Artificial Sweeteners - Fact and Fiction

New Media Producer: Brad Maglinger

Just about everywhere you go that offers something to drink has the blue and pink. Lou Leasor's glad she takes her coffee black considering all the flak she's heard about artificial sweeteners.

"There is something in the sweetener from my understanding that is not good for the system," says coffee drinker Lou Leasor.

Much of that is overblown says registered dietitian Cari Miller. The pink one, saccharin, has been around for more than a hundred years and carries a warning label. It's been shown to cause cancer in lab rats, but only in mass quantities, what would be the equivalent of 750 cans of soda for a human.

The FDA says it's safe for moderate use in your tea or coffee, but found "suggestive evidence" that it may increase the risk of bladder cancer in people who ingest more than six servings a day.

And now on to blue, aspartame, rumored to cause everything from cancer to Alzheimer's, to seizures and ADD in children.

"None of those have been proven true," says Miller. "If you were to give your children some of those products, you wouldn't want to do it so very often but they would be OK in moderation."

Not because they may get a horrible disease, but because they should be getting more of their calories from fruit, veggies and other nutrient-rich foods.

And then there's yellow, sucralose, a new sugar substitute called splenda. "It's actually made from sugar, it's just not metabolized by our bodies," explains Miller. "There's been no adverse side effects associated with it. Right now, that's kind of the good one to use."

But what's really good, Miller says, is limiting the use of artificial sweeteners to one or two servings a day and getting more water, milk and juice.

With relatively no calories and no links to serious illness, you may think it's OK to guzzle several aspartame-sweetened diet soft drinks every day. But the dietitian says the diet drinks contain other ingredients that aren't so good for you, phosphoric acid for one, which may lead to bone loss.

Again, her advice is to only have one diet soda a day for optimal health.