Eunice Zhang, University of Michigan
(THE CONVERSATION) Artificial sweeteners are everywhere, but the jury is still out on whether these chemicals are harmless. Also called non-nutritive sweeteners, these can be synthetic – such as saccharin and aspartame – or naturally derived, such as steviol, which comes from the Stevia plant. To date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved six types of artificial and two types of natural non-nutritive sweeteners for use in food.
That’s been great news for those working hard to curb their sugar consumption. Aspartame, for example, is found in more than 6,000 foods worldwide, and about 5,000-5,500 tons are consumed every year in the United States alone.
The American Diabetes Association – the most well-respected professional group focusing on diabetes – officially recommends diet soda as an alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages. To date, seven U.S. municipalities have imposed a sugary beverage tax to discourage consumption.
However, recent medical studies suggest that policymakers eager to implement a soda tax may also want to include diet drinks because these sweeteners may be contributing to chronic diabetes and cardiovascular diseases as well.