If you’re looking for the best protein powders without artificial sweeteners (like sucralose), you’re in the right place.
We’ll cover the basics about what artificial sweeteners are and why you should avoid them. If you aren’t interested in all of that, you can skip down to see Alter’s Ultra Clean Whey and our other recommendations for the best whey protein powder without sucralose by clicking here.
What is an artificial sweetener?
Simply put, an artificial sweetener is a molecule that is chemically manufactured that does not occur in nature. They are often called sugar substitutes, noncaloric sweeteners, or high-intensity sweeteners.
The first artificial sweetener (saccharin) was discovered in 1879 by accident by Constantine Fahlberg during a food additive study, but was not used regularly as a sweetener until post-World War I.
There are currently only six high-intensity sweeteners approved for use by the FDA: acesulfame K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, and avantame.
Each of these five artificial sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than natural sugar (sucrose) and they do not contain any food energy (calories). Per the FDA, “high-intensity sweeteners also generally will not raise blood sugar levels”.
Artificial sweeteners are sweeter than sugar, do not contain any calories, and will not raise blood sugar levels. Sounds all good right? Then, what are the drawbacks or protein powders with sucralose and other additives?
Why choose a protein powder without artificial sweeteners?
Acesulfame K contains the carcinogen, methylene chloride. Long term exposure to this carcinogen could cause as severe effects as depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver effects, kidney effects, visual disturbances, and cancer in humans.
Unfortunately, the FDA has not required additional long-term testing and as a result, there may be a lack of long-term studies completed on the effects of acesulfame K.
In 1997, saccharin was removed the National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) list of potential carcinogens. However, in response to this compound’s removal, the by the Center for the Science in Public Interest (CSPI) responded with a letter including the following statement.
“It would be highly imprudent for the NTP to delist saccharin. Doing so would give the public a false sense of security, remove any incentive for further testing, and result in greater exposure to this probable carcinogen in tens of millions of people, including children (indeed, fetuses). If saccharin is even a weak carcinogen, this unnecessary additive would pose an intolerable risk to the public. Thus, we urge the NTP on the basis of currently available data to conclude that saccharin is ‘reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen’ because there is ‘sufficient’ evidence of carcinogenicity in animals (multiple sites in rats and mice) and ‘limited’ or ‘sufficient’ evidence of carcinogenicity in humans (bladder cancer) and not to delist saccharin, at least until a great deal of further research is conducted.”
First, aspartame does get metabolized, which means that when it is ingested, it does not get excreted in the same form. This is the primary reason why it cannot be consumed by people with the metabolism disorder, phenylketonuria (PKU).
Ever see this warning on your diet soda labels?
There were two studies published by Italian researchers that suggested that very high doses of aspartame might increase the risk of some blood-related cancers in rats. Although, the FDA and the EFSA have challenged these results.
In addition, multiple claims have been made that aspartame may be related to health effects ranging from mild problems such as headaches, dizziness, digestive symptoms, and changes in mood, to more serious health issues such as Alzheimer disease, birth defects, diabetes, Gulf War syndrome, attention deficit disorders, Parkinson disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and seizures. However, studies done to date have not found any consistent evidence of harm.
Sucralose, an artificial sweetener that’s usually known as Splenda, is currently one of the most popular artificial sweeteners on the market. What could be better than a sugar substitute with zero calories?
While monitoring caloric intake is helpful to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you’re missing the point if you go straight for a sugar substitute simply because you’ve been told that sugar is the enemy. The truth is, sucralose isn’t worth the switch, and here’s why.
What Science Says: Your Body’s Response to Sucralose
It’s been twenty years since the FDA approved sucralose for use in food, and within those twenty years, numerous negative effects have come to light. In 2005, the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio conducted a study on the health risks posed by consumption of artificial sweeteners in general, and the results were surprising to many: the subjects who drank diet soda were much more likely to gain weight than those who drank naturally sweetened soda.
More recently, an article written by K. R. Tandel in 2011 was published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics, entitled “Sugar Substitutes: Health Controversy Over Perceived Benefits.” The article revealed the cause of this excessive weight gain: When sucralose is ingested, an insulin response is induced as a result of the sweet taste (which is 600 times sweeter than natural sugar). Blood sugar is then stored in tissues to make room for more, but since the level of sugar in the blood isn’t actually increasing, the result is hypoglycemia and increased food intake to make up for it.
In essence, sucralose disrupts the body’s natural processes. The body can digest sucralose in small doses, so the occasional Splenda won’t hurt you. Over time, however, repeated false triggering of the insulin response results in increased appetite, craving for carbohydrates, and ultimately, a change in the way your system responds to sugar.
Gut Health and Cooking with Sucralose
Your digestive tract is lined with what’s termed as “beneficial bacteria,” which help speed the digestive process along and contribute to a healthy immune system. However, recent research has shown that regular consumption of sucralose can destroy as much as 50% of that beneficial bacteria, leading to a weaker immune system and poor digestion.
In 2013, a report by Dr. Susan Schiffman and Kristina Rother revealed the results of studies investigating the dangers of cooking with sucralose. Again, despite FDA approval of the sweetener, the results of these newer studies showed that cooking with sucralose at high temperatures produces toxic compounds linked to cancer.
In an interview with former Harvard Health Editor Holly Strawbridge, Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity and weight-loss specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, answers the following question: If health concerns surrounding sucralose are so numerous, why is it still FDA-approved? Dr. Ludwig explains that the doses of sucralose (and other artificial sweeteners) tested by the FDA were minimal — not even close to the amount consumed on a daily basis by diet soda drinkers, for example. The long-term effects of consuming such large quantities of sucralose have not been tested, but given the red flags evident in the short term, it’s safe to say that substituting sucralose for sugar on a regular basis is questionable at best.
The alleged symptoms (shown through animal testing) associated with sucralose are gastrointestinal problems, skin irritations, chest pains, palpitations, anxiety, anger, moods swings, and depression.
Neotame is chemically similar to another sweetener, aspartame, which may allow for similar side effects.
It has been identified that there are over 100 scientific studies to support the safety of neotame, but they are not publicly available.
Those opposing neotame claim that the studies do not address the long-term impacts of this artificial sweetener.
Advantame is the newest FDA-approved high-intensity sweetener, approved in May 2014.
Like many of the other artificial sweeteners in this list, there are no studies documenting the long-term effects on the human body.
For many, the most disturbing claim regarding artificial sweeteners is the fact that they are linked to weight gain. This is one key reason why so many people are seeking protein powder without artificial sweetener or stevia. They want the benefits of protein shakes, but aren’t in a position where they’re willing to risk stalling their weight loss.
The greatest allure to using artificial sweeteners is the absence of calories. If you are preserving calories for a diet, your goal is likely to either lose or maintain your current weight.
Research has been conducted since 1970 linking the consumption of artificial sweeteners to weight gain.
The Nurses’ Health Study in 1970 found weight gain over an eight-year period in women using saccharin.
In the 1980s, the American Cancer Society found that after one year, women gained upwards of 7.1% more weight when they used artificial sweeteners versus natural sweeteners.
If you are interested in learning more about protein supplements for women, click here.
How do they sweeten protein powders without artificial sweeteners or stevia?
There are two main types of natural sugars. The first are sugars extracted from natural plants or fruits. Some of the more common natural sugars include: brown sugar, sugar cane, honey, coconut sugar, agave, maple syrup, and stevia.
The second category and much more common when used in the manufacture of protein powders without artificial sweeteners are sugar alcohols.
What are sugar alcohols?
Contrary to their name, sugar alcohols are neither sugars nor alcohols. They are carbohydrates with structures that only resemble sugar and alcohol.
Sugar alcohols, or polyols, contain fewer calories than sugar. Sugar provides 4 kcal/gram, and sugar alcohols provide an average of 2 kcal/gram (range from 1.5 kcal/gram to 3 kcal/gram).
Foods that contain sugar alcohols can be labeled sugar-free because they replace full-calorie sugar sweeteners.
Sugar alcohols have been found to be a beneficial substitute for sugar for reducing glycemic response, decreasing dental cavities, and lowering caloric intake.
Sugar alcohols naturally occur in many fruits and vegetables but are most widely consumed in sugar-free and reduced-sugar foods.
The sweetness of sugar alcohols varies from 25% to 100% as sweet as table sugar (sucrose).
The following table lists the details on each of the sugar alcohols.
There are many different types of whey protein isolate powders that are unsweetened and unflavored. In an effort to provide you with the best protein powders without artificial sweeteners, this list only includes whey protein powders that are flavored.
Alter Whey Ultra-Pure Raw Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate has the highest rating on Amazon of each of the protein powders without artificial sweeteners of our recommendations. At the time of the articles, every review has received 5 out of 5 stars and there is no surprise why.
In addition to most of the reviews highlighting the clean, creamy, almost dessert taste, this protein powder packs 27 grams of protein in every 30 gram serving, with only 115 calories!
In addition to not containing any artificial sweeteners, this protein powder does not contain any hormones, antibiotics, GMOs, lactose, casein, gluten, sweeteners, flavors, fillers, microorganisms, heavy metals or contaminants.
If that wasn’t enough for you, due to the cold-filtration formulation of the blend, this protein has been designed to mix easily by hand, making Alter Whey’s Ultra-Pure Raw Grass Fed Whey Protein Isolate a top choice for those looking for high quality protein powder.
You can’t have a top protein powder list without mentioning the Gold Standard of Optimum Nutrition. ON has been a force in the whey protein market since they were acquired by Glanbia in 2008.
When you buy ON whey protein in bulk (5 lb. containers) you can get great value at only 3.5 cents per gram of protein, making Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard the best value on the list.
In addition to such great value, with over 20 different flavors to choose from, ON reminds you why they are truly the Gold Standard in whey protein powders.
If you are looking for a protein powder without artificial sweeteners that tastes great and is lower calorie, then look no further than Bio-Sport USA Absolute ISO.
If you really want to go low calorie, pure bulk whey protein isolate is the way to go, but most of time, they are unflavored. Bio-Sport USA now offers a delicious strawberry banana flavor to go along with that pure protein.
At only 104 calories per 25 gram serving, this protein powder is almost pure, with no sugar or additives and a great taste that will work with any protein regiment.
CytoSport Muscle Milk is definitely one of the easy to find, most recognizable protein powder brands on the market today.
Muscle Milk is well known for being some of the most delicious protein blends on the market, and this protein powder packs creatine for extra muscle growth and recovery.
Being so readily available, CytoSport’s Muscle Milk has cracked this top list by being one of the most affordable and best chocolate whey protein powders at a price of less than $10 per pound.
Last, but certainly not least a bonus whey protein powder, Optimum Nutrition’s 100% Natural Oats and Whey.
We’ve already told you the benefits of ON’s why protein and their presence in the protein market as being one of the more favorable blends to buy, but now you can get your all natural whey protein with oats.
Yes! ON’s 100% Natural Oats and Whey protein powder blend contains all of the protein you need (24 grams) with an added bonus of 4 grams of dietary fiber for added health benefits.
Why wouldn’t you go with a supplement that can benefit not one, but two key health needs in one serving while still delivering that great taste without any added artificial sweeteners.
Now that you’ve picked out your protein, take your health game to the next level by checking out the best blenders for protein shakes.