Today, various foods and drinks are marketed as “diet” or “sugar-free.” What are these artificial sweeteners and what roles are they playing in your diet? The Science of Sweetness seminar, presented by Dr. Tony Macioce on Feb. 5 at the Marcovich Wellness Center, discussed the differences in natural sugars and sweeteners versus processed and chemically induced sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes that are derived from naturally occurring substances such as herbs and sugar itself. Sweeteners, such as aspartame, are found in processed foods like baked goods, soft drinks, powdered drink mixes, candy, canned foods and dairy products as well as other foods and beverages.
Diet foods and drinks are promoted to help clients lose weight, but artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose are counteractive. The effects of diet products contribute to a number of minor symptoms such as headaches, poor balance, indigestion and mood swings, to more serious health issues such as diabetes, attention deficit disorder and Parkinson’s disease.
“Aspartame kills brain cells and causes collateral damage,” Dr. Macioce said. “The higher the glycemic index, the more the products will contribute to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
So what do you do about it?
Many people who are health conscious rely on natural sugars/sweeteners. Using natural sweeteners prevents against harmful chemicals entering your system and there is a variety of options available that are safe enough for diabetics to consume. Naturally based sugars provide antioxidants and help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. The most popular forms of natural sweeteners are fruit, sweet vegetables and stevia.
“Stevia is an herb, won’t raise your glycemic index and is a great additive for tea/coffee,” Dr. Macioce said.
Many people who are diabetic or are trying to lose weight often turn to artificial sweeteners, but aren’t aware of the risks involved. It is important to make yourself aware of all the options available, including natural and low calorie choices.