Sugar is in everything from drinks to deserts to even ketchup. But with the rise of obesity in the US, many have turned away from sugar and are consuming artificial sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners are substances that are used instead of sucrose (sugar) to sweeten foods and drinks. They are many times sweeter than regular table sugar, up to 8,000 times sweeter, which is why only small amounts are needed. Sugar substitutes can be found in any food or drink marked “sugar-free” or “diet”, including soft drinks, chewing gum, baked goods, candy, fruit juice, and ice cream.
While they may be low in calories, they’re not necessarily safe. Scientific carcinogenicity studies (studies on whether or not a product may cause cancer) of certain artificial sweeteners have been done. These studies haven’t proven that artificial sweeteners can cause cancer and clear evidence has not been provided to show that this is true.
Some may think that certain sugar substitutes are better than others because the label on the package reads “natural”, but beware! Manufacturers can call their product “natural” as long as it is derived from a natural substance, such as the artificial sweetener Sucralose (commonly known as Splenda) which is just heavily processed sugar. This means that a sweetener may be called natural, like the newly popular zero-calorie Stevia, but it wouldn’t normally be found in nature and has been processed or refined.
Sugar substitutes can also be labeled “safe” to sell and consume. This means that it has been approved by the FDA to be generally safe only when consumed in limited quantities. Just because they are labeled “safe” still does not mean that they are. The FDA can approve an artificial sweetener to be safe for sale and consumption only because it has been around and used in foods and drinks for a long period of time.
If you’re trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain by cutting down on sugar intake, products that are sweetened with artificial sweeteners rather than regular table sugar may actually make you gain weight. Scientific studies on this are currently being conducted and the cause is not yet known.
While consuming artificial sweeteners may be tempting because of the low-calorie benefits, there are still healthier options available. If eating sugar just isn’t your thing, try sweetening your snacks with honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar. These options are healthier than sugar and artificial sweeteners, plus they’re all natural, which is the best thing for your body!