Although there are a number of different artificial sweeteners available, saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose are the most commonly used within the United States. They differ in their chemical makeup, degree of sweetness, and how they are best used.
Saccharin is the oldest artificial sweetener. It is commonly used to sweeten some diet soft drinks and candies, and to improve the flavor of medicine and toothpaste. At one point, there was concern that saccharin might be a possible carcinogen, meaning that it could cause cancer. In 2000, however, the U.S. National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences determined that the studies linking saccharin to cancer in laboratory rats were not applicable to humans.
Aspartame is sold under a number of different product names, and like saccharin, it is used to sweet diet soft drinks and candies. Although it is 180 times as sweet as sugar, it is not suitable for baking because it loses much of its sweetness when heated. Additionally, this artificial sweetener has a slower onset and longer taste duration than that of sugar. Many people consider this aftertaste to be a significant drawback to using aspartame.
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that is heat stable. It is made from real sugar, unlike many of the different artificial sweeteners commonly used. This makes it a great choice for baking cakes, cookies, and other sweet treats. The makers of this artificial sweeter caution that it may not work as well as expected in recipes where the function of the sugar is to enhance structure, texture, or volume; promote carmelization and browning; or act as a preservative for canned goods. In this case, the proportions of other ingredients in the recipe must be altered to achieve the desired results.
While artificial sweeteners can be a useful tool for people hoping to lose weight or manage their blood glucose levels, consumers should keep in mind that these substances should not be consumed in large quantities. In addition, the mere fact that artificial sweeteners are used in a product does not make the item low in calories or high in nutrients. A well-balanced diet, with a moderate amount of sweetened treats, is the best way to stay healthy.