Learn the latest science before you sprinkle the sweet stuff.
You might be saving a few hundred calories by ordering your latte with sugar-free hazelnut syrup, but guess what? Nutritionists say you may be better off with the real deal.
Artificial sweeteners have been around for decades, and we know them by their table names: Sweet-N-Low, Splenda, Equal, or Nutrasweet, to name the most common. These artificial sweeteners are man-made from chemicals, and they are way sweeter than actual sugar—183 times sweeter, in some cases.
But the latest scientific thinking on how artificial sweeteners affect your health is a little more complicated. They may save you calories, but they may not necessarily lead to weight loss, according to registered dietitian Sharon Richter, RD. In fact, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, “by providing a sweet taste without any calories, however, artificial sweeteners cause us to crave more sweet foods and drinks, which can add up to excess calories.”
This is especially a problem if you eat multiple artificially sweetened foods throughout the day. It’s not just the pink or blue packets you add to mugs of coffee or into oatmeal. Artificial sweeteners come in all types of “lite” or “low-cal” food products: yogurt, gum, ice cream, snack bars, cereal, diet soda, and other drinks.
Plus, the hyper-sweetness of sugar substitutes can dull your taste buds and prevent you from appreciating the sweetness in natural foods, like beets or sweet potatoes. For this reason, even so-called natural sugar substitutes (e.g. stevia, which is extracted from the stevia plant) have consequences worth considering. With regular consumption of these sugar substitutes—natural or artificial—you might have trouble sticking to a whole foods diet because you may start to find real food flavorless.
The best solution: Skip artificial sweeteners and stick with smaller portions of foods or drinks made with real sweeteners. Enjoy sweetened foods in moderation, and remember that major calories can hide in those large, tasty beverages!
Sharon Richter is a registered dietitian with a private nutrition practice in New York City.
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Hi, I'm Dr. Preeti Parikh.
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Have you seen those pink, yellow, and
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blue packets when you buy
your coffee in the morning?
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Were you trying to decide if
they're better than sugar?
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Well let's call Sharon Richter and
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Hi, Sharon, can you tell us about these
artificial sweeteners and what are they?
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Sure, so whether it's the pink packet,
the yellow, the blue.
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They basically are replacing sugar for
very low to no calories.
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They taste a lot sweeter.
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They might be 183 times as sweet as sugar
normally is, and they're chemically made.
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Are there natural sweeteners out there?
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So there are.
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They call them sugar alternatives or
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But there's not a lot of research on
them on, are they healthy for us or not.
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So what's the biggest risk of using
any of these artificial sweeteners.
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The issue is is how much is too much?
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So if someone is using
it throughout the day,
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replacing regular sugary foods with it,
then it could be a problem.
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It's telling your body to start
producing enzymes to break food down.
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It's going to produce insulin thinking
it's getting sugar and calories,
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but it's not.
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So it actually could be detrimental
when you have lots of it in your body.
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If you had to pick one artificial
sweetener, which would it be?
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So I would choose Splenda, because its
chemical makeup is very similar to sugar.
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So the body's probably gonna be
able to utilize it the best,
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knowing exactly what it is.
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So the real sugar is better than any
artificial or natural sweetener?
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Yes, that's what I would
normally say to people.
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And trying to, over time,
ween yourself off of it.
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Thanks so much Sharon.
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