Artificial sweeteners are now a part of four daily lives. They are mainly used in packed food items. There are several varieties. Sweeteners, if taken in limited amounts, will not harm our organs, but if taken in over-doze, then will be harmful in the long run.

According to FSSAI and FDA rules, all pieces of information should be specified on the package. If you check the package, it will be mentioned properly but due to the lack of information, you might not able to identify as they are also sometimes referred to the code number like INS 950. It is always advisable to check your food packaging and labelling before selecting them to be a part of your diet.

Let's look into some of the artificial sweeteners used in our food.

Acesulfame Potassium (INS 950)

It appears as a white crystalline powder, which is highly soluble in water. This is approx. 120 times sweeter than sucrose. This is the reason why it is used in baking and supplemental products. As it has a slightly bitter taste, it is blended with other sweeteners. According to the FDA, it is safe to use.

Sucralose (INS 955)

This non-nutritive sweetener is made from sucrose by a chemical process. This is about 450 - 650 times sweeter than sucrose. It has a pleasant sweet taste and highly soluble in water. It also has a wide range of pH and temperature, making it safe to use in bakery products. Generally, it is used along with acesulfame potassium to reduce its bitter taste.

Saccharin (INS 954)

This artificial non-nutritive sweetener has an unpleasant bitter or metallic off-taste. The sweetener is usually used as sodium or calcium salt as the salt form is highly soluble in water. It is nearly 300 times sweeter than sucrose. The FDA tried to ban saccharin in 1977 because animal studies had shown that it caused cancer in rats, but no human study was able to find the correlation between saccharin and cancer. Thus saccharin is currently permitted for use under proper regulation. Too much consumption maybe be harmful. 

Aspartame (INS 951)

It is an artificial, non-saccharide sweetener and slightly soluble in water. The solubility also depends on the pH level and temperature. It becomes unstable at pH level and temperature. It also decomposes in liquids during storage. Aspartame provides energy of 4 calories per gram. During digestion, it breakdowns into aspartic acid, phenylalanine, methanol. The other breakdown products include formaldehyde, formic acid, and diketopiperazine. It is not suitable for the person who already has phenylketonuria (PKU). Carcinogenicity studies concluded that aspartame exposure was associated with an increase in cancer in mice. Based on government research, reviews and recommendations from advisory bodies aspartame have been declared as safe for human consumption.

Cyclamate (INS 952)

Cyclamate is 30 times sweeter than sucrose. It has a bitter off-taste but is a good pairing composition with sucralose. Initially, it was recognised as safe, but recent studies have proofed that cyclamate itself shows very low toxicity but is metabolised by the gut bacteria to cyclohexylamine, which has a high toxicity level. Further studies need to provide clarity.

Alitame (INS 956)

It is an intense sweetener which is 200 times sweeter than sucrose. It is quickly absorbed in the GI tract and then immediately metabolised and eliminated. It has two main components, aspartic acid, and alanine amide. The aspartic acid component is metabolised normally and the alanine amide passes through the body with minimal metabolic changes. Recently expert committees have concluded that it is safe for a human to use.

Xylitol (INS 967)

This is a naturally occurring sugar. It is a 5 -carbon sugar that tastes and looks exactly like sugar.

Xylitol metabolises easily and separately from insulin in humans and produces a very low amount of energy. It gives 2.4 kcal/gm and the glycemic index of 8. It is non-fermentable and thus most useful in making of chewing-gum and also more effective in reducing dental caries.

Stevia / Steviol Glycosides / Steoviside (INS 960)

It is a natural herb, mainly containing steviol glycoside which is 10–15 times sweeter than sucrose. In humans, it doesn't get metabolised and thus obtain '0- calorie'. The chemical composition is steviol glycosides and it is heat stable. Scientific research has found that it helps to improve the status of diabetic patients.

To conclude, being an important part of our daily diet, it is essential to know the safety limit and to keep in mind that 'more is not always better'. 

Reference :

Chattopadhyay, Sanchari., Raychaudhuri, Utpal., Chakraborty, Runu. (2014) Artificial sweeteners- a review. J Food Sci Technol. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3982014/

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