Artificial sweeteners, which is the best option?
Artificial sweeteners are designed for those who want to reduce their sugar intake or find an alternative to refined or natural sugars. In Mexico, though there’s a high percentage of people living with different types of diabetes, the population in general loves sweets. What would be better than having sweets that maintain their sugary taste but without the actual sugar? Artificial sweeteners allow people with type 2 diabetes to indulge in their guilty pleasures without worrying about blood sugar spikes.
Few calories and a lot of sweetness
Obesity and some heart conditions, which are linked to developing type 2 diabetes, are directly related to the consumption of large amounts of sugar. The use of sweeteners with few or no calories could be a good option. However, these little packets aren’t suitable for everyone. Pregnant women, breastfeeding women, children, people suffering from migraines and epilepsy are susceptible to the adverse effects that this type of products can cause.
Different sweeteners approved for use
Health Canada recognizes the use of aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, and sugar alcohols (polyols). Stevia leaf and its crude extracts are not considered to be food additives but are considered as food ingredients. For this reason, there is no mandatory requirement for their review and approval prior to use in food.
- It was discovered and used for the first time in 1879, it has been used in food and drinks for more than a century.
- It is 200 to 700 times sweeter than table sugar and it doesn’t contain calories.
- It causes controversy regarding toxic effects and its connection to cancer (especially bladder), obesity and increased body weight.
- It was approved for the first time for use in 1981.
- It is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar and contains calories.
- You can reduce its sweetness in preparations that involve long cooking or baking time.
- People who suffer from phenylketonuria (PKU), the inability to split the amino acid phenylalanine, cannot consume products containing aspartame. Because of this, beverages and foods containing aspartame must state it on their labels.
- Also known as Splenda and is considered a general purpose sweetener for beverages, gum, baking and frozen dairy products.
- It was approved for the first time for use in 1998.
- Approximately 600 times sweeter than sugar.
- Unlike other substitutes, it is stable when heated and can, therefore, be used in baked and fried products.
- In December 2016, a study was published which warned about the effects of sucralose on thyroid function, appetite increase and weight gain. This research was carried out in rats.
- It is the only non-caloric sweetener made from sugar and considered the only substitute for zero-calorie sugar.
Stevia and steviol glycosides (purified stevia extract)
- It is a natural sweetener extracted from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana bertoni.
- It’s 200 to 400 times sweeter than sugar.
- Stevia sweeteners are safe. The maximum allowable intake, of Steviol, is 4 mg/kg of body weight.
- In general, these packets are mixed with another type of sweeteners, mainly polyalcohols, which can cause gastrointestinal discomfort if consumed in excess.
Beware of the dose
Although scientific opinion is quite divided, it is important to promote the consumption of natural foods and only use sweeteners when necessary and at the lowest concentration possible, whether they are natural or artificial sweeteners, with or without calories.
It is not only about counting calories, but to take care of the quality of the food. Be an informed consumer and be sure to read the labels; there are many products that misrepresent their makeup of their contents and add sugar or mix of two or more substances.