Sugar vs. sweetener, a debate where there seems to be no in-between. When Coca Cola tried to make a drink using both it didn’t seem to be a success, and people are still on either side i.e sweetner is what causes cancer and is poison in the body, or that sugar is what causes cancer and is poison in the body.
I, however am in the middle… i believe “why not both?”. Everything in moderation, however i do lean more towards the sweetner side, for example i choose diet soda before sugared cola, when i bake at home i most often use sweetner as i don’t even have sugar at home and use sweetner to add sweetness to example home made hot chocolate or oatmeal. But also i do choose stevia ketchup, sugar free candy (if possible) and natural soya yoghurt over flavoured yoghurt. However when out and about and go to a cafe i’ll 99% of the time choose the vegan cake over the rawfoodbar and choose a green smoothie with berries and fruit over a diet soda.
I believe that both sugared products and products with sweetener have their time and place in your diet, you DO NOT need to consume either of them, that is your personal choice. Your body does need glucose so for example fruit, potatoes, pasta shouldn’t be avoided but refined white sugar isn’t necessary in your diet. Though sugar does taste good and can be good for your soul, so a moderate amount of sugar won’t hurt you.
So let’s get into what is sugar vs. sweetener and what they do in your body and which is best?
Sugar, or other names for sugar in products are: sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, rice syrup, coconut sugar, fructose, glucose, maple syrup, palm sugar etc (Find all the 61 names for sugar HERE)
And then there is the artifical sweetners: Acesulfame K, Aspartame, Sorbitol, Sacharin, Sucralose, Stevia, Xylitol.
So lets start off with sweeteners, they have all been tested and have been approved for use i.e no evidence has shown that they are harmful in moderate doses. I.e toxic level would mean that you consume for example 10l diet soda everyday for 6 months to reach some form of harmful level. But for most people they would never even reach that amount.
So why choose sweeteners? First off they are better for your oral health i.e don’t cause tooth decay, they don’t affect your blood sugar so can be good for diabetics, they can help control weight (though some have claimed that diet soda makes them more hungry because it triggers their sweet cravings), also you don’t need as much sweetener to get the same amount of sweetness as sugar. SourceSource All sweeteners aren’t the same though and can be slightly different in the body, for example how they are broken down. A negative about sweetners is that some aren’t broken down and instead you just pee out the molecules and that can be harmful to the environment.
A good article about sweeteners HERE
The downside of sweeteners, there has been alot of claims that aspartame is linked to brain tumors, cancer etc and that sweeteners can lead to glucose intolerance, weight gain, can cause diabetes 2 among other health claims. Makes sweeteners sound pretty bad, right? However those claims don’t have any evidence to support them, or more research is needed to prove a causal link.
Recently there has been more research done showing that products with artificial sweeteners can cause weight gain as the sweetener triggers a craving for more energy and sweet food and the body may not regulate its calorie balance as well when you consume a lot of sweeteners. However, it is also proven that sugar can cause weight gain and other metabolic illnesses if consumed in too high doses, whereas sweetener it is not proven. Recently there is a study, HERE , that showed that saccharin could change the bacterial composition in your digestive system which can lead to metabolic illnesses and a change in gut bacteria towards less gut bacteria can lead to very unwanted physical and mental health problems, but once again that is due to high doses of sacharin consumed.
Another downside of sweeteners is that people with the genetic disorder PKU can’t break down aspartame which contains phenylalanine so for them it can cause serious pain and illness if they consume aspartame, hence why products must state that it contains aspartame just like with other allergens. Also the sweetener Xylitol can cause alot of stomach pain if consumed in too high doses. It can cause water retention and diarrhea and bloating, hence why chewing gums and sugar-free candy which often contain xylitol can leave some people with stomach pain. And then there is Stevia, the sweetener i would recommend, however it can often leave a weird after taste for some people. Source
When it comes to sweeteners, there still needs more research, it is deemed safe to consume in moderation, just like with sugar and all other products. Yes it is artificially made, but that doesn’t mean it is unhealthy. Many use the argument that it isn’t natural and sugar is, but then again cola, processed meats, breaded fish, milk chocolate etc isn’t natural either…. if you want to be truly natural then grow all of your own crops and don’t buy anything from the store. If you don’t want to consume sweeteners that is ok, but don’t spread false health claims until there is real evidence proving them. Studies with just 20 people showing that diet soda made them gain weight isn’t a scientifc study to be trusted and needs more studies and evidence until an actual link can be made. The recommendation is that it is safe to consume artificial sweeteners in moderation and can be better for overall health compared to sugar as sugar can cause metabolic illnesses. However there is also the consideration of what to give children, there is not enough evidence or research to prove that artificial sweeteners don’t have a negative health consequence of long-term use however you don’t want to feed your child too much sugar and have them deal with those health consequences. So the recommendation, avoid giving your children artificial sweeteners and sugar, or only in small amounts.
What about sugar then? Why choose sugar?
Sugar does taste good, most people – not everyone – likes the sweet taste of sugar. But also that when it comes to very rigorous exercising then consuming sugar is the perfect way to give yourself quick energy to keep you going. Not to mention that in certain baking or cooking dishes sugar gives the perfect taste and certain cooking method such as caramellizing which sweetener doesn’t.
Too high doses of sugar can cause metabolic illnesses and also lead to unwanted weight gain, and for some people they consume too much added sugar and leads to weight gain which then leads to problems. (I.e it is overweight and visceral fat are what causes metabolic illnesses and sugar can be a contribution to those things.)
Sugar doesn’t have to be bad, but it is that people consume far too much sugar without knowing it. Very processed foods and foods with hidden sugar should be limited and instead focus on whole foods such as fruits, grains, vegetables etc
“Sugar-containing foods in their natural form, whole fruit, for example, tend to be highly nutritious—nutrient-dense, high in fiber, and low in glycemic load. On the other hand, refined, concentrated sugar consumed in large amounts rapidly increases blood glucose and insulin levels, increases triglycerides, inflammatory mediators and oxygen radicals, and with them, the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses,” Dr. Ludwig article: HERE
Whichever side you are on, sugar or artificial sweetener, know that moderation is key if you do consume them and don’t spread false claims and of course be critical to sources of information!! There is so much information out there on the internet and i am sure you can find blog posts about sweeteners causing people to die and sugar being the best and healing medical illnesses etc i.e you can back up any claim you have if you google hard enough. But be critical, don’t believe everything you read especially not in certain magazines or websites. Be critical of this post and the information i write as well, do your own research and check the sources as well!