We've all seen those advertisements on TV that promote sugar substitutes. Whether it's an actress who claims to have found fitness after trying some form of sugar substitute or a testimonial of some man who claims to be healthier after consuming them, we've all been manipulated into believing that sugar substitutes can be rather healthy for us. But what if we told you that's not the case at all? The health department in the government of Canada released new guidelines this year which stated that zero-calorie or low-calorie sugar substitutes are not necessarily helpful to us.
"Sugar substitutes do not need to be consumed to reduce the intake of free sugars," the guidelines say, adding, that because "there are no well-established health benefits associated with the intake of sweeteners, nutritious foods and beverages that are unsweetened should be promoted instead." Now, before you jump to any conclusions, let's first see what classifies as sugar substitutes. Some substitutes are high-intensity sweeteners that are at least 100 times as sweet as sugar. Others contain low calories and can be classified as low-calorie sweeteners.
A number of food items contain artificial sweeteners and the one termed as aspartame is found in more than 6000 items. Foods like light yoghurt, diet sodas, protein bars, chewing gum and carbonated drinks contain the highest amounts of artificial sweeteners. Now, not only do these have zero advantages for our health, certain studies conducted even found that it was linked to a higher risk of death as well as death from heart disease. Researchers now wonder whether artificial sweeteners should be recommended at all.
Canadian health officials have come up with a solution which requires people to slowly start giving up artificial sweeteners. They believe that in time people's taste buds will get used to consuming less sweetened products. Talking about the same, a nutritionist said, "To a certain extent, as a community, we can take the high road about beverage recommendations: Drink water (or flavored water) in place of [sugar-sweetened beverages]. However, continuing this simple approach would be disingenuous because we know that it has not worked well in the past and there is little reason to expect that it will work well in the future."
"For some people, I suspect the use of high-intensity sweeteners is helpful in avoiding excess energy intake. For others, it might not be helpful," she added. "What we know about artificial sweeteners is for sure that they are not necessary. On a population basis, they do not seem to help people lose weight, but they may help some individuals. So, both approaches are valid. Personally, I follow a food rule not to eat anything artificial, so these sweeteners are off my dietary radar," added another renowned nutritionist.
Well, while this debate will continue for quite some time, it would be best to try and cut out sugar substitutes from your diet completely. Stay tuned for more updates.