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CNN LIVE TODAY

Daily Dose: The Sweet Life of Sugar Substitutes

Aired February 11, 2004 - 11:39   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: You might say Americans are living the sweet life, but eating too many sweets can lead to some bitter consequences.
In our "Daily Dose" of health news, our medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, looks at the sugar substitutes available to satisfy the country's craving for sweets.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Americans, it seems, have an insatiable sweet tooth. In fact, on average, most consume 20 teaspoons of sugar daily. Besides leading to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease, sugar is bad for a low- carbohydrate diet.

So, many people on the Atkins or South Beach diets have turned to artificial sweeteners to get their sugar fix. And riding high on the new demand: Splenda. It comes from sugar cane and is a no-calorie, no-carbohydrate sweetener. Known also as Sucralose, Splenda is supposedly 600 times sweeter than sugar and is the only artificial sweetener promoted by Atkins.

Of course, you now have a lot of choices when it comes to your sweeteners. There are four other FDA-approved sweeteners out there. The oldest is saccharin, which has been around for more than 100 years. Two hundred to 700 times sweeter than sugar, questions still linger about the artificial sweetener packaged as Sweet & Low, and whether it might cause cancer. The FDA has not found any evidence of that, although at high levels saccharin did cause bladder cancer in male rats.

Aspartame -- that's the sweetener in Equal and NutraSweet -- has also come under fire over the years because of rumors on the Internet about potential links to brain tumors. Again, the FDA stands behind the safety of the product.

However, aspartame should not be used in a small segment of the population with a rare hereditary disease known as phenylketonuria, or PKU. That is why products with aspartame must contain a warning label.

A less well-known product is a sulfame potassium, also called Sunett. It is often combined with other sweeteners and widely used in baked goods, frozen desserts and candies.

And if that wasn't enough, there is the newest sweetener to hit the market called Neotame. It is up to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar, also made by the NutraSweet Company.

There are lots of choices out there to help limit your sugar intake, which doctors say should be no more than 10 percent of your total calories, no matter how sweet your tooth.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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