According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) by the Ministry of Health (MOH), an estimated 3.9 million adults in Malaysia aged 18 and above had diabetes as of 2019.
Statistically, if you’re in a room of 10 people, more than 1 of them is likely to have diabetes!
In commemoration of World Diabetes Day, it is important to stay informed about your health goals, then perhaps make a commitment to take a serious look at your daily sugar intake. Maybe even consider substituting some of your favourite snacks or drinks with sugar-free or diet versions.
There’s a lot of buzz about health concerns in regards to sugar and artificial sweeteners, and which is better for you. To help you make more informed choices, we’ve put together this list of pros and cons, but let’s first talk about what an artificial sweetener is.
What are artificial sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes. They may be derived from substances which occur naturally, such as herbs or sugar. As they are several times sweeter than sugar, artificial sweeteners are often known as intense sweeteners.
They’re usually calorie-free, which makes them popular for people to reduce their sugar consumption and reduce daily calorie intake.
There are five sweeteners approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as noted by Harvard Health:
In addition to that, Stevia (a low-calorie natural sweetener) is generally recognized as safe, and do not require FDA approval as a food additive. Artificial sweeteners are commonly used in packaged foods such as soft drinks, baked goods, candies, canned foods and dairy products.
Are artificial sweeteners bad?
Artificial sweeteners are generally considered safe for human consumption. They are carefully tested and regulated by U.S. and international authorities to make sure they are safe to eat and drink.
However, artificial sweeteners have been scrutinized intensely for decades due to studies dating in the 1970s that linked the artificial sweetener saccharin in laboratory rats to bladder cancer. Saccharin once carried a label warning that it could be harmful to your health because of those tests.
However, numerous studies indicate that artificial sweeteners are generally safe in small amounts, even for pregnant women. As a result, the warning label for saccharin was dropped. Although, there are still some potential pitfalls of artificial sweeteners as follows:
Artificial sweeteners can make you eat more through calorie replacement
The use of artificial sweeteners may cause individuals to make up for the missed calories, in other ways that might not be healthy. For example, someone drinking a diet soda might go for a piece of cake since there are no calories in the soda.
Artificial sweeteners can cause changes in taste
A small amount of artificial sweetener produces a sweeter taste than the same amount of real sugar. According to Dr David Ludwig of Boston Children’s Hospital, overstimulation of sugar receptors from frequent use of these hyper-intense sweeteners may limit tolerance for more complex tastes. Frequent use of these sweeteners can possibly render sweet foods such as fruits and vegetables unappealing, which in turn, can direct people to opt for a less healthy diet.
Artificial sweeteners can make you gain weight
Although artificial sweeteners have low to zero calories, a study conducted by the University of Texas-San Antonio suggests that artificial sweeteners can cause people to associate the number of calories they eat with sweetness. This can lead them to choose sweeter foods over healthier ones more often, which becomes a foundation for gaining weight in the future.
Potential benefits of artificial sweeteners
The consumption of regular sugar plays a significant role in the development of tooth decay, cavities, and other issues with oral health.
It is possible to reduce the harmful impacts on your teeth by substituting less sugar with artificial sweeteners.
Dental agencies throughout the United States support the use of Xylitol in toothpaste because it provides an anti-cariogenic benefit. There is evidence to suggest that this alternative as compared to those that produce sugar alcohols can prevent tooth decay by destroying the bacteria which can damage your teeth. With this ingredient, there are no questions about the de-mineralization of your teeth either.
Great for diabetic patients
For those with diabetes, consuming too much sugar is a real concern. It is essential to note that artificial sweeteners are not carbohydrates.
Unlike traditional sugar, these products will not usually raise blood sugar levels during consumption.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you may want to explore artificial sweeteners and other choices with your doctor that can meet your ongoing health needs. It is only one step towards better health and wellness to substitute sugar with an artificial sweetener, as diet and exercise are often needed.
Losing or maintaining weight is the biggest reason why people use artificial sweeteners. According to the Mayo Clinic, each gram of sugar contains 4 calories. In contrast, a teaspoon of sugar has about 16 calories — so a can of carbonated drink with 10 teaspoons of added sugar has about 160 calories. So by substituting regular sugar with a calorie-free sweetener, you’re able to reduce the number of calories you have each day.
That is if you don’t over-eat to compensate!
Moderation is key
Artificial sweeteners do not hold the risks we once believed they did, but that does not mean that the best option to make for your nutritional needs is this product in any of its types. Because of the caloric profile that these goods offer, there are major benefits to consider as compared to regular sugar.