Are Sweeteners Just as Bad as Sugar or Worse?
Artificial sweeteners have existed longer than breakfast cereals and boxed macaroni and cheese, yet it is still a hot topic among dieters and scientists today. Some claim that it is a useful way to simulate sweetness without the calories, while others see it as a cancer-inducing Frankenstein. So, what is the answer? Does it impact your diet soda and health negatively? The only way to find out is to investigate.
The Beginning of Something Sweet
Sugar substitutes in its earliest form existed since Ancient Rome. The only sweetener that existed in this time period was lead acetate or ‘sugar of lead’. It stopped getting popular after the public found out about the substance leading to lead poisoning. Since then, it is banned from use by pretty much everyone.
The first safe artificial sweetener came into existence in 1879. In an attempt to create a food preservative, Constantine Fahlberg, created the compound. He named the compound “saccharin”, a derivative of the Latin word saccharum which means sugar. It became popularized during World War 1, most likely due to the rationing of the real thing. It, and other artificial sweeteners, to this day, are popular among the public.
The biggest rumor that I have heard regarding artificial sweeteners being dangerous, is that they cause cancer when consumed long-term. I have heard this one a dozen times, but does it hold water? Is there any real evidence supporting this?
Scientific studies, regarding artificial sweeteners, were conducted in both the 1960’s and 70’s. These studies included injecting the sweetener into both lab rats and chicken embryos at regular intervals. When the rats were starting to develop signs of bladder cancer, the scientists concluded at the time, “those artificial sweeteners must have caused it “, and published their findings for the world to see.
This caused Canada to ban the substance entirely in 1977. The FDA had toyed with the idea of banning it due to these studies, but due to a major uproar from the public, they simply ordered companies who used it to put a warning label on the substance.
But was any of this even necessary?
A Several Decade Consensus
As time marched on, the substance, which caused bladder cancer in lab rats, caused little to no changes in the human population over the years. In fact, the bladder cancer rate in the United States Population has barely changed over several decades. It was harmful to the rats and other small animals because of their different urine composition in comparison to humans.
According to an expert on the matter, “…it was discovered that saccharin causes cancer in male rats by a mechanism not found in humans. At high doses, it forms a precipitate in rat urine. This precipitate damages the cells lining the bladder and a tumor forms when the cells regenerate.” So what caused cancer in small animals, does not cause cancer in humans.
And since then, there has not been any conclusive evidence regarding any ill effects from artificial sweeteners.
A Long Way to Go
But there is no conclusive evidence to the effects of artificial sweeteners in its link to things like disease or obesity. Because most of the studies regarding this subject are speculative, no one can conclusively say whether artificial sweetener is good or bad for you.
According to a 2010 Pediatric Obesity publication, they concluded in their studies that, “At the current time, the jury remains out regarding a possible role of increased artificial sweetener use in the obesity and diabetes epidemics, whether adverse, beneficial or neutral.”
What Does it Mean for You?
Too much of anything in your body can become toxic. If you drink too much water, eat too many bananas, or eat too many oranges, you will die from that sort of toxicity. Just moderate your diet coke drinking habits and you will be fine. If you have issues with sugar or obesity, then you can use artificial sweeteners, since they don’t affect your blood sugar. But I wouldn’t hold my breath about it making me thinner anytime soon.