Sweeteners in Weight Management Supplements - What You Need to Know
Growth in gyms and sports complexes, coupled with a growing demand for medical nutrition to curb the increasing prevalence of chronic disorders, is currently driving the[i] growth of the weight management supplements market. The market is expected to surpass $290.9 billion by 2027. Sweeteners play a crucial role in manufacturing health and weight management dietary supplements that consumers will want to purchase time and time again.
What Are Artificial Sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners, also known as Low-Calorie Sweeteners (LCSs)—though not all LCSs are artificial—or non-nutritive sweeteners, are intensely sweet sugar substitutes. Generally, up to several hundred times sweeter than table sugar or sucrose, they add sweetness with fewer calories than the regular sugar, fruit juice concentrates, or corn syrup. Artificial sweeteners provide virtually zero calories.[ii]
Types of Artificial Sweeteners
- Advantame – Around 20,000 times sweeter than table sugar.
- Sucralose (e.g., Splenda) – About 600 times sweeter than table sugar.
- Aspartame (e.g., Sugar Twin, Equal, or Nutrasweet) – Around 200 times sweeter than table sugar.
- Saccharin (e.g., Necta Sweet, Sweet’N Low, Sweet Twin) – About 200 to 700 times sweeter than table sugar.
- Acesulfame Potassium or Ace-K (e.g., Sunett, Sweet One) – About 200 times sweeter than table sugar.
- Neotame – Around 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than table sugar.
Types of Natural Sweeteners
Some of the FDA-Approved Natural Sweeteners include:[v]
- Stevia Variations (e.g., Enliten, PureVia, Truvia) – Around 200-400 times sweeter than table sugar
- Luo Han Guo (e.g., Monk fruit in the raw) – Derived from crushed monk fruit, this sweetener is 100-250 times sweeter than sugar. It was it’s used in China for 1000 years[vi]
Are Artificial Sweeteners Worse than Sugar?
The answer is not straight-forward. When it comes to sugar, our body metabolizes it to provide energy. However, it metabolizes it differently depending on the type of sugar. For example, our body cells metabolize glucose throughout the body, raising blood sugar levels, resulting in insulin response. It can impact people with insulin resistance by creating a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar.
On the other hand, unlimited fructose consumption can put additional strain on the liver and result in fatty liver, high blood triglycerides, and the development of diabetes.
Due to their zero-calorie property, artificial sweeteners are attractive alternatives to regular sugar. They can serve as the perfect solution for those who wish to cut down on their caloric intake. At the same time, unlike natural sweeteners, they do not provide energy by breaking down. Also, they do not offer any nutrients during exercise or recovery.
Why Are Artificial Sweeteners Considered Bad?
For some people, artificial sweeteners can cause side effects like skin issues or migraines and affect the gut bacteria.
Blood glucose level maintenance is vital during exercise for stable performance and cognitive functi[viii]on.[vii] Since artificial sweeteners do not contribute toward blood glucose levels, that can hamper critical aspects of energy metabolism during exercise and impair insulin response necessary for post-workout recovery and muscle growth.
Are All Artificial Sweeteners the Same?
All artificial sweeteners are not created equally and differ in more than one way. These sweeteners differ in the degree of sweetness, as already mentioned. Sucralose is almost 600 times sweeter than regular sugar, while Advantame is 20,000 times sweeter. They also differ in their sensitivity to temperature. For instance, saccharin is not affected by temperature variation, while Aspartame may lose some sweetness at high temperatures.
The degree and type of side effects also vary across different sweeteners. Aspartame is known to have a long list of side effects[ix], while Advantame, prepared from Aspartame and vanillin, may not be harmful to humans, according to studies.[x]
Can Sweeteners Make You Gain Weight?
Some research suggests that certain artificial sweeteners may contribute toward weight gain, while other studies have found different results. One study found that sucralose modestly helped promote weight loss. The truth of the matter is that the jury is still out on this one. In any case, there is little doubt that sugars will definitely contribute toward weight gain.
Are Sweeteners Good for Weight Management?
Artificial sweeteners replace sugar with significantly low calories. According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, diet beverage consumption against sugar-sweetened beverages didn’t lead the participants to consume a high-calorie diet.[xi]
FDA regulations have set the acceptable daily intake (ADI) for approved artificial sweeteners for safe human consumption.
Therefore, adding sweeteners to weight management or weight loss supplements may prove beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight.
Are Artificial Sweeteners Bad for Gut Health?
The human gut microbiome consists of numerous bacteria that take care of digestion and energy extraction from the consumed foods and are responsible for maintaining human health. Several studies show that artificial sweeteners impact the human gut microbiome adversely, where the sweeteners inhibit gut bacterial growth that may affect the gut and overall health in humans. Of course high sugar intake can also adversely impact gut health.[xii] [xiii] [xiv] [xv]
Are the FDA banned sweeteners?
Yes. Cyclamates and its salts (such as calcium cyclamate, sodium cyclamate, magnesium cyclamate, and potassium cyclamate) are currently prohibited from use in the United States.[xvi] Whole-leaf and crude stevia extracts are not technically allowed as sweeteners (although they can be added to a formla).[xvii] However, highly purified steviol glycosides obtained from stevia leaves, which have been the subjects of GRAS notices, are allowed as sweeteners.
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