Artificial Sweeteners: What you need to know

By Deepshikha Agarwal

Published: Thu 4 Mar 2021, 5:30 PM

“Sugar causes weight gain and has lot of calories.” This notion formed the basis of almost every other diet plan, followed by weight watchers. Then artificial sweeteners came into the picture, and quickly gained popularity among people, as a much-needed dose of sweetness, with little to no calories. For instance, one can of soda has 150 calories and a can of diet soda has minimal calories.

But food is not just about calories, it’s also about nutrients and the impact they have on our bodies. Food is information that our body receives. Artificial sweeteners may be low in calories, but there are other aspects one needs to be mindful of while consuming them in abundance.

Artificial sweeteners like saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium and sucralose are 400-500 times sweeter than sugar. So, if these sweeteners are consumed frequently, they can lead to overstimulation of sugar receptors. This can decrease our tolerance to other tastes. People who regularly use artificial sweetener tablets in their food may start to find other foods that are not as sweet less appealing, and unsweet foods, such as vegetables, totally unpalatable. Over a period of time, you can also get more inclined to liking artificially flavoured foods, avoiding healthy, high-fibre, nutritious foods. Many people who consume sucralose for a long time have observed frequent bloating and gas formation, as it hampers the growth of good bacteria in our gut, disrupting gut health. So, for anyone with digestion problems, I would recommend you to include natural sugars in the diet rather than these artificial sweeteners. Children below three years of age and people having phenylketonuria should not consume aspartame.

At times, these artificial sweeteners can also impact our mental well-being. After all, these are no magic pills. For example, a person might think that since they are having Diet Coke, they can include other sugary treats in their diet, loading up on extra unwanted calories from other sources. Artificial sweeteners can be used to bring high blood sugar levels in check but are not suitable for long-term weight loss. Some studies have said that artificial sweeteners tend to increase one’s sweet cravings, leaving them hungry more often. This can not only overstimulate insulin secretion but also cause more calories to be converted into fat and be stored in the body, leading to weight gain. However, there is still a lot of scope for research to be done in this field of study.

Lastly, artificial sweeteners can be as addictive as sugar. So, there is no harm if we include a natural food group in our diet and don’t go overboard on that ingredient. An average adult, without any medical problems, can consume two teaspoons of sugar per day, without hiking the body weight. Sugar consumed from natural sources is a perfectly healthy option — from fruits, vegetables and dairy. This will not only help you get other nutrients but will also keep your hunger and blood sugar levels in control. So, using natural sugar alternatives is better than artificial ones. Even in the case of diabetics, keeping a balanced diet, regular exercising and keeping a watch on the carbohydrate intake, can allow you to enjoy your favourite foods without losing control of your blood sugar levels. You do not have to take support of artificial sweeteners or opt for any deprivation diets, to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

We can’t ignore the fact that artificial sweeteners have studies backing their safety, but it is important to remember that table sugar has centuries of chemical safety studies behind it. So, everything just boils down to one thing — your mindful choices, when it comes to food and nutrition.

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