Sugar substitutes have been around for decades. Today, there are more than ever to choose from. Popular zero-calorie sweeteners include: saccharin (sold as Sweet N Low), aspartame, acesulfame K, sucralose (Spenda), and stevia. Even though there are no calories, the tastes are thousands of times sweeter than table sugar. For years, non-calorie sweeteners have been marketed as a healthy alternative because they have less calories, but the numbers are showing a relationship between the percent of people using artificial sweeteners, the amount of products containing those sweeteners, and the obese population.
How does this work? Well, we are so incredibly made! When the tongue tastes sweet, a signal is sent to the brain. The brain sends a message to the pancreas that sugar is on the way. The pancreas then releases insulin (which plays an important role in body fat accumulation.) While all this is happening, signals are sent to the brains satiety center. The center becomes confused as to whether or not the body is receiving calories. What happens next is really cool.....
The result of all this confusion going on in our body is increased hunger, satiety decreases, insulin spikes and the brain tells the person to eat more, which, of course, leads to weight gain.
Here's the breakdown on the stuff:
Saccharin--man made sweetener is 200-700 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar); scientific studies in the 1970's raised concerns that saccharin could be carcinogenic.
Aspartame--used in sodas, gum, cereals, supplements, jams, sweets, vitamins, prescription drugs, and over the counter medications like Alka Seltzer Plus; aspartame contains methanol that breaks down to form formaldehyde and formic acid, which is carcinogenic and mutagenic. The EPA defines safe consumption of methanol as 7.8 mg per day, which is about a 1/2 can of diet soda.
Acesulfame K--was approved in 1988 as an artificial sweetener, yet most people are unaware of its presence in their food and beverages. Exposure for a long period of time can lead to headaches, liver complications, mental confusion, cancerous developments, visual impairments and renal diseases.
Sucralose--the active ingredient in Spenda is 600 times sweeter than sucrose. Marketing sells it as made from sugar so it tastes like sugar. It starts out that way anyway, but during the chemical process, the alteration composition is converted into something entirely different. Our body can not digest it, making it a zero-calorie food. Heres the real story: Researchers have found that the unmetabolized sucralose passes right through the body and into sewage treatment centers, out into the ground waters looking the same as it did in that cup of coffee.
Stevia--an extract that is a natural sweetener and is 300 times sweeter than sugar. It was approved in 2008 as a sugar substitute and considered safe by the FDA.
Here is the bottom line:
- Natural is better than chemical.
- Sweets derived from fruits and nature are better than processed sugar or artificially sweetened foods.
- Read what is in the food...if it is not recognizable, then choose something else.
Health-bite: stick with natural sugars