause weight gain in children and/or adults.

Article Photos

Crystal Petersen, RDLD, Food and Nutrition Services Manager at Grundy County Memorial Hospital.

Did you know that the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day and that's over 2464 calories per week. A 12 ounce can of sugar sweetened soda contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar. Substituting just one diet soft drink daily for regular soda can amount to saving about 4500 calories a month with could produce a weight loss of 1 pound per month.

Question: How much artificial sweetener or sugar substitute is too much?

Answer: The FDA (US Food and Drug Association) approves all food additives. Each additive is tested in order to determine whether it is toxic, may cause or increase the risk of cancer, and if it would affect a developing fetus. These six sweeteners: acesulfame-K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, stevia and sucralose have been approved by the FDA for use in food and drinks in the amounts that consumers typically consume them. Each sweetener has a set Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) level. The ADI is the maximum amount of a food additive that can be safely consumed on a daily basis over a person's lifetime without any adverse effects and includes a 100-fold safety factor. The US intake of sugar substitutes is well below the ADI. Artificial sweeteners are recommended to be used in moderation during pregnancy because of limited human research.

Did you know that the same substances or "chemicals" contained in a sugar substitute are found naturally in foods. For example a serving of tomato juice provides four to six times more menthanol than the same amount of beverage sweetened with aspartame. A serving of non-fat milk provides almost six to nine times more phenylalanine & 13 times more aspartic acid than the same amount of beverage sweetened with aspartame.

GCMH Dietitians offer classes on weight management and diabetes education. For more information, please call the GCMH at (319) 824-5081 or toll-free (888) 824-5081. For other GCMH services offered, please visit



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