Health & Lifestyle

The tug of war between table sugar and sugar substitutes

Most of us are wary of sugary foods that health experts flag as responsible for causing numerous health complications.  It is thus tempting to switch to sugar alternatives which should nevertheless be taken with a grain of…salt. Holly Klamer, a registered dietician helps us choose.

Sugar alternatives are not safe

Sugar substitutes are not harmless. Some are being examined for cancer risks while others are undergoing endless researches. Studies have concluded that certain sugar alternatives have a negative impact on the digestive system, and consequently on the sense and appetite for sweet food. It is still a mystery whether they do help with weight loss. It would be judicious therefore to consume them with the same moderation as with table sugar.

Acesulfame-K and cancer risks

Acesulfame-K is the hidden poison in diet products, such as beverages, that usually boast of being sugar free. Derived from acetoacetamide, it is used with aspartame or sucralose in so-called diet products to give a sweet taste. Research has proven that acetoacetamide causes thyroidal cancer in rats. Nevertheless, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has categorized Acesulfame-K as a safe ingredient while the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) calls for awareness.

Aspartame and saccharin

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is commonly used in food and beverages. It has been proven to cause headaches in people at a higher rate than other artificial sweeteners. But more than that, it is suspected to cause pre-term deliveries as well as cancers. Since the 1970’s, the debate is ongoing as to whether it is related to cancer or not. Health experts are still involved in a tug of war regarding this sweetener. The FDA as well as the European Food Safety Authority dismissed the negative risks outright while the CSPI follow ongoing studies methodically.  Saccharin, for its part, has been linked to cancer in rodents as well though no recommended threshold level has been designated yet.

Sugar substitutes derived from plants

Stevia and truvia, sugar alternatives derived from plants, trigger less controversy. Although they have not been thoroughly studied, initial research has demonstrated that they may help in lowering blood pressure and in stimulating insulin response in patients suffering from Type 2 diabetes in a beneficial way. However, they should be taken only under medical supervision.

Honey and maple syrup

Known as healthy natural sweeteners, honey and maple syrup should be consumed moderately as they do have calories and can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. They are nevertheless packed with nutrients and antioxidants.

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