What Role do Artificial Sweeteners Play in Your Diet?

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.

Image cour­tesy of Miranda Van­der Leest — The Stinger
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