The Good, the Bad and the Sweet

A packet of Sweet'N Low, Splenda, and Equal

A couple of weeks ago we tackled the myth that brown sugar was healthier for you than white. Inevitably comments came in regarding alternative sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose (the main ingredient in Splenda), asking if these were the answer since obviously sugar, brown or white, seemed to be unhealthy. Currently, in the nutritional world this is a hot topic.

The average person seems to believe that aspartame is actually worse for us than sugar because of the many undocumented claims that the consumption of aspartame is related to numerous health risks. Rest assured ALL of these health risks have been investigated and dismissed by governments and major health food safety organizations.

Alternative or artificial sweeteners provide non-caloric or very low calorie sugar substitutes for people with diabetes and those trying to lose or control body weight. Alternative sweeteners yield little or no energy when consumed and do not cause dental cavities compared to sugar. As mentioned above, many consumers use artificial sweeteners in the belief that it will help them lose weight, but do they? There is evidence that artificial sweeteners are associated with weight loss, however, several studies have reported that sweeteners may have the reverse effect and even stimulate appetite and in the process lead to weight GAIN. And to make matters even more confusing, other studies show no correlation between consumption of sweeteners, hunger, food intake, or body weight at all…I know bizarre.

Going back to aspartame - scientific evidence has shown that the use of aspartame is safe for most individuals; however, the FDA has received reports of adverse reactions such as, headaches, dizziness, seizures, nausea and other side effects. Although the percentage of people affected is very small, if you are unfortunately one of these sensitive people try to avoid aspartame.

The take away message:

  1. Alternative sweeteners are safe.
  2. The relationship between artificial sweeteners and weight control is unknown.
  3. You should be trying to reduce your overall sugar intake in general, whether that is brown, white, or artificial. Here are some suggestions: at the supermarket read ingredient labels, in the kitchen experiment with spices such as cinnamon as a sugar substitute to enhance the flavor of foods as a sugar substitute, and at the table reach for fresh fruit instead of cookies for desserts.

Image courtesy of bookgrl