Business is booming for manufacturers of NNS (non-nutritive sweeteners). In an industry worth over $2 billion globally, we gradually turn our attention away from the villainy of processed sugar.
The huge increase in NNS consumption is most markedly seen in the increased consumption of diet soda.
However, while NNS may be a blanket term for many familiar named sweeteners, not all sweeteners are made equal, and each are processed by our bodies in very different ways.
You may be familiar with name brands such as Sweet One, NutraSweet, Sweet’N Low, Truvia, and Splenda. I wonder if we would we be as keen to consume them if they were called by their chemical name?
Acesulfame-K = Sunset Sweet One
Aspartame = NutraSweet
Saccharine = Sweet’N Low
Rebaudioside A. = Stevia, Truvia
Sucralose = Splenda
They are also made in differing ways, for example NutraSweet with the chemical name of Aspartame is manufactured by genetically modified E. coli, which is cultivated in tanks and fed so that it can defecate the proteins that contain the aspartic acid-phenylalanine amino acid segment used to make aspartame. The proteins are then collected and treated in a process called methylation to produce the sweetener.
As bad as all this sounds, are non-nutritive sweeteners a better choice?
Well, the answer to that is none conclusive.
There have many studies carried out covering many aspects of NNS consumption from adverse health effects, safety, effects on appetite to increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, and this is what we know so far:
Contrary to popular belief, there appears to be no link with NNS and cancer which is always a great start. However, there may be an increased risk of coronary heart disease and chronic kidney disease with heavy consumers of diet sodas (over 2 cans per day).
Generally, when consumed in moderation NNS are considered pretty safe unless you have phenylketonuria (an inherited disorder that increases the level of phenylalanine in the blood. Phenylalanine is a building block of proteins that is obtained through diet. It is found in all proteins and in some artificial sweeteners. If PKU is not treated, phenylalanine can build up to harmful levels in the body causing intellectual disability and other serious health problems).
We would recommend that if you do use NNS, opt for brands that the body does not metabolize or store and is excreted unchanged. We do not promote products but information on NNS is readily available on line.
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