Please Explain: Artificial Sweeteners

Friday, July 13, 2012

Artificial sweeteners are thought to be a billion dollar industry. On today's Please Explain, Dr. Maudene Nelson director of Community Outreach at Columbia University Institute of Human Nutrition, talks about how these non-sugars work. We'll find out about artificial sweeteners and low- and no-calorie sugar substitutes like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose and why they still taste sweet on the tongue.


Maudene Nelson,

Comments [28]

kevin from upper LS

this is classic WNYC,you'll have a show explaining artificial sweetners. but, you would not dream of having a program, on healthy natural sugar alternatives such as brown rice sugar,agave,or stevia!

Jul. 14 2012 12:10 PM

If most people read the "possible side effects" of these artificial sweeteners they wouldn't be using them.

Jul. 13 2012 07:21 PM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

@Robin Mckay

Right on!

Jul. 13 2012 02:20 PM
Robin Mckay

I couldn't believe my ears to listen to the guest on your show proclaim that she prefers the taste of processed, chemical, artificial sweeteners in her beverages to sugar. Her promotion of agave as a low glycemic sweetener is purely misinformation. It has the same level of glucose as high fructose syrup, something she also promotes as safe in moderation. As the commercial says "sugar is sugar". Given a choice it is my belief that it is best to eat as close to the source whole foods as possible. To prefer chemical, processed food in one's own diet and advise others professionally to eat this way not only feeds into the system that encourages unhealthy eating but does a tremendous disservice to the people who seek out nutritional advice for your guest.

Jul. 13 2012 02:12 PM
Andrea from Jersey City

Is it safe to eat artificial sweeteners during PREGNANCY?

Jul. 13 2012 01:57 PM

My cousin used to work for a large chemical firm and told us never to drink diet soda that had been left in the sun, because the sweetener became dangerous after exposure to light. I believe that he was referring to nutrasweet, which was the most recent sweetener at the time.
Has the guest ever heard anything about how the sweeteners react to environmental factors?

Jul. 13 2012 01:57 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I'm surprised to hear that the iron content of molasses is only 1% more than that of sugar (if I understood the statement right). The label on my molasses bottle says there's 20% of the DV for iron in a tablespoon.

Jul. 13 2012 01:56 PM
Oscar from New Jersey

I have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)and I've read that I should avoid all of these artificial sweeteners.

Jul. 13 2012 01:54 PM
Karen Bronchetti from Jackson, NJ

Why does Stevia give me (and my sister) a small headache?

Jul. 13 2012 01:54 PM
Elaine from Elaine

I heard sucrolose is made using a process involving chlorine. Is that dangerous?

Jul. 13 2012 01:53 PM
Thom from brooklyn

I've heard of a connection between splenda and DDT, can your guest clarify?

Jul. 13 2012 01:52 PM
Danielle Jensen

what about the chemicals in these artificial sweetners-a friends daughter who is a chemist told her these chemicals cannot be broken down by the body and are very harmfu to esp the liverl(i am kind of paraphrasing). my friend no longer will buy diet soda. I also heard a md lecturing on nutrition say something similar.

Jul. 13 2012 01:52 PM
Keith Trumbo from NYC

Possible to sum up all this information for guidance?

Jul. 13 2012 01:50 PM
Amy from Manhattan

The Center for Science in the Public Interest calls sucralose (Splenda) the only artificial sweetener that gets a "safe" grade based on adequate lab testing (although I think they recently added neotame). Can Dr. Nelson comment on this?

Jul. 13 2012 01:50 PM
Kate from Washington Heights


Jul. 13 2012 01:49 PM
Jennifer from Connecticut

Can you speak about the side effects of sweeteners? I get migraines when I drink diet soda with great frequency.

Jul. 13 2012 01:48 PM
Elaine from Baltimore

a combination of xylitol & erythritol is pretty good & doesn't have the weird cooling effect of plain xylitol. I find Stevia has the same after taste as the fake stuff.

Jul. 13 2012 01:48 PM
Howard from Buenos Aires, Argentina

Cyclamates were never banned in Argentina, where I live, and I drink a beverage with them. Do you consider them safe?

Jul. 13 2012 01:46 PM
Howard from Buenos Aires, Argentina

Cyclamates were never banned in Argentina, where I live, and I drink a beverage with them. Do you consider them safe?

Jul. 13 2012 01:45 PM
Kate from Washington Heights


Jul. 13 2012 01:43 PM

Isn't it true that we really dont know what eating and drinking chemicals do to us, and rather than saying diet soda in moderation is ok...rather we should say it may or may not be harmful, but it certainly is not good for you and could be horrendous. We really dont know why people get a variety of diseases.

Jul. 13 2012 01:42 PM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

IMHO artificial sweeteners are crap and I stay away. Period.

Jul. 13 2012 01:39 PM
Phil from Brooklyn

My wife was experiencing a host of unexplained symptoms including skin rashes breast tenderness irritability etc. We were afraid it was due to any number of conditions, and it took us many months to determine that they were being caused by sucralose it is in many products including toothpaste. Avoiding Splenda has fixed everything.

Jul. 13 2012 01:33 PM
Peter from Paramus

Is Xylitol any healthier to use?

Jul. 13 2012 01:30 PM
Robert from NYC

I don't know if any of the newer sweeteners are any better but starting with saccarin I have to say over the years I have not found one that doesn't have that dreadfully horrible aftertaste. I must say even recently I bought a diet (unbeknownst to me) lemon soda with an artificial sweetener. I never read the bottle nor had the slightest idea that it had the artificial sweetener in it but as soon as I got a taste of it in my mouth I spit it out and emptied out the two bottles and threw they out. None of these artificial flavors cut it for me. I want sweet without a horrible after taste. Are there any of those? I doubt it!

Jul. 13 2012 01:30 PM
Molly from NYC

Just use plain Stevia. Simple. Anything commercially produced is crap, why would you put that in your body?

Jul. 13 2012 12:58 PM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from Bk

Hundreds of thousands of animals were killed in the testing of Splenda. The same holds true for the other sugar substitutes. All of this dictated by a false sense that by assuring the public that dosage was tested on nonhuman animals that humans would be safe.

Jul. 13 2012 12:42 PM
sandra from nyc

1. I simply use LESS real sugar rather than ANY artificial sweetener. Is this healthier? Can a diabetic do the same?

2. Please talk about the benefits and/or horrors of "DIET" soda!!! Thanks!

3. Even though they are not artificial can you mention the effects of stevia & agave
as compared to the artificial sweeteners health wise. What about the dreaded fructose?

Maybe you can have another segment on THESE sweeteners! : )

Jul. 13 2012 10:16 AM

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