Posts Tagged ‘Sugar substitute’

Many consider diet drinks as a way to reduce sugar and calories while still enjoying colas and beverages. Is that a good idea?

In recent years, children have more than doubled the amount of diet beverages they drink. Since 2008, adults increased their intake from 19 percent to 25 percent.

But controversy continues. Recent studies of more than 42,000 Americans found that those who drank diet drinks tended to weigh more than those who drank water. Other studies noted that consumers of diet drinks increased their risks for metabolic syndrome (a cluster of factors more likely to result in type 2 diabetes, heart problems, and strokes). But those same participants who drank artificially sweetened beverages and ate a healthful diet were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome than those who consumed a poor diet (18 and 20 percent, respectively).

Compared to regular sugar-sweetened colas or moderate intake of diet colas, drinking diet beverages daily may increase risks for stroke, heart attacks, and other heart-related conditions. In animal studies, artificial sweeteners boosted appetite and food intake—as  yet unproven in humans.

So, are diet drinks good or bad? A study of 33,000 Americans published in September 2012 provided proof for the harmful effects of sugary drinks in certain people. Sugar interacted with genes that affected weight. All of us have a few of those genes, but some have more than others. Those with genes predisposed to weight gain that drank sugary drinks put on more weight, regardless of exercise or overeating. In this study, diet drinks did not increase risks for obesity.

In a 2012 position paper, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics stated that “consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive sweeteners and nonnutritive sweeteners (NNS). . . [as] guided by current federal nutrition recommendations.” (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0014899/ and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0003096/ ).

How does all this information translate for you and me? One study suggested that children replace diet beverages with milk or water. That’s a good thought for all ages, but will we do it?

What we know scientifically at this point is that evidence remains inconclusive. Sugary drinks will cause weight gain, and diet drinks may cause greater risks for certain health conditions.

The wisest choice seems to be moderation. Try drinking fewer sugary and artificially sweetened beverages. With a conscious effort, you can improve your weight and health while researchers continue to seek what is good or bad.

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Just when you thought you were helping the body by substituting artificial sweeteners for sugars, along comes evidence to the contrary.

A 2006 study found that substituting aspartame sweetened products for sugar-based ones resulted in weight loss of nearly a half-pound per week. Food Insight (July/August 2008) reported that “low-calorie sweeteners can be effective for weight management.” But a Purdue University study that same year found that saccharin led to increased appetite and weight gain in rats.

Two recent studies indicate diet colas may increase problems we don’t want. A Texas study of subjects aged 65 to 74 found that over nearly a decade, those who drank diet colas had a seventy percent greater increase in waist size than those who avoided artificially sweetened drinks. When consumption increased to two or more diet colas per day, waist circumference increased 500 percent or five times that of their non-diet drinking friends. Over a span of seven to eight years, diet colas significantly increased the chance of becoming overweight.

How could this be? According to researchers, you can fool the sense of taste, but you can’t fool the brain. Artificial sweeteners confuse the body’s ability to tell when you are full and may trigger appetite. They may also damage brain cells and inhibit feelings of fullness.

A 2004 position paper in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (Vol. 104:2), reported “Nonnutritive sweeteners do not affect glycemic response and can be safely used by those with diabetes.”  Now recent studies refute those findings. The sweet taste of artificial sweeteners may cause the body to produce insulin which blocks the body’s ability to burn fat. Mice fed aspartame in their food for three months had higher blood sugar levels than mice that ate regular food. Other studies have linked diet colas to increased incidences of diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.

What should you do? Like all foods, moderation is the key. Beverages such as unsweetened juice, low-fat milk, or plain ol’ water may be wiser choices. Diet colas contain no nutritive value, and now studies find they may cause harm. Limiting the amount you drink can decrease concerns about the impact of diet colas on health and whether they help your figure or make you fat.






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While many tout either the positives or negatives of sugar, non-nutritive sweeteners create equal controversy. How safe are the contents of those pink, yellow, and blue packets consumed daily by millions?

Opponents of artificial sweeteners consider them worse than sugar and refer to them as toxic and dangerous. Some consider them addictive and claim that they cause the body to crave more sugar. Additionally, a few individuals may be sensitive to certain ingredients in those sweeteners. Accusations of a link between the use of cyclamates, a sugar-substitute of the 1960s, and bladder cancer heightened fear of cancer from all artificial sweeteners. According to the National Cancer Institute, evidence fails to link cancer risks to their use.

 The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved five artificial sweeteners for human consumption.

  • Saccharin, in use for more than 100 years in the United States, is generally regarded as safe (GRAS). Sold as “Sweet and Low”, saccharin is 450 times sweeter than sugar. Moderate consumption appears safe, and more than 100 countries use this sweet substance. While some studies with rats found that saccharin increased appetite and weight gain, other studies failed to confirm increased weight in humans.
  • Aspartame, accidentally invented in the mid 1960s, is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Recognized trade names include Nutrasweet, Equal, and NutraTaste. People with phenylketonuria (PKU), a hereditary disease that can cause irreversible brain damage, must avoid this sweetener because it contains the amino acid phenylalanine.
  • Acesulfame-K, marketed under the trade names Sweet One, Sunette, and Sweet ‘n Safe, is 200 times sweeter than sugar. The “K” represents the chemical symbol for potassium. However, since acesulfame-K passes through the body unchanged, the potassium provides no health benefits.    
  • Sucralose, known by the trade name Splenda, received FDA approved for use in the US in 1998. It is 600 times sweeter than sugar. This unique sweetener, made from sugar derivatives, passes through the body undigested and unabsorbed.
  • Neotame, related chemically to Aspartame, is safe for those with PKU. It is 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar. FDA approved neotame in 2002. It is not packaged under a brand name.

According to the American Dietetic Association, nonnutritive sweeteners are safe when used within the approved regulations. Although many times sweeter than sugar, they yield no calories. When replacing sugar, they lower incidents of tooth decay, lower caloric content of food, and decrease the glycemic index in food. The International Food Information Council maintains that non-calorie sweeteners aid in attempts to control weight. Studies with humans found that substituting Aspartame for sugar-sweetened products resulted in nearly a half-pound of weight loss per week.

For the majority of the population, the five approved sweeteners become a boost to those who need to cut sugar intake and lower calories. As always, use in moderation and enjoy.

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