Posts Tagged ‘non-nutritive sweeteners’

For decades, controversy has persisted about the safety of non-caloric sweeteners (NCS). For many who attempt to lose or maintain weight, they are a god-send. Organizations, such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Diabetes Association, and American Heart Association, support their benefits in weight-loss. Through the years many artificial sweeteners, for example cyclamates, have come and gone. Today, the most recognizable NCS include pink packets of saccharin (Sweet’N Low®), blue packets of aspartame (Equal®), and yellow packets of sucralose (Splenda®).

The public’s first experience with artificial sweeteners began soon after the discovery of saccharin in the late 1880s. Its use became widespread during the sugar shortage of World War I. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of aspartame in 1981 and sucralose in 1998.

Periodically, groups or individuals claim that non-nutritive sweeteners cause harmful health conditions. A 12-week study in 2008 found that sucralose reduced helpful bacteria in the intestines and limited benefits of certain oral drugs in rats. More recent reports, many based on the 2008 research, state that sucralose is carcinogenic and alters blood-glucose. Numerous health professionals disagreed with the findings and claim that critical areas of the initial study were flawed.

Research published in September 2014 looked at potential health problems with the artificial sweeteners aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin. The study concluded that all three sweeteners may elevate blood-sugar levels in some people but not others, possibly release cancer-forming properties when heated, and affect helpful bacteria in the gastrointestinal track. However, even the researchers cautioned that their results were not conclusive enough to make recommendations on consumption of artificial sweeteners. That did not keep the media from spreading the word that non-nutritive sweeteners were unsafe. The “Food Insight” blog, published by the International Food Information Council Foundation, summarized what many nutrition professionals expressed about this study. The author, Matt Raymond, compared the research to “a big nothing-burger with an extra helping of skepticism. . . served up with warmed-over hysteria.” In other words, it was a sensational news story with little to no helpful information.

How do NCS affect weight? One study maintained that compared to sucrose (sugar), saccharin and aspartame caused more weight-gain. However, a review of numerous studies from 1976 to mid-2013 found that those on NCS lost more body weight than control groups who used regular-calorie sweeteners. Substituting non-nutritive sweeteners for sugars did not cause weight gain, and researchers concluded that they may prove helpful in weight loss or weight maintenance programs.

Are artificial sweeteners helpful or harmful? Most health professionals support using artificial sweeteners to help control weight. Until researchers conduct longer, more conclusive studies, enjoy your favorite artificially-sweetened foods with confidence you are safely consuming fewer calories.







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Water, often referred to as the “gold standard” beverage for weight loss, has no calories. This ideal beverage provides numerous health benefits. Will it help you lose weight?

Studies from Germany at the turn of this century found that water increased metabolism—the rate the body burns calories. However, results were minimal and had little effect on weight. In a later study, participants who drank two cups of water right before a meal ate from 75 to 90 fewer calories than the control group. All consumed a low-calorie diet. After twelve weeks, those who drank water before mealtime lost 15.5 pounds compared to 11 pounds for those who didn’t drink water before meals. The reason for more weight-loss may be simple. Those who filled up on water may have experienced less hunger, and therefore they ate fewer calories.

Do other non-caloric drinks serve the same purpose? A 12-week study comparing water and beverages with non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) found that those using NNS lost significantly more weight than the group who drank water. Participants drank at least 24-ounces of either beverages with NNS or water. Researchers allowed the NNS participants to include additional water as desired but restricted the water group from beverages with NNS. Both groups ate a low-calorie diet. While those who used NNS lost more weight, they also benefitted from a side effect of lower total cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol.

Recent posts on electronic mailing list (EML) by experienced registered dietitians claimed that clients who substituted beverages with NNS for those with sugar lost weight. Should we stop drinking water and switch to NNS? No. Water serves a viable health purpose and the jury remains out on the overall health effects of NNS.

What should you do? While water remains the “gold standard,” other non-caloric beverages are acceptable in helping to lose weight—coffee and tea served without sugar or drinks sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners. The main objective is to increase fluids while decreasing sugar. Try it. It works.

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