Health & Nutrition

March 28, 2011

Yellow, blue or green – which artificial sweetener is better?

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Which one do you use?

It was usually on cold winter mornings when I would wake up to the call of “Tabby (usually pronounced TAFF-y) hotcakes!  I’d walk in a daze to the cold kitchen and instantly wake to the sounds of sizzling butter and the smell of cooked batter.  Pancake time!  Papa as everyone called him (Grandpa) never measured and did everything by sight and taste. A true chef, in my opinion.  I’d sit at the kitchen table in front of the window with my back to the front door and eagerly wait for my plate.  Piled three high with goblets of butter in between and the bottle of syrup beckoning my name. Too young for coffee, I’d have my Ovaltine in the morning with one pink packet.

I was told it was sugar and, why not? It was pink like the big 10 lb bag that sat in the cupboard.  It tasted sweet and made drinking my hot chocolate a pure joy!

I loved those little packets and today there are quite a few to choose!  Pink packets, blue packets, yellow packets, etc.  When I was told to use the blue packets – I did.  When the yellow packets came out and I was told those were better – I switched.  But did I really understand what I was consuming?  Not really and nor did I really care.  It looked like sugar. It tasted like sugar so was one any different from the other?

Yes. Some are hailed as more natural because they derive from plants and others are molecular manipulations.  Everyone has a preference. Mine is Splenda because it is a variation of sucrose (table sugar) and it is not digested or absorbed; therefore, having no affect on blood sugar levels.

But, do you know what you’re reaching for and how much is too much?


According to The Sugar Association, 95% of consumers are not aware that there is an official Acceptable Daily Intake for artificial sweeteners.  I didn’t…until now:

I normally put two packets of Splenda in my coffee every morning and considering that each packet is 1 gram does this mean my daily intake should be one packet?  Should I be worried?

I’m just not sure.  The ingredient list on the back of a Splenda packet indicates that sucralose is the last, therefore the least ingredient; however, the label does not indicate how many milligrams of sucralose is in one gram of Splenda.

To answer my own questions I had to dig a little deeper and found a 2006 study for the American Council on Science and Health, Sugar Substitutes and Your Health.  The study reconfirmed that the standards an articificial sweetener has to meet prior to receiving FDA approval are pretty rigorous. “Even when aspartame is consumed in unusually large (but physically possible) amounts, adverse health effects do not occur,” according to the study.

So what about the others? What about my sucralose? According to the International Food Information Council Foundation, in 100 studies over “…20 years of research have shown sucralose to be safe.”  Also, according to the National Cancer Institute, “…studies of other FDA-approved sweeteners have not demonstrated clear evidence of an association with cancer in humans.” and WebMd make the same references.

Last, the 2004 American Dietetic Association’s position on sweeteners found, “In a multicenter, double-blind, placebo controlled, randomized study, sucralose at 3 times the maximum EDI [estimated daily intake] for 3 months had no significant effect on glucose homeostasis in individuals with type 2 diabetes.”

So am I going to worry?  No, because twenty years of research has shown it to be safe.  However, I would still like to know the exact amount of sucralose in my Splenda packet. 

Wouldn’t you?

In the meantime, I’ll try to cut back on sweeteners just like I have on salt.


Additional Resources:
Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer
Everything you need to know about Sucralose
Facts about low-calorie sweeteners

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14 thoughts on “Yellow, blue or green – which artificial sweetener is better?

  1. I have never been a huge fan of artificial sweeteners. I really like agave syrup for my sweetener in my tea. It tastes good in coffee too!

    1. It’s funny I’m used to honey for me tea and it tastes just right. When it comes to coffee I need just something a bit sweeter. Although after my research I am trying to cut back and slowly transition over to black coffee, but I’ll try agave and see how I like it. Thanks Molly!

    1. And I can leave the salt behind – in fact I get into trouble on my long runs because I don’t ingest enough salt. Good for you for drinking teas/coffees black! I’ve heard true connoisseurs drink teas/coffees black. 🙂

    1. Thank you. Balance and moderation sound easy but take quite a bit of discipline to practice; especially when we are aware of how much of is “too much”.

  2. What an interesting post. I had no idea that there were daily recommendations for sweeteners. I am slowly weening myself off of artificial sweeteners. I recently gave up diet soda, but I still have a splenda in my oats and coffee. Maybe it’s time to cut back even more.

    1. Thank you Britne. I, too, was surprised to learn there were limits. However, part of the problem is we don’t know how much of the actual chemical is in those 1 gram packets. Which makes it very frustrating. It would be a lot easier if the FDA made it simple and said no more than X packets per day.

      Congrats on giving up diet soda! I’m right there with you in cutting back, slowly but surely! 🙂

    1. I’m trying to cut back on added processed sugar as well. But when it comes to baking, I mostly use Splenda and try to cut the amount in half.

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