The Sweet Truth: Exploring the Link Between Whey Protein and Artificial Sweeteners
The majority of popular whey protein brands contain high-intensity sweeteners in addition to real sugar. This is to improve taste and palatability. However, for those who prefer to avoid artificial additives, there are whey protein products that use natural sweeteners or are unsweetened. When purchasing whey protein, reading the product label carefully is very important.
What are Artificial sweeteners?
“Artificial sweeteners” are nothing but sweetening agents or substances synthesized synthetically. They appear as sugar substitutes because they are non-caloric and high-intensity sweeteners. Sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and stevia extract are the most commonly used sweeteners in whey protein. They are thousands of times sweeter than table sugar. For example Sucralose is up to 600 times sweeter than table sugar.
Is Whey Protein with Artificial Sweeteners Safe?
Sweeteners approved by the FDA are safe for the general population under certain conditions of use, according to available scientific evidence.
Six sweeteners are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use as food additives that includes Aspartame, Saccharin, Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), Advantame , Sucralose & Neotame
In addition to the six sweeteners listed as food additives, the FDA reviewed GRAS notices for three types of plant and fruit-based high-intensity sweeteners like certain Steviol Glycosides derived from stevia plant leaves (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni (Bert).
Siraitia grosvenorii extracts Swingle fruit, also known as Luo Han Guo or monk fruit
Thaumatin (a class of intensely sweet basic proteins isolated from Thaumatococcus danielli fruit.
What is the safe limit of sweeteners?
For each of the six sweeteners approved as food additives, the FDA established an acceptable daily intake (ADI) level. An ADI is the amount of a substance that is considered safe to consume each day during a person’s lifetime. The ADI in milligrams per kilogram body weight per day (mg/kg bw/d) for the sweeteners are as follows
50 mg/kg bw/d
Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K)
15 mg/kg bw/d
5 mg/kg bw/d
0.3 mg/kg bw/d
32.8 mg/kg bw/d
15 mg/kg bw/d
12 mg/kg bw/d
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The Joint Food and Agricultural Organization/World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) established an ADI for steviol glycosides. Monk fruit or thaumatin have not been assigned an ADI.
Relationship Between Artificial Sweeteners in Whey Protein and Metabolic Health
Scientists discovered that artificial sweeteners have a powerful negative effect on the bacteria that naturally inhabits the human digestive tract . While these creatures normally help our metabolism and other functions, evidence suggests that artificial sweeteners can alter this normally beneficial behavior. When exposed to artificial sweeteners, gut bacteria extract more calories from food than usual and can even increase the amount stored for fat. [Source]
It is important to remember that a substance may be completely harmless when it enters your body but then produces harmful byproducts. Aspartame, an artificial sweetener, is a prime example of this. Aspartame is a relatively simple compound composed of two amino acids and methanol. Our body makes good use of the amino acids, but methanol is problematic. When the body breaks down this substance, it produces two toxins: formaldehyde and formic acid. While these substances are naturally present in the body at low levels, it doesn’t take much for concentrations to rise above what our body can handle.
Moderation is essential in all aspects of life! While there are some potential side effects, they are usually associated with excessive consumption. In conclusion, whey protein, a popular dietary supplement, often contains artificial sweeteners to enhance taste. While some individuals may prefer natural sweeteners or unsweetened options, it’s crucial to carefully read product labels when making a purchase decision. Regulatory bodies such as the FDA consider certain artificial sweeteners safe within established acceptable daily intake (ADI) levels. However, concerns about the impact of these sweeteners on metabolic health have been raised, as studies suggest they can negatively affect gut bacteria and potentially lead to altered calorie extraction and increased fat storage.
It is essential for consumers to be aware of the potential effects of artificial sweeteners and make informed choices based on personal health preferences. Additionally, understanding the relationship between sweeteners and metabolic health underscores the importance of a balanced approach to nutrition and consideration of potential byproducts that may arise in the body.