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Artificial Sweeteners: Are They Healthy?

Artificial sweeteners are one of the many types of food additives that are applied to improve food color, taste, texture, appearance and durability. They are commonly used to replace natural sugar, so that the negative effects that are associated with sugar intake can be significantly reduced. For a number of years, artificial sweeteners were a popular ingredient for the manufacturing of food, but their popularity started to decline after consumers discovered that they have negative health effects.

Types of Artificial Sweeteners

There are two types of artificial sweeteners: non-caloric sweeteners and sugar alcohols. Non-caloric sweeteners contain no calories, and they are the main ingredient in many foods and drinks. These sweeteners don't cause cavities, and therefore, they're widely considered a better option than natural sugar. Sugar alcohols, on the other hand, contain the same amount of calories as natural sugar, and they're commonly used in chewing gums, candies and throat lozenges. Nevertheless, they still cause fewer dental problems than regular sugar.

Side Effects

The use of artificial sweeteners has become controversial due to the health effects that are experienced by people who consume them. The fact that artificial sweeteners are made of chemicals does not help allay the fears and suspicions that are associated with them. Some studies have established that artificial sweeteners such as Saccharin, which is a non-caloric sweetener, can lead to cancer. Research found that Saccharin was responsible for cancer in lab rats. However, the same cannot be confirmed for human consumption of Saccharin, and attempts to ban the sweeteners have been futile.

There is recorded evidence showing that Aspartame, a non-caloric artificial sweetener, can lead to seizures, headaches and attention deficit disorders. Some people experience heart palpitations, constipation and swelling of certain body parts after consuming this artificial sweetener. Other health effects include increase in body weight, fat percentage and caloric intake.

In some cases, regular intake of artificial sweeteners has resulted in addiction. Some people have developed an addiction for diet cokes and other sweetened drinks due to the addition of sweeteners. Artificially-sweetened drinks and food can lead to change in taste buds, development of cravings and activation of the pleasure centers in the brain that ultimately causes addiction.

Benefits

Artificial sweeteners are not necessarily harmful to everyone. They can also be beneficial to your health, as they can reduce cavities and tooth decay and lower body calories. Artificial sweeteners can also be used to neutralize bitterness in certain medicinal products. It's still a good idea to avoid using artificial sweeteners, since the disadvantages clearly outweigh the advantages. Artificial food sweeteners can be detrimental to the health and development of the brain, as well as overall health.

Alternatives

Several alternatives to artificial sweeteners include natural sweeteners such as agave nectar, Stevia, Xylitol and raw honey. Some of these natural sweeteners have medicinal qualities. Stevia, from the Stevia plant, is known to be beneficial for diabetics, as it doesn't spike blood sugar levels. Raw honey is a suitable alternative to sugar because it doesn't cause tooth decay and cavities.

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