Artificial Sweeteners - Are They Safe?

Artificial Sweeteners – Are They Safe?

Sugar Substitutes

I like to consider myself a responsible food blogger; so this topic may create some controversy. I think controversy is good because it generates discussion, hopefully the kind of discussion that is thoughtful and productive.

As I have stated, many times before, I was raised in a household where a meal was not complete without dessert. To this day, I still desire something sweet; however, for better health, I no longer indulge in a daily dessert.

Today when one third of our population is obese and another one third is overweight, I feel a responsibility to generate blog posts that will not exacerbate weight gain. That being said, I still eat sweet things and I blog about those that I like. I do my best to exercise personal restraint and eat sweets in moderation.

Earlier this month, I watched a segment on the Dr. Oz show about artificial sweeteners and the possible hidden dangers of using them in excess. After reading some additional health reports from both Harvard and the Mayo Clinic, here is a brief summary of their findings regarding artificial sweeteners.
Five artificial sweeteners have been approved by the FDA. They are:

  • Acesulfame – used in drinks, gelatins and frozen desserts
  • Aspartame – used in drinks, gum, yogurt and cough medicines
  • Neotame – used in dairy products, frozen desserts, puddings and juice
  • Saccharin – used in canned goods, drinks and candy
  • Sucralose – used in fruit drinks, canned fruit and syrups

Even though artificial sweeteners contain 0 calories, and we think that they are guilt free, they are anywhere from 200 to 600 times sweeter than sugar. Many studies have shown that this is part of the reason that these sweeteners may be adding to the obesity epidemic in this country.

Here’s how:

  • The excessive sweetness leads to over stimulation of the sugar receptors in the brain and the gut.
  • This then leads to over eating many foods that are artificially flavored and lower in nutritional value.  Over eating occurs because the hormones that make us feel full and regulate our blood sugar get out of balance.
  • The over eating leads to weight gain and an increase in the risk for Type 2 diabetes. 
  • Additionally, studies relating to atherosclerosis have found that large consumption of artificial sweeteners increase insulin, blood glucose levels and triglycerides. These increases also elevate one’s risk for dementia, as reported in N. E. Journal of Medicine studies.

Guidelines for Sugar Consumption:
For better health, everyone should reduce their consumption of refined carbohydrates, especially foods that contain the following sugars:

  • Sucrose – aka table sugar
  • High fructose corn syrup 
  • Cane sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Molasses
  • Honey

The American Heart Association’s daily recommendations for sugar intake are as follows:

  • 100 calories of sugar (6 teaspoons) for women
  • 150 calories of sugar (9 teaspoons) for men

Many doctors believe it is best to use natural sweeteners. Dr. Oz suggests using pure maple syrup and or raw honey in order to avoid products that are genetically modified.

 

Raw honey

 

For a list of all the names that the food industry uses for artificial sweeteners, go here.

In summary, what everyone chooses to put in their body is a personal decision. As the evolution of our food changes, new knowledge will hopefully help us all to make well informed choices.

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