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Use of sweeteners in your day to day life

March 12, 2013

sweetenersIn the global fight against diabetes, here you can learn a little more about sweeteners. Many of us now easily embrace the use of sweeteners in our daily diet while making a tea, coffee or dessert. All of us want to reduce the calorie consumption as well as keep a check on sugar consumption too. Did you know that there are different varieties of sweeteners available in the market today but their intake should be moderate?

Worldwide, it is estimated that there are approximately 371 million people suffering from diabetes and another 600 million are pre-diabetic. Diabetes is very silently killing our children, adults and seniors, and if left untreated can cause irreversible damages to various body parts, like the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and blood vessels. Diabetes is managed with lifestyle reforms, dietary adjustments, proper exercise and medication. While making dietary adjustments, consumption of sugar is usually substituted with other sweeteners.

We suggest avoiding consumption of sweeteners and sugar both for all age groups and even diabetic patients should also not use it to a certain extent. You will learn about the benefits and risks of using various sweeteners in below comparison.

Aspartame has almost no calories compared to sugar, and is 200 times sweeter than natural sugar. It is widely used in soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, gelatines, frozen desserts, breakfast cereals and sweets in general. While some studies suggest a connection with the neuronal death and cancer development in mice, others go the opposite direction, suggesting the sweetener to be completely safe for consumption. It is approved by the regulatory bodies of the U.S., Brazil and many other countries. However, reports to US FDA have associated aspartame to minor adverse reactions and life-threatening conditions such as Migraine, Change in vision, Nausea and Vomiting, Insomnia (Sleep problems), Abdominal and Joint pains, Change in Heart rate, Depression, Memory loss, Seizure, Brain cancer.

A case study, by Drs. Bigal and Krymchantowski, found that in brands containingSucralose, may induce migraine. Sucralose has been acknowledged for its inability to be metabolized by the body. Since it is not digested, Sucralose does not increase calories, raise blood sugar, or leave an aftertaste. Testing of sucralose has revealed organ, genetic, and reproductive damage. Other side effects may entail shrinkage of the thymus gland, swelling of the liver and kidneys, and initiate calcification of the kidney; but the US FDA determined that it does not increase cancer risk in humans.

Even today, the two sweeteners which are most popular and most widely used are Aspartame and Sucralose.

Cyclamate is 30 times sweeter than sugar. It can withstand high temperatures and dissolves easily in liquids. It has no calories. The findings of experiments done on rats suggested that cyclamate might increase the risk of bladder cancer in humans. The US FDA banned use of cyclamate in 1969, however after re-examination of cyclamate’s carcinogenicity and evaluation of additional data, scientists concluded that cyclamate was not a carcinogen or a co-carcinogen (a substance that enhances the effect of a cancer-causing substance). A food additive petition was filed with the US FDA for the re-approval of cyclamate, but this petition is currently being held in abeyance (not actively being considered).

Saccharin is 300 times sweeter than sugar. It is resistant to high and low temperatures. It has no calories. Studies in laboratory rats during the early 1970s linked saccharin with the development of bladder cancer. For this reason, Congress mandated that further studies of saccharin be performed and required that all food containing saccharin bear the following warning label, “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.” However, mechanistic studies have shown that these results apply only to rats. Human epidemiology studies have shown no consistent evidence that saccharin is associated with bladder cancer incidence.

Acesulfame K is 150 times sweeter than sugar.  It has a bitter aftertaste and is heat resistant and has no calories at all. It is the sweetener used in most diet drinks. Acesulfame potassium was approved by the US FDA in 1988 for use in specific food and beverage categories, and was later approved as a general purpose sweetener (except in meat and poultry) in 2002.

Stevia is a natural sweetener that is extracted from a plant native to the Sierra Amanbai on the border of Brazil and Paraguay. About 300 times sweeter than regular sugar, is considered non-toxic. Researches show that it is a good weapon in the fight against Diabetes, Obesity and Heart disease. Its major disadvantage is the strong bitter residual taste, feels nasty after use.

Fructose a sugar found mainly in fruits, but also in some cereals, vegetables and honey. It can be metabolized in the liver, without the presence of insulin, is widely used in the manufacture of foods for Diabetics. Also used by athletes, people with heart and stomach problems and for those looking to lose weight.

To summarize, Stevia and Fructose could be considered as healthy alternatives to sugar.

REFERENCES:

  1. Bigal, M.E. & Krymchantowski, A.V. (2007). Should You Sour on Aspartame? Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, 25 (7), p. 4-5.
  2. Hirsch, A. R. (2007) Migraine Triggered by Sucralose – A Case Report. Headache: The Journal of Head & Face Pain, 47 (3), p. 447.
  3. Hull, J. (2005). The Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners. Total Health, 27 (1), p. 30-32.
  4. Newman, L. C. & lipton, R. B. (2001) Migraine MLT-Down: An Unusual Presentation of Migraine in Patients With Aspartame-Triggered Headaches. The Journal of Head & Face Pain, 41 (9), p. 899-901.
  5. Rebhahn, P. (2001). Dangerous Diet Drinks. Psychology Today, 34 (2), p. 20-25.
  6. IDF Diabetic Atlas Update 2012, Fifty edition

Article compiled by Ms. Hema Manchanda

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