Sugar Substitutes Must Be Just That

Artificial sweeteners in your beverages are good idea in support of a calorie controlled diet, but only as long as they don’t become an excuse to indulge in other kinds of sweet foods.

This is the bottom line advice from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. Together these organisations have been reviewing the evidence around artificial sweeteners and America’s obesity crisis.

The press release goes like this, “While they are not magic bullets, smart use of non-nutritive sweeteners could help you reduce added sugars in your diet, therefore, lowering the number of calories you eat. Reducing calories could help you attain and maintain a healthy body weight, and thereby lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes.” But here are conditions.

All artificial sweeteners must be used as SUBSTITUTES for added sugars. This means aspartame, acesulfame-K, neotame, saccharin and sucralose and plant-derived stevia are only beneficial if they replace added sugars. Because it is the added sugars that are so strongly linked to obesity, heart problems and type two diabetes.

Sugar Substitutes and Body Mass?

The jury is still out on whether the sugar substitutes help in cutting down carbohydrates and calories in the diet and thereby reducing body mass. Dietitians also feel that people who substitute for sugar at one time may overcompensate with extra ‘treats’ later. It is difficult to tease out the benefits of sugar substitutes because it is dependent upon so many other factors such as where in the daily diet, the foods and drinks containing them fit into the overall eating pattern of each person.

All too often a person watching their weight and calories will select a sugar substitute beverage, only to later ‘reward’ themselves with a treat of even higher added sugar value. This may be psychologically satisfying at the time, but will do nothing to move that person toward a more ideal body shape because they end up adding more calories than they saved with the original sugar substitute idea. Only by dropping the added sugar entirely, can the benefits of the sugar substitute be realized. These additives do not add to blood-glucose levels and can give wider choice to diabetes patients.

The Diabesity Epidemic

Type 2 diabetes is the most prevalent form of diabetes. It is a condition where the pancreas either does not make enough insulin or where the body does not take the insulin up. Diabetes can and often does lead to heart disease and stroke. The risk for diabetes patients is between 2 and 4 times greater than for healthy people. Diabetes is a massive problem in America today with almost 26 million people having the condition. Nearly a quarter of these are probably unaware they have it and almost 2 million new cases are diagnosed each year.

[box type=”important”]The AHA recommend women to eat no more than 100 calories of added sugar daily. More than this and achieving and maintaining a healthy body mass index is very difficult. Thus, the inclusion of sugar substitutes through ‘diet’ products needs to be part of whole calorie strategy for those looking to stick to the AHA recommendations.[/box]

Claire Al-Aufi

Claire Al-Aufi is a contributing author for Hive Health Media who provides updates on health and fitness news.

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