Artificial sweeteners are sweeteners that contain few to no calories but have higher intensity of sweetness than caloric sweeteners such as table sugar. They are sometimes referred to as low-calorie sweeteners or non-nutritive sweeteners or high intensity sweeteners. They are usually between 100 to 20,000 times sweeter than table sugar with none, or very little, added calories. Due to extreme sweetness of these products minimal amount is required (as compared to table sugar) to sweeten foods or drinks.
Smart use of artificial sweeteners could help reduce added sugars in ones diet, lower the number of calories consumed, and reduce the effects of the foods on blood sugar. Reducing total calories helps you attain and maintain healthy body weight.
Sweeteners are beneficial if the lost calories from not using sugar are not replaced with other high calorie (high GI) foods sources. For example this reasoning would not be beneficial, “I am having stevia in my tea, it is completely sugar free so I can have more cake.” This would counteract the whole purpose of using the sweetener. Choose foods that are healthy and highly nutritious foods, even while using sweeteners.
Based on the available evidence, the American Heart Association and the American Diabetic Association gave the following guidelines on the use of Artificial sweeteners.
- Adults should limit their intake of sugar sweetened beverages like regular soda due to the excessive empty calories present in the sugar sweetened beverages. These beverages can predispose one to weight gain and metabolic syndrome. Those who struggle with reducing their consumption of sugar sweetened beverages can temporarily make use of low calorie sweetened beverages as they transition to much healthier alternatives like plain, carbonated or unsweetened flavoured water.
- Alternatives to Low Caloric Sweetened beverages and Sugar Sweetened Beverages, such as plain, carbonated, or unsweetened flavoured waters, should be encouraged for all.
- Low Calorie Sweeteners are beneficial if the lost calories are not replaced by other high sugar substitutes such as increasing the amount of cake or ice cream consumed.
- Artificial sweeteners should be used in the background of an overall healthful dietary pattern rich in adequate amounts of food from all the essential food groups.
Just like Nutritive sweeteners, artificial sweeteners should be used in moderation. Some of the acceptable daily intakes of artificial sweeteners derived from naturally occurring substances are listed below:
- Stevia: Intake should be limited to 4mg per kg of body weight. So, for somebody weighing 60kg, the recommended intake will be 240mg which is around 9 tabletop packets daily.
- Luo Han Guo fruit extract – Acceptable daily intake levels have not been specified.