It is a known fact that Americans are addicted to their sodas and other carbonated and sugary drinks, however many are sugar free and thus contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, and acesulfame-k. Through the years these sugar like additives have been said to cause fatal health effects, and there use has long been disputed by many scientists throughout the world and the United States.
Saccharin was one of the first sugar substitutes to be used; it was discovered in 1879 and resembles a white powder (young). The discovery of saccharin took place when a group of ambitious chemists were researching tolvene (a chemical found in coal tar) and one of the group for some obscure reason licked his hands before the compound had been washed off and found it to be quite sweet (Parle 21). Saccharin is so sweet in fact that it is 300 x sweeter than regular sugar (Lecos 18) and its chemical make up is 2,3-dihydro-3- oxobenzisosulfonazole or C6H4CONHSO2 (Young). However, though sweet and ‘sugary’ saccharin also has a downside. Studies by various scientists led to a ban of the substance and a public uproar in 1911, the scientists claimed that in mice the sugar substitute causes bladder cancer (Henkel 12). The idea of saccharin causing bladder cancer is in fact quite plausible due to its ingredients which can not be metabolized by the human body and remain the same even upon exiting the body (Henkel 12). Regardless of speculation due to cancer in mice, saccharin was reintroduced to American society during world wars one and two because of sugar shortages and is still in use today (U*X*L). In the years following world war one and two saccharin faced much speculation and many scientists yearned to know the health effects of this sugar like additive. Today due to its previous doubt in the scientific community the FDA requires all foods, beverages and other items containing saccharin to contain labels that warn consumers about there possible risk of cancer, Canada even went as far a banning the substance in 1977 (Young). Likewise, saccharin is still one of the most widely used artificial sweeteners in the United States and all of the countries using the additive put together consume around 11 million pounds a year (Parle 21)! Saccharin makes up such products as soft drinks, sugarless gum, toothpastes, and even mouth wash (Young).
Aspartame is also a sugar additive that is the most widely used of all the sugar additives, in 1998 it was recorded that 20 million pounds had been consumed (Parle 21) which is not surprising seeing as it is 200 x sweeter than sugar (U*X*L). James Schalatter discovered aspartame while working on an anti-ulcer medicine (Young) in 1965 (U*X*L). Aspartame was then approved by the FDA for consumption in beverages in 1983, and was approved for dry foods a year later in 1984 (U*X*L). Unlike saccharin Aspartame has no after taste and is able to dissolve in water (Young), likewise aspartame disintegrates when it is heated which makes it hard to store products with the additive in it (Henkel 12). Throughout the years aspartame like saccharin has undergone much public and scientific criticism and many people claim that it causes systemic lupus, multiple sclerosis, headaches, vision problems, brain tumors, alhimers and fatigue (Henkel 12). On the contrary, it is doubtful that aspartame has any side effects at all many scientists speculate that people are simply making up the various problems (Henkel 12). The most common complain from use of aspartame containing products is headaches and some scientists do admit that aspartame can cause this ailment (Lecos 18). The only real problem that has ever actually been proven to be related to the use of aspartame products takes place in PKU patients (Jacobson 8). Aspartame contains two amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid, it becomes toxic for a person with PKU because those with the disorder have a problem with gaining excess phenylalanine and cannot get rid of the acid quickly enough thus with aspartame the condition can worsen and even in some cases have devastating results (Henkel 12). Those products containing aspartame are required by the FDA to have warning labels for all PKU victims to prevent and harm to them (Lecos 18). Aspartame may even be toxic for those who are perfectly healthy though it is rare; the human body breaks down aspartame and turns it in to methanol, formate, and formaldehyde which in excess in dangerous however a soda or two dose not contain enough aspartame to be toxic (April 2006). Today aspartame is used in products such as yogurt, soda, pepsi one, and sugar free gum and is sold under the name of Equal and Nutra Sweet (Jacobson 8).
Acesulfame-k also known as acesulfame potassium (McNutt 255) is a newer sweetener that was discovered in 1987. Yearly the world consumes around one million pounds of acesulfame-k (Parle 21) which is much less than saccharin and aspartame and yet it is 200 x sweeter than sugar (Young) which is enough sweetness to make the world crave more. The chemical make up of acesulfame-k is 6 methyl- 1,2,3-oxathiazine- 4 [3H] – one 2,2, dioxide, potassium salt (Parle 21). There has been very little reported about the possible health effects of acesulfame-k but the FDA has stated that is a cancer causing agent, which was proven through the use of animal testing (Jacobson 8). Likewise, acesulfame-k dose cause an increase in the level of insulin that the body makes which could be very useful for some diabetics (U*X*L). Today acesulfame-k is produced in Frankfurt Germany where the additive is used in many of the countries ‘sugar free’ goods (Parle 21). Ironically however, the first beverage that acesulfame- k was used in was an American produced product known as Pepsi One in which it was mixed with aspartame (Parle 21). Today over 3,000 products contain acesulfame- k and the additive is used in about 80 countries (Henkel 12). Acesulfame-K is sold under the brand names Sunnette and Sweet One (Jacobson8) and is used in such products as chewing gum, instant coffee, and dairy products (Young).
Overall aspartame sounds as if it is the safest of the three main sugar substitutes. The only real heath effects that it posses are only dangerous for those with PKU (Jacobson 8), and the chemicals it makes while metabolizing in the human body are only dangerous if they are produced in excess which is extremely rare (Lecos 18). Unlike saccharin and acesulfame-k, aspartame has yet to be proven by scientific research to cause any sort of cancer. Furthermore, due to the fact that aspartame has no sugar it also causes no cavities in the teeth, which is something that all three of the sugar substitutes have in common (Henkel 12). Aspartame unlike saccharin has never been banned in the United States by the FDA which means that the FDA has a little more hope with aspartame than they do with saccharin (U*X*L). Aspartame is just as sweet as acesulfame- k however it is not as sweet as saccharin and has no bitter after taste. Choosing just one artificial sweetener is probably just as bad as consuming one of the more dangerous sweeteners so it is probably more beneficial to a person’s body to combine the sweeteners or take turns using each as to not have one in excess and prolong the possible side effects of consumption.
There are three main artificial sweeteners that are used in carbonated beverages inside the United States today aspartame, saccharin, and acesulfame- k. Each of the artificial sweeteners are different from one another though they all serve the same purpose which is to sweeten foods and more importantly to sweeten various carbonated beverages.
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