Artificial sweeteners have both pros and consWhen something with no calories claims to taste just as good as regular white sugar, it can be a dieter’s dream.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
When something with no calories claims to taste just as good as regular white sugar, it can be a dieter’s dream.
The thought of cookies, cupcakes and brownies being that much healthier means a person can have three instead of just one, right?
Well, although there are some positives to sugar substitutes, there can be negatives as well. And sometimes it can be hard to know which outweighs the other. Even dietitians differ on whether they approve of artificial sweeteners.
“If you ask our outpatient dietitian, she is against them. My take would be they’re OK in moderation,” Fairview Red Wing Medical Center registered dietitian Liz Knapp explained. “Each person’s a little different.”
Knapp suggests individuals decide whether the low-calorie products are right for themselves.
Weight control is widely seen as one of the most appealing aspects of artificial sweeteners. Since weight loss is all about calories in versus calories out, drinking a diet pop with no calories is going to produce better results than a regular pop containing eight teaspoons of sugar.
“It’s a great way to control calories,” Knapp said of consuming sugar substitutes over sugar, adding that she also drinks things with artificial sweeteners because of the calorie content.
Still, Knapp said that moderation should always be kept in mind: She doesn’t recommend downing a 12-pack of pop every day, artificially sweetened or not.
For people with diabetes, artificial sweeteners can make for a good alternative to sugar because they are not carbohydrates and generally don’t raise blood sugar levels. Diabetics may benefit from replacing sugar with Equal in their morning coffee or with Splenda in their baked goods.
“A lot of my friends that are dietitians encourage cooking with Splenda,” Knapp noted.
Another perk of avoiding regular table sugar: Cavities aren’t nearly as much of a concern when using substitutes.
“Unlike sugar, artificial sweeteners don’t contribute to tooth decay,” Mayo Clinic staff reported.
Although eating artificial sweeteners means taking in fewer calories, that doesn’t necessarily mean losing weight is on the horizon.
“Sugar substitutes aren’t magic bullets for weight loss,” Mayo staff said. “Some research has suggested that consuming artificial sweeteners may be associated with increased weight, but the cause is not yet known.”
One theory is that people know they aren’t taking in any extra calories by drinking a diet cola, so they figure it’s OK to eat more as part of their meal — but they end up eating many more calories than would be found in a can of pop.
Also, Knapp said research has suggested there’s something in artificial sweeteners that triggers the response of hunger.
“It’s kind of like the brain saying that it’s satisfied, but then later you have increased hunger,” she explained.
Knapp also said that artificial sweeteners result in headaches for some people because their body doesn’t put up with them.
“It’s truly on an individual basis of tolerance,” she said.
Another possible negative of the sugar substitute involves critics saying it causes a variety of health problems, including cancer. The concerns stem from studies done in the 1970s that linked saccharin, an artificial sweetener, to bladder cancer in laboratory rats.
However, the National Cancer Institute and other health agencies reported that there’s no evidence that any artificial sweeteners approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States cause cancer.
Knapp said she doesn’t necessarily encourage or discourage artificial sweeteners because she doesn’t feel the research that’s been done provides enough evidence to officially say whether they’re good or bad.