It is remarkable to think about how much sugar, meaning all versions of isolated, refined, and processed sugar, has made it into our entire food supply. A person is hard-pressed today to find any food, in common grocery stores, that has been processed in some way to be sugar-free. The results on our health over the decades have proven disastrous and have resulted in many people being outright addicted to sugar.

Thankfully, over the past few decades, an increasing amount of awareness and research have come out to educate the public about the seriousness of the situation. After all, it has been hard to ignore the epidemic proportions which our society is facing of weight problems, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other health problems. The good news is that some of these efforts have created more health-conscious consumers that are actively trying to make different dietary choices. This leads many people to consider sugar alternatives that include natural sweeteners, artificial sweeteners, and sugar substitutes. However, while natural sweeteners can be considered safe, the same cannot be said about artificial sweeteners.

Why Choose An Artificial Sweetener?

Artificial sweeteners gained popularity the most for no other reason than the fact that we want to have our cake and eat it too – literally. By now most people have caught on to the fact that eating a high-sugar diet can result in lots of unwelcome weight gain. For this and other reasons, some have turned to artificial sweeteners that can provide the desired taste of sweetness without the calories and effects of sugar. This, in turn, brought about the rise and popularity of artificial sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners are often, many times sweeter than sugar, but contain few if any calories. Sugar on the other hand, biochemically exists either as a single or double sugar which is full of calories and needs minimal if any digestion, thereby going straight into our blood stream. Since sugar is an energy source and our body quickly gets overwhelmed with too much energy, most of it gets packed away into our fat cells, as there is only so much that our cells need or can store in their short-term reserves. That is only the tipping point where the problems with sugar and our health are concerned.

The second biggest reason why some people look toward artificial sweeteners is because they may have diabetes and thus have to avoid increasing their blood sugar. Some artificial sweeteners completely do not act like sugars in our body and thus became a perfect option for diabetics – sweet taste, minus the high if any blood-sugar health risks.

Different Kinds of Artificial Sweeteners

1. Acesulfame-K

  • is 200 times sweeter than sugar

  • was introduced in 1967, approved by FDA in 1988 and had its use expanded in 1998

  • breaks down into acetoacetamide, which has been linked to thyroid problems and tumor formation

  • thought not to be metabolized by the body and excreted in urine

  • has no calories

  • to date has not been tested properly and is considered the worst sweetener by some due to the great lack of information and testing done on it

  • FDA has no plans of removing it from the market anytime soon or to push for proper testing

2. Aspartame

  • most commonly known as Equal or NutraSweet

  • is about 200 times sweeter than sugar

  • has essentially no calories (due to small amounts used)

  • discovered in 1965, refused at first by the FDA in 1974 and approved by the FDA in 1980

  • made from amino acids and metabolized by body through various toxic reactions

  • breaks down into the amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid, as well as methanol (or wood alcohol – known poison) and possibly formaldehyde

  • is considered a neurotoxic substance that has been associated with numerous health problems including dizziness, visual impairment, severe muscle aches, numbing of extremities, pancreatitis, high blood pressure, retinal hemorrhaging, seizures, multiple sclerosis-like symptoms, and depression, as well it is suspected of causing birth defects and chemical disruptions in the brain

3. Saccharin

  • most commonly known as Sweet ’N Low

  • is 200 – 700 times sweeter than sugar

  • has no calories

  • originally synthesized from toluene/coal tar in late 1800′s

  • thought not to be metabolized by the body and excreted in urine

  • is the most tested artificial sweetener to date

  • studies have continually proven links to cancer

  • considered for an official ban in 1977, but instead got removed from the carcinogenic list in US in 2000

4. Sucralose

  • most commonly known as Splenda

  • is about 600 times sweeter than sugar

  • discovered in 1976, approved by Canada in 1991 and by FDA in 1998

  • made by chlorination of sucrose

  • has no calories

  • considered a safe alternative to aspartame, saccharin and acesulfame K by most

  • studies however have been inadequate and some have pointed at links between sucralose and thymus and immune dysfunction, as well as possibly being mutagenic

5. Stevia

  • in processed form, it is commonly known as Truvia

  • is about 100 – 300 times sweeter than sugar

  • breaks down into steviol, which some suspected of being mutagenic

  • rejected by FDA for approval in 1990 and earlier for oddly unjustified/political reasons

  • extracts of Stevia got approved by the FDA in December 2008

  • comes from natural plant origin, but commercially sold in chemically altered form

  • considered by many natural health proponents as the ultimate safe sweetener

6. Maltitol, Mannitol, Sorbitol, and Xylitol

  • are chemically known as sugar alcohols

  • are half as sweet as sugar

  • are not well absorbed by the body and can cause digestive discomfort

  • can produce a laxative effect if eaten in large quantities

7. Neotame

  • is about 7,000 – 13,000 times sweeter than sugar

  • chemically related to aspartame

  • has no calories

  • approved by the FDA in 2002

  • not widely used to date, mostly due to the known problems with aspartame

8. Cyclamate

  • known as the original Sweet N’ Low

  • discovered in 1937 and banned by FDA in 1970

  • a petition has been currently filed to the FDA for re-approval

  • animal studies showed product to be carcinogenic

9. High-Fructose Corn Syrup

  • commonly referred to as glucose/fructose in Canada

  • in use since about the 1980s

  • produced by processing that increases the fructose content

  • depending on the formulation may be sweeter, just as sweet or slightly less sweet than sugar

  • cheaper than sugar

  • contains calories equivalent to regular sugar

  • greatly linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease


The above is just a condensed summary of the most common artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes. If you eat or are considering to eat any of the above substances, then I highly recommend that you learn more about it and its potential risks. Remember, we must each take personal accountability for our choices. Governments and regulatory organizations cannot be depended on to tell you what is safe or not because all too often they either have industry ties and conflicts of interest or are under-funded to do proper research and enforce regulations. All too often, they lag behind in making necessary changes until it is too late after many people have gotten ill or severe risks have surfaced. Don’t gamble with your health.

Yes, regular sugar presents its own serious health risks and concerns, and for this reason what we should ideally be moving towards are not sugar replacements, but sugar removals. If you want to create a healthy body and mind, then most of the above substances are just not worth it in any amount, neither is regular sugar. Focus your efforts and money instead, on changing your food choices to include a more wholesome diet that will naturally curb sugar cravings. Observe when and why you are most likely to reach for sugary-snacks and aim to work on effective stress relief methods that can help you cope with any mental or emotional challenges that you face in your life.

In the end, it is as realistic and easy as you choose to make it. The more you prioritize your health, the less willpower and discipline of any kind are required. Make yourself and your health a priority and you will find how easily and naturally you begin to gravitate towards nourishing and health-supporting food options. We can continue to come up with any and every excuse for why we need sugar, crave sugar or want sugar, or we can choose to break the vicious cycle. Make a plan of action to reduce your reliance on sugar and detoxify your body to get off of the addictive substance once and for all. Allow yourself to enjoy a high quality of life in which you are not enslaved by this substance.

  1. Film: Fed Up — The film the food industry doesn’t want you to see; from Katie Couric and Laurie David (the Oscar-winning producer of An Inconvenient Truth), Fed Up will change the way you eat forever.

  2. Film: That Sugar Film — In the vein of “Supersize Me,” Damon Gameau becomes a human guinea-pig when he puts himself through a grueling 6-week diet consuming the equivalent of 40 teaspoons of sugar a day.

  3. Cookbook: Bake with Dates — Features 118 sugar-free recipes that are all vegan—free of animal products like butter, eggs, and milk—normally found in baked goods. These recipes use dates, whole grains, nuts, and other natural ingredients to produce healthy, nutritious food your whole family will enjoy.

  4. Cookbook: Naturally Sweet Vegan Treats — Satisfy your sweet tooth the healthy way with these delicious plant-based treats free from refined sugar and artificial sweeteners. Each recipe is sweetened with natural alternatives like nuts, coconut, spices, vegetables, fruit, maple syrup, and coconut sugar, so you can indulge without worrying about unhealthy chemical additives.

  5. Cookbook: Vegan Treats — 100 Easy Vegan Bites and Bakes — Features recipes for sweet vegan treats that are easy to make, deliciously decadent and use natural, inexpensive ingredients that will transform any plant-based diet, satisfying all and every possible sweet tooth craving.

  6. Cookbook: The Best Sugar-Free Vegan Cookbook Ever — Features 60+ recipes with gluten-free options, soy-free, nut-free options, and spice tips for satisfying meals even the pickiest eaters will love.