Anyone that’s on a weight loss program, or is simply trying to eat a healthier diet, will tell you that sugar-filled foods are high in calories. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that naturally sweetened foods are usually off the charts when it comes to their total calorie count. Sugars, despite being high in calories, are also considered empty calories – devoid of any real nutritional value.
They may satisfy our sweet tooth, but the benefits, for the most part, seem to end right there. By consuming too many of these sugar-rich foods we inevitably place ourselves into higher risk categories for weight gain, diabetes, tooth decay, and obesity. Knowing this, we end up looking for sugar substitutes as a way of satisfying our urges, while still keeping the calories low.
All of this makes perfect sense, but are these artificial sugar substitutes really the best alternatives? Are they safe? And if not… what can you do about it? What choices do you have?
What Are Artificial Or Synthetic Sweeteners?
Understanding artificial or synthetic sweeteners can be confusing because of the liberties taken in the actual definition to begin with. Generally, the accepted meaning of an artificial sweetener is any sweetening additive used as a replacement for sucrose or regular, granulated sugar.
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However, some of these sweeteners come from synthetic sources and some don’t. Also, some of these sugar substitutes have no calories, while others do. Regardless, the common consensus is that the use of these additives will help us to lose weight when we use them as sugar replacements. On the face of it this seems to make sense, but the research is conflicting and the results may surprise you.
Artificial sweeteners require FDA approval before being sold to the public for consumption. The five that have current approval are:
- Splenda (sucralose)
- Sweet and Low, Sugar Twin (saccharin)
- SweetOne, Suneta (acesulfame potassium)
- Nutrasweet, Equal (aspartame)
The Pros Of Using Artificial Sweeteners
- Reduced Calories: Because of the increased amount of sweetening per gram, these substitutes can cut the total calorie count dramatically. This is a benefit when looking to control weight gain.
- Reduced Risk Of Diabetes: Consuming higher than endorsed amounts of natural sugars can increase your risk markers for diabetes. FDA approved artificial sweeteners do not contribute to this risk.
- Reduced Tooth Decay: Another plus for the artificial sweetener team. Everyone knows that too much sugar can lead to cavities and other dental problems.
The Cons Of Using Artificial Sweeteners
- Cancer Concerns: A higher incidence of bladder cancer was found in laboratory rats when given high levels of aspartame. Other artificial sweeteners have created health problems linked only to laboratory animals as well, but none reached the notoriety that aspartame received.
Eventually, after rigorous testing, the FDA deemed these substances as safe, with numerous studies on human subjects corroborating these findings. Despite the green light given for its use, there are a number of scientists questioning the controls used in the studies, as well as some of the assumptions on which the conclusions were based.
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- Possible Weight Gain: I’m sure you’re asking how that’s possible. Several university studies showed that control group participants actually consumed foods with higher calories because of an over-reliance on foods with no natural sugars. In other words, just because a food source has an artificial sweetener, doesn’t mean that it is low in calories. You have to read the entire label.
Take a Closer Look at the All Natural IsaLean Shake from Isagenix
Isagenix are a company that take pride in only using premium quality, natural ingredients. Take their IsaLean Shake for example, and you’ll find no artificial ingredients at all. Although natural alternatives may cost more, Isagenix didn’t want to compromise the quality of their product by using synthetic ingredients.
Making Sense Of All Of This
It would seem that moderation, and looking at the total caloric and nutritional make up of what you eat, is the safest and smartest way to go. Healthy eating requires us to limit our intake of natural sugars, for all the reasons stated above. However, on the flip side of this, I don’t feel completely comfortable with synthetic, chemical substitutes for daily consumption either.
Science should certainly be considered with respect, but any time the outcomes of controlled laboratory tests have billion dollar consequences, my gut tells me to be somewhat guarded with the results. Cut back on your natural dietary sugars and only consume artificial sweeteners once in a while. By doing this, you will be eating healthily and reducing calories without resorting to a daily substitute of any synthetic substance.
We also recommend reading our blog post, The Truth About Artificial Sweeteners, which explains more about the reasons why these products should be avoided.