Have you started to add artificial sweeteners to your diet?

You are most probably trying to reduce the sugar and calories in your diet and might be turning to artificial sweeteners or other sugar substitutes as a healthier alternative.

You are not alone!

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Nowadays, artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes are found in a variety of food and beverages; marketed as “sugar-free” or “diet,” like soft drinks, chewing gum, jellies, baked goods, candy, fruit juice, ice cream and yogurt.

What are all these sweeteners and how do they affect your health?

According to a 2006 survey, 60% of U.S. women use artificial sweeteners daily and 50% drink diet soda. But while saccharin, aspartame and sucralose contain hardly any calories, one glance at them leaves you wondering if they’re doing us any good.

What are the most common artificial sweeteners?

The main sweeteners and sugar alcohols used are the following:

Artificial sweeteners – Acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One), Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), Saccharin ( Sweet’N Low), Sucralose (Splenda)

Sugar alcohols – Maltitol, Sorbitol, Xylitol, Mannitol

Novel sweeteners – Stevia (Pure Via, Truvia)

Natural sweeteners – Agave nectar, Date sugar, Honey, molasses, Maple syrup

The downside of saccharin and sweet n low- used in toothpastes and diet soda – is the bitter, chemical aftertaste.

Equal or NutraSweet, contain slightly less bitter tasting aspartame: 180 x sweeter than sugar. A little goes a long way: A can of Diet Coke supplies less than 1-calorie from aspartame, while the high-fructose corn syrup in Coca-Cola Classic packs 160.

Splenda, made from sucralose. Used in ice cream, sauces, and jellies.

Can these chemical concoctions really be good for you?

A handful of scary studies back in the ’70s linked saccharin to increased rates of cancer in rats; there’s little evidence that artificial sweeteners cause problems in humans.

One exception: A 2001 study found that aspartame can trigger head pain. Experts believe that the phenylalanine in aspartame has a negative impact on neurotransmitters.

You might believe that artificial sweeteners, which don’t cause blood sugar spikes, would lead to slimmer middles. Not necessarily so according to a 2004 study in the International Journal of Obesity. By offering our bodies sweet diet drinks but giving them no calories, we crave real sugar even more. Substitutes may not signal the same satiety hormones as sugar, making it easier to overeat.

Most nutritionists agree that you’ll end up healthier and more satisfied eating a few squares of chocolate after lunch than feasting on artificially sweetened foods all day.

natural sugars vs artificial sweeteners_2

As for Stevia, 30x sweeter than table sugar but without calories, originating from Latin America, it maybe one of the safest choices.

Other natural alternatives include: coconut palm sugar, barley malt syrup, brown rice syrup, agave nectar, maple syrup and raw honey but may not save on calories.

Are there any benefits of artificial sweeteners?

One benefit worth mentioning of artificial sweeteners is that they don’t contribute to tooth decay and cavities. As for honey, it would be best to limit your use to less than one teaspoon per day.

According to the National Cancer Institute and other health agencies, there’s no sound scientific evidence that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use in the U.S. cause cancer or other serious health problems in limited quantities.

The FDA has established an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for each artificial sweetener. This is the maximum amount considered safe to consume each day over the course of your lifetime. ADIs are intended to be about 100 times less than the smallest amount that might cause health concerns.

Be aware of the drawbacks when taking artificial sweeteners

Natural sweeteners often promoted as healthier options than processed table sugar or other sugar substitutes. But even these so-called natural sweeteners often undergo processing and refining, including agave nectar.

Natural sweeteners are generally safe but offer no health advantage to consuming any type of added sugar. When choosing sugar substitutes, get informed and look beyond the hype.

Given that so many people have an affinity for sweets,you have to be cautious when choosing an alternative; some may actually be worse for you than the real thing.

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