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Are Artificial Sweeteners Bad For You?
There is a lot of controversy over the dangers of using sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners such as Sweet N Low (saccharin), Splenda (sucralose), Nutrasweet, Equal (aspartame), to name a few. -ones. Women, especially, always eager to lose a few pounds, tend to prefer the use of these products in their tea or coffee or to consume products containing them. Before you grab a bundle or toss all your unused ones in the trash, let’s look at the facts.
The term sugar substitutes can be confusing. Some labels may carry the word “natural” when the product has been processed or refined, as in the case of Stevia. Some artificial sweeteners may be derived from sucralose, which comes from sucrose or sugar, as in the case of Splenda.
Artificial sweeteners are widely used in a number of processed foods, including candies, sodas, chocolate, jams and jellies, puddings, and dairy products. Some can leave a telltale aftertaste in your mouth, so you may have to try a few to find your favorite.
The benefits of artificial sweeteners
Weight control – the main attraction of these sweeteners. They have no calories, compared to a teaspoon of regular sugar which has 16 calories.
Diabetes management – artificial sweeteners do not raise blood sugar like sugar does, so they can be a good alternative to sugar. However, due to ambiguous ingredient labeling, you should consult your doctor or dietitian before using these products.
Health issues with artificial sweeteners
Cancer – this has been the number one concern with the use of artificial sweeteners since the 70s when a study linked saccharin to bladder cancer in rats. Subsequently, all products containing saccharin had to carry a warning that it was hazardous to health. Later studies found there was no scientific evidence that artificial sweeteners cause cancer, and the warning was removed. Artificial sweeteners have received GRAS (Generally Considered Safe) approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which says they are safe to use in limited amounts, even for pregnant women.
Sugar alcohols – these occur naturally in fruits and vegetables, but can be manufactured. Sugar alcohols aren’t used at home, but they are found in processed foods, such as chocolate, frozen desserts, chewing gum, mouthwashes, and toothpaste. These sugar alcohols are lower in calories than regular sugar and less sweet, making them an attractive sugar substitute. However, they can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Sugar alcohols do not contain ethanol.
From the above, it may seem that artificial sweeteners are largely harmless if consumed in moderation. However, a recent study undertaken by Susan E Swithers, professor of behavioral neuroscience at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, found that consumption of artificial sweeteners can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases. Researchers have found that the use of artificial sweeteners interferes with pleasure centers in the brain, tricking the body into thinking it’s getting sugar and calories when it’s not. As a result, the brain will inhibit the release of important hormones like GLP-1 which helps regulate blood sugar, food intake and also has cardio-protective benefits.
The American Beverage Association refuted these claims by Ms Swithers, calling it an opinion piece and not a scientific study. They say artificial sweeteners have been shown to be safe and effective in weight management. Ms Swithers countered by saying her paper had been published in a scientific journal which regularly publishes articles from expert scientists like her.
These include date sugar, maple syrup, honey, and molasses. Are they healthier than artificial sweeteners or regular sugar? They are promoted as such, but they often undergo processing and refining. The use of sugars, natural or not, can lead to obesity, tooth decay and increased triglycerides. Even honey can lead to botulinum toxin and should not be given to children under one year old. So-called low-calorie foods, including some “sugar-free” foods, may contain calorie-laden ingredients that can lead to weight gain. Your best option is to choose whole fruits and vegetables and avoid processed foods as much as possible.
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