The Debate over Sugar Substitutes

sweet n lowThe first artificial sweetener, Saccharin, was actually discovered in 1876 by accident when a research team was researching something totally unrelated. However, it didn’t make it to market until the 1950s when it was hailed as a boon for those trying to loose weight as they could give up table sugar (sucrose) and its calories. Being 300 to 500 percent sweeter than sucrose, it only took a drop in your coffee rather than several teaspoons to get the desired sweetness – that is if you could get past the bitter aftertaste.

Cancer Scare

A study in 1960 claimed that high levels of saccharin caused bladder cancer in rats. In 1977, Canada banned its sale based on the U.S. animal research. The U.S. however, rather than banning the substance, delayed the ban and instead called for a warning label on the substance packaging and directed that more research be conducted.

Eventually, further research showed that the cancer danger did not translate to humans. Based on critical differences between species that take place in the bladder, the threat of cancer to humans was misplaced. However, the damage was done and several countries still ban the substance.

Other Sugar Substitutes

Since the appearance of saccharine, there have been numerous artificial sweeteners created. The sugar substitutes Sucralose (Splenda), and aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), are artificial sweeteners. The more recent to market stevia (Truvia) and mogrosides (Nectress, made from monk fruit) are derived from plants and are considered to have a natural basis, rather than something created in a laboratory. Although Truvia and Nectress are naturally derived, they are generally lumped in with artificial sweeteners simply because they are not “sugar.” Most sugar substitutes are many times sweeter than regular table sugar. Stevia, for instance, is 250 times sweeter than sucrose.sweeteners

Other substitutes include maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol and many others. Maltitol and sorbitol are often present in mouthwash, toothpaste and foods that are “no sugar added.” Xylitol is what is usually added to sugarless gum because aside from having no calories, it also prevents cavity causing bacteria from sticking to teeth.

Sugar Substitute Debate

Few people would argue about the benefits of non-caloric sugar substitutes. Although mostly touted as a weight loss tool, they are highly beneficial to diabetics as it allows them to enjoy sweets without worrying about sugar levels in their blood.

To date, the biggest debate over sugar substitutes is about their safety for human consumption. Detractors question the ability of the human body to process food products containing ingredients created in the laboratory, or overly processed natural products, without there being negative health consequences.

So far, medical information has not proven any derogatory or cancer causing effects of sugar substitutes. Aspartame has been the most widely studied and tested of all food ingredients up to this point. Time after time however, peer reviewed articles and independent government regulatory bodies continue to find that aspartame is safe.

Possible Cause of Weight Gain

Although attempts to show that sugar substitutes are the cause of disease, there is growing belief that it may actually cause weight gain rather than help people to loose weight.

diet cokeThe epidemic of obesity in the U.S. that is contributing an upswing in coronary heart disease, may bear out this belief. Although people have the capacity to consume fewer calories with the proliferation of sugar free, calorie free, sweeteners, they are apparently consuming more, leading to obesity and resultant heart disease.

The effects of sucrose (table sugar) on the body are well documented, but the effects of sugar free sweeteners are not. Current research is showing that sugar free sweeteners produce the same responses as sucrose, but without the same results. Sweetness triggers an increase in insulin production, along with hormones that trigger a feeling of fullness and reward, along with the release of dopamine. When the promised calories repeatedly don’t come along, the body stops responding the way it should, thus increasing the desire for more food that will produce the desired results.

At Miami Integrative Medicine we can help you better understand how food and nutrition can affect your health and wellness. With the right diet and moderate exercise, you can reduce or eliminate your need for sweeteners of any kind. With the combination of general internal medicine, complementary medicine and effective cardiology, good health can be achieved. Contact us today for a consultation. Dr. Bordenave, a triple board certified physician in Internal Medicine, Cardiology and Integrative Medicine, will be pleased to have you visit.

Published by Axiom Health Care Marketing


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *