Saccharine: This is the oldest sugar substitute. This artificial sweetener is approximately 300 times sweeter than sugar though often it leaves a bitter aftertaste. The upside of saccahrine is the stability of the molecular structure in high temperature and it does not react with other food's ingredients biochemically. So at the first place I think this will be the perfect substitute for sugar, at least before I read the next article about saccharine indicating that this artificial sweetener if used over a long period of time may give rise to malignant growth. At least the results in the labs on certain animal support such hypothesis. And the United States banned the use of saccharine in 1977. But later experiments from the labs show that no correlation between the malignant growth and the normal usage of saccharine! Scientists said that the malignant growth caused by saccharine on the labs' animal might be induced by ridiculously high dosage of saccharine given to the animal. The dosage of saccharine given in the experiments was hundreds of times higher than normal dose of human consumption. In 1991, the United States had lifted the ban over saccharine.
Cyclamate: Cyclamate is another artificial sweetener. Its sweetness is 30 - 50 times than that of sugar though it is not necessarily linear since for some people cyclamate leaves strong unpleasant or bitter aftertaste make cyclamate less favourite choice as the sugar substitute. The United States banned the use of cyclamate until today but in some 50 countries in the world including Canada, cyclamate is still approved as the sweetener. Some bacteria in the digestive system are suspected to produce cyclohexylamine from cyclamate to give rise to chronic toxicity in some experiments with animals. In the lab, the increase usage of cyclamate also results in the increased incidence of cancer. But later studies in both the UK and the US found that they could not reproduce the same result from such experiments done earlier! However, cyclamate is nowhere to be found here in the Indonesian market and it is enough for me to strike out cyclamate from the list! As simple as that!
Aspartame: The most popular artificial sweetener in Indonesian market. We will find easily products that come with this sweetener in diet products! According to an article I read, in our body, aspartame will be broken down into aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol (this one is highly toxic!). And further breakdown will produce formaldehyde (I remember some time ago in Indonesia there were products of noodles and meatballs or bakso containing this toxic ingredient!). For those who were born with phenylketonuria, aspartame can be a serious hazard to their health! In some experiments there is an indication that there is a relationship between the higher dosage of aspartame and the higher incidence of cancer. However up to now, there are no countries in the world are reported to ban aspartame from the market!
Xylitol: This is considered to be the 'safest' artificial sweetener. The reason is simple, that's because xylitol naturally occurs in the nature especially in some eucalyptic plants and in some berries! Yet more researches still need to be done to ensure the safety of xylitol over a long period of consumption! But for those of you who live in Indonesia and want to get this sweetener, it means you have to pay extra money since the nearest drugstore who sells this kind of sweetener is in Singapore!! Wait a minute! I thought I saw that Xylitol in a local supermarket! Yeah! Don't be fooled, it is Xylitol the gum from Lotte, not the sweetener itself! You get it??
Well, out of four artificial sweeteners outlined above I think I have to stick to aspartame because so far it is the best alternative especially when the availability comes in the first point of the list. It leaves me no choice. What about you people? Do you think it otherwise? Or do you have a better suggestion?
(Written by: Yari NK)