Trying to cut calories? Contemplating a healthier way of eating? Or got a mid evening craving?
Often the scariest part of being on a healthy diet is avoiding sugar: the ‘sweet evil’ that is not only calorie dense and nutritionally void but also a proven contributor to our much prevalent obesity and diabetes epidemics. Enter artificial sweeteners, ‘diet’ drinks and ‘sugar free’ products. With such wide array of sugar alternatives available in the market; rendering a sweet touch to our diets with fewer calories may seem to be an easy trip. However gimmicky marketing hypes, conflicting safety studies and swirling rumors about associated health risks complicate matters and make it hard to know which ones really are the best sweeteners.
So for chocolate cravers, diabetics, dieters and health conscious, here is the real deal about the good and bad guys of the ‘sweetener’ world. Go ahead and look beyond the hype to make an informed choice.
Perhaps the oldest and most common of all artificial sweeteners is aspartame (sold as Equal and Nutra sweet). WHO and numerous safety studies have shunned the aspartame’s link to cancer and considers it safe for use, the only exception being for people diagnosed with phenylketonuria (PKU), growing children and pregnant women. Aspartame is 180-200 times sweeter than sugar and only a small amount is enough to satisfy the sweet tooth. Repeated use of aspartame on a long term basis may lead to migraine headaches, seizures, memory loss and dizziness.
With a bitter, metallic aftertaste and stability only at low temperatures, saccharin happens to be 300 times sweeter than sugar. Though, its popularity has been marred with controversies, linking it to bladder cancer, the recent studies show that it is only the heavy saccharin users (six or more servings of saccharin or two or more 8-ounce servings of diet drink daily) who may have “some evidence of an increased risk of bladder cancer. Consumption of non nutritive sweeteners such as saccharin in moderation helps to reduce the total calorie consumption without eliminating the sweet foods completely.
Sucralose or Splenda :
Sucralose is an extremely versatile high intensity sweetener that doesn’t get dissolved in the body. It is simply a modification of the sucrose molecule i.e. a chlorinated version known as tri chloro galacto sucrose and retains its sweetness over wide range of temperatures. Studies have shown that sucralose does not cause any rise in blood glucose levels and is available in the market under brand names like Splenda , Zero and Sugarite.
Read about the natural sweeteners, stevia, sugar alcohols and the final verdict in Sugar Substitutes Compared: Part II
Written by Panchali Moitra, originally published in B Positive Magazine, Jan 2015