I am going to discuss Aspartame (AKA Equal, NutraSweet, Sugar Twin, Sweet'N Low) and Sucralose (AKA Splenda) because they are the sweeteners that are used most and are found in a lot of products at the grocery store. What do they have in common? Well they are both sweet, come in packets or granulated form and are added to foods like yogurt, cereal, low calorie desserts, chewing gum as well as beverages.
Why would a person want to use them? Both Aspartame and Sucralose do not increase blood sugars so they are popular with diabetics. They also don't have any or very few calories so when they replace sugar the calorie content is decreased (i.e. 140 calories in a can of Coke vs. 1 calorie in a can of Diet Coke). This makes them popular with those people who are trying to lose weight or watch their weight. Neither tastes just like sugar, I tend to think Sucralose tastes better, less bitter. The nice thing about Sucralose is that you can bake with it, Aspartame's flavour changes when heated. The Sucralose bag says it measures cup for cup like sugar, but in my experience it is sweeter than sugar. I have used 2/3 of a cup of Sucralose to replace 1 cup of sugar with good results.
Are they safe? Well this is where the crazed Internet warnings come in....MS, lupus, Parkinson's disease, brain tumors, bladder cancer, the Vancouver riots all caused by sweeteners! Both Health Canada and the FDA have deemed Aspartame and Sucralose as safe, even in pregnancy. I know that some people would still like to believe that Health Canada and the FDA are embroiled in some sort of conspiracy with the makers of these sweeteners to somehow poison us all, but I just don't buy it. The scientific evidence just isn't there.
The acceptable daily intake (ADI) for Aspartame is 40 mg/kg/d of body weight, so a 110 lb person (there are 2.2 lbs in a kg) could safely have 2000 mg of Aspartame per day, which is equivalent to about 10 cans of diet pop. The ADI for Sucralose is 9 mg/kg/d of body weight so the same 110 lb person could have 450 mg of Sucralose per day or 37 packages.
So a package of Splenda in your tea, no big deal. Well, as long as you don't have more than 37 cups.
Still not convinced they are safe then don't use them, but please stop forwarding the crazy Aspartame = death emails to me.