The negative health effects of consuming sugar are well-documented. But did you know that the alternatives aren’t much better?
Artificial sweeteners leave a funny aftertaste and there is a growing body of research indicating that not only do they get in the way of weight loss, but the also contribute to weight gain!
A Bittersweet Story
1879: A chemist at John Hopkins University discovers zaccharin, one of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners, when accidentally sweetening his dinner with the element he was working on in his lab.
1912: Zaccharin is deemed addictive and loses its popularity. It makes a come back in 1914 when the First World War causes sugar supplies to vanish.
1937: A chemistry student licks his finger during an experiment and discovers sodium cyclamate, which becomes an illegal substance in 1970 because it is linked to cancer.
Early 1950’s: Medical researchers link sugar to weight gain and soon after light soda is born.
1958: The US FDA takes a hard stand against artificial sweeteners, but because of their widespread use they are already generally considered ‘safe’ by most.
1965: Another lick of the tongue halfway through an experiment leads to the discovery of aspartame, but the strict regulations of the FDA delay it’s approval until 1981.
1998: Sucralose, derived by further processing white sugar, receives FDA approval.
2008: Stevia is considered safe for consumption.
2010: An extract from the monk plant becomes available in many prepackaged foods.
2014: Advantame is approved but it leaves such an intense aftertaste that it usually needs to be combined with other sweeteners.
So are all sweeteners bad?
As with all things, moderation is key. The experts over at the World Health Organization support limiting yourself to six teaspoons of sugar a day and generally preferring the less processed sweeteners currently available, like honey and maple syrup. Of course, if you can skip the sweeteners all together so much the better. Hey, melons and cherries taste great without them – and they don’t require an in-depth knowledge of chemistry to enjoy!