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Artificial Sweeteners: Sweet in taste, bitter on health?

Updated: Apr 22



The rates of obesity in the United States have only risen in the last many decades; almost 1 in 4 adults in the US is obese as per latest reports. With obesity comes an array of other health disorders - metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes & cancer. Cutting down on sugar and with it it's many calories, seems to be a 'no-brainer'. However, has the replacement of sugar with artificial sweeteners made things more devious than good? Let’s find out.

      One gram of sugar punches 4 calories. The ‘American Heart Association’ (AHA) recommends that an adult consume no more than 25 gram of ‘Added sugar’ per day; however, the average consumption is thrice as much or about 72 gram a day! Many of these calories are obtained from regular consumption of ‘soft drinks’ which may have upto 35 grams per serving. Needless to say, we consume way more sugar than the body requires. The extra calories thus derived are stored as fat in the body which contributes to weight gain.


Are you ‘fit as a fiddle’?

Obesity is measured by calculating the body’s Body Mass Index (BMI). It is the division of mass of the body in Kg by square of height in meters. A value greater than 30 indicates obesity. To illustrate, a man with a height of 1.82 meters & weighing 73 Kgs, will have a BMI of 73/(1.82*1.82) = 22.04.

  The FDA has approved 6 high-intensity sweeteners to incorporate into food items: Aspartame, Acesulfame-K, Saccharin, Neotame, Advantame & Sucralose. Although these sweeteners are considered ‘Generally Recognized As Safe’ or 'GRAS', long-term health implications of artificial sweetener use is yet to be ascertained. Other popular artificial sweeteners are ‘sugar alcohols’— claimed to ‘not be as nutritionally dense as sugar’, and not cause ‘tooth decay’. Some artificial sweeteners have gathered worse reputation than others.


Sugar Alcohols

Sorbitol, Isomalt, Lactitol, Maltitol, Mannitol, Xylitol, Erythrytol, and Lactatol, all of which find use in ‘diabetes friendly’ foods, come under ‘FODMAP’ this list includes foods that are not completely digested in the body. These 'sweeteners' travel to the intestine & are used as fuel by bacteria, which release Hydrogen as a by-product, thus causing gastric distress & bloating. Also, these are known to retain water in the intestinal lumen which may lead to diarrhea.


Aspartame

It is one of the most widely used Artificial Sweeteners to make it to the ‘ingredient list’ of popular ‘Zero Calorie’, ‘Light’ & ‘No Sugar’ products. Although approved by the FDA, conflicting health study reports have kept consumers wary. Aspartame breaks down to Methanol in the body, which in free form results into ‘Formaldehyde’ a known neurotoxin & carcinogen. Also, Phenylalanine, one of the key ingredients of Aspartame, is highly toxic to those having Phenylketonurea a condition that can impact mood, memory & leaning.


Acesulfame-K

Although 200 times sweeter than sugar, Ace-K, as it is popularly called, has a ‘bad rep’. Ace-K breaks down in the body to ‘Acetoacetamide’ a compound known to cause thyroid cancer. Another lab test on Ace-K points towards change in ‘brain function’. Ace-K is used widely in protein supplements, often in combination with Aspartame or Sucralose to mask it’s bitter aftertaste.

  Although clinical test results on artificial sweeteners aren’t completely conclusive, speculations of a causal relationship between artificial sweeteners & health concerns is widespread.


What if there was a ‘natural’ alternative to circumvent the possible side-effects of Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners, while satisfying our ‘sweet cravings’?


Lo & Behold, Stevia it is!

‘Stevia’ is the name of a plant, the leaves of which give it's sweet taste. it's sweetness is comparable to that of liquorice. In concentrated form, Stevia is considered to be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar with few of the side effects: no dense calorie intake, no insulin spike after consumption, and no ‘sugar crash’! Certain studies claim that Stevia decreases blood glucose & bad cholesterol levels, while optimizing blood pressure. Although promising, long term clinical study is required to strengthen these preliminary findings.

     Many popular shelf products combine Stevia with Aspartame or Ace-K while focusing on Stevia as the key ingredient, thus not being completely honest with their communication. Although natural sweeteners like Stevia are preferable to sugar, moderation & caution is always advisable for maintenance of overall well being.


Enjoy our 100% Pure Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate which is naturally sweetened with Stevia, only!

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