Substitutes for sugar: Are They the Answer to Better Nutrition and Eating?
Sugar is frequently blamed for a variety of health problems, including obesity and diabetes. Does this imply that the solution to better eating is to use sugar replacements and sweeteners?
Simply put, the answer is NO!
Let’s have a look at why.
What is the difference between sugar replacements and sweeteners?
Each sugar substitute differs somewhat. However the basic concept remains the same:
sugar alternatives provide the same sweetness as sugar but without the calories.
Many ‘diet’ or ‘light’ beverages, baked items, yogurts, and chewing gum contain them. Sugar substitutes are commonly referred to as “sweeteners” and they are regulated to assure their safety.
The following are some examples of common names:
• Stevia extract
Because these sweeteners are many times sweeter than sucrose (sugar), a lesser amount is required to produce the same sweetness. This may cause some people to feel that artificial sweeteners are a healthy alternative.
Let’s look at how sweeteners compare to sugar:
It has long been established that additional sugars are harmful to one’s health. Even while there is less concrete proof in the case of sweeteners, we are overlooking a larger issue. Sweeteners have lesser or no calories as compared to sugar, but they both should be consumed in moderation. They do not provide any nutrients.
So, what does the research say?
Due to their low calorie content, sweeteners have gained popularity as dietary supplements. Artificial sweeteners, according to research, appear to be linked to an elevated risk of several chronic diseases, similar to those associated with sugar consumption. Some of these sweeteners have also been linked with poor gut health. Furthermore, there is no clear and consistent evidence that sweeteners actually lower weight or obesity rates.
Sweeteners appear to have many of the same effects as added sugars. The majority of studies have identified a link between artificially sweetened beverage consumption and weight increase. Another study recently discovered that people who drink diet sodas on a regular basis have a significantly higher risk of developing the diseases that these sugar substitutes are intended to prevent (such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and stroke).
The use of sweeteners in children could be hazardous in some ways. This is due to the fact that exposure to sugary meals throughout childhood can alter taste well into adulthood. Frequent consumption of high-sugar or artificial-sugar foods can change food choices, resulting in higher sugar consumption later in life. Sweetener-containing foods are deficient in nutrients and can interfere with proper growth and development during childhood and adolescence.
Sweeteners may also cause metabolic dysregulation by interfering with the gut flora. Finally, research in children and adults has demonstrated that artificial sweetener consumption (which has no calories) can lead to overconsumption of sweet food (which has calories) when added sugar is ingested later.
Last but not least
Sugar substitutes and sweeteners have little nutritional benefit. At the end of the day, it’s all about moderation. We should limit our use of both. Rather than focusing on which foods are the least unhealthy, try focusing on which foods are the most nutrient-dense.
In case you need a professional help, you can contact Kanupriya Khanna, a Senior Consultant Nutritionist and Dietitian, having more than 18 years of experience. She is one of the best dietitians in Delhi if you are looking for nutritional advice.