Artificial sweeteners: Good in moderation
Artificial sweeteners, also called sugar substitutes, flavor food without the calories or carbohydrates of regular sugar. This can help you control your weight and blood glucose.
Despite these advantages, artificial sweeteners have long caused debate. Do they cause cancer, obesity or other health problems?
Before gaining approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these artificial sweeteners went through extensive testing and were found safe.
- Sucralose (Splenda®) works well for baking, cooking, flavoring cold drinks and many other uses. Its versatility has made it one of the most popular no-calorie sweeteners in the U.S.
- Aspartame (Equal® or NutraSweet ®) works well in cold drinks or foods like yogurt. Since it loses its sweetness when heated, it is not good for baking or cooking.
- Acesulfame-K (Sweet One®, Sweet & Safe®, Sunette®) is heat-stable, so you can use when baking or cooking.
Stevia has been used to sweeten food in other countries for many years. In the United States, health food stores sell it as an herbal supplement. Since stevia is not FDA-approved, there are no legal guidelines controlling its safety or quality.
When it comes to artificial sweeteners and even regular sugar, Cara Walcheck, registered dietitian with Allina Medical Clinic - Diabetes Education, emphasizes moderation. "Instead of drinking many cans of diet soda a day, it's better to work toward one. Water is really the healthiest diet drink around."
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Source: American Diabetes Association, Sweeteners and desserts; Virginia Bennett, registered dietitian, Allina Medical Clinic - Diabetes Education; Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Artificial sweeteners: A safe alternative to sugar?; Cara Walcheck, registered dietitian, Allina Medical Clinic - Diabetes Education
First published: 09/04/2002
Last updated: 10/09/2008
Reviewed by: Mary Frederick, RN, MS, CDE, diabetes program manager, Allina Medical Clinic