All the sweetness but none of the kilojoules? We’d all love artificial sweeteners or “intense sweeteners” to be a guilt-free pleasure, but several studies suggest they could be harmful to us.
When you’re trying to lose weight, one of the biggest challenges you face as a dieter is choosing the right products to help you shed those kilos. Walking down the grocery aisle can be a bit overwhelming at times as labels practically shouting out to you “Diet!”, “No sugar!” and “Low kJ”!
Intense sweeteners are used to reduce calories in food and beverage products, leading many to believe that such sweeteners are a healthier alternative.
Naturopath Karen Ansell told The Newsroom one specific sweetener she steers clients away from is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
“It is a corn-based sweetener commonly used because it is very cheap to manufacture in comparison to adding normal sugar. I believe it is very commonly used in the States, but is popping up in many types of our food now too. I believe there are no health benefits from this sweetener,” she said.
“Due to using food-grade hydrochloric acid in the manufacture process of HFCS there is unconfirmed speculation that it may be a source of inorganic mercury which is known to be detrimental to our health.
“This sweetener can even pop up in foods that appear to be healthy choices such as heart healthy breakfast cereals, yoghurt, low fat salad dressings, as well as foods such as soft drinks, lollies, pre-made desserts, kid’s biscuits and cereals, syrups, and even some baby food! It is not a safe sweetener for diabetics and if consumed regularly may contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
“So reading labels and checking ingredients is important.”
Because obesity is increasing we need to cut down on sugar and look for healthier alternatives – and use them sparingly, Karen added.
Many health scientists and consumer advocates would like to see artificial sweeteners banned and taken off shelves because some have been shown to cause vomiting, headaches, nausea and liver damage. Some have also been linked to forms of cancer, genetic abnormalities and other chronic diseases.
Susan Benyer, business manager at PureCircle Australia, a specialist manufacturer of sweeteners, told The Newsroom that sweeteners can assist with health problems such as diabetes and obesity. Natural intense sweeteners have been developed that contain no calories and can reduce the use of sugar in foodstuffs.
Stevia, a safe, no-calorie product 200 to 400 times sweeter than sugar is being produced from natural plant sources, Ms Benyer said. “PureCircle studies show that because of the sweetening power of stevia, less land, water and energy is used in the farming and manufacture of the sweetener.” – Vanessa Rossini
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