Have you ever wondered how those sugar-free candies, sodas and pastries manage to stay so sweet? It seems that more and more of these sugar-free items are popping up on store shelves and in commercials, with bold claims of having little to no calories, but the same taste as the regular product that contains sugar. How is that even possible?
The answer to this riddle is simple: artificial sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners have become more prevalent over the years, and are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA approved artificial sweeteners are:
- Acesulfame potassium
Those artificial sweeteners may not sound familiar to you, because they commonly go by their trade names like Splenda or NutraSweet. The next time you come across a sugar-free item, read the packaging and look for any one of those artificial sweeteners listed above.
Now that you're familiar with the different types of artificial sweeteners that are on the market, take a look at the possible health benefits and why people are so keen on eating and drinking these products.
The most commonly sought health benefit from artificial sweeteners is the potential weight loss associated with substituting sugar or corn syrup for an artificial sweetener that has little or no calories. The thought of losing weight without having to sacrifice sugary sweets like pastries, candies and sodas is too hard to pass up.
For many people, diets tend to fail due to a lack of self-control and the desire to indulge oneself. The most common "trigger" foods, or foods that can cause a person to intake an excessive amount of calories, are foods high in sugar content. An example of a common "trigger" food is ice cream. A restricted diet would limit or flat-out eliminate this sugary dessert from one's daily food intake. However, all it takes is a single moment of weakness and a tiny mouthful of ice cream to throw away weeks' worth of diet and exercise because that tiny mouthful can easily turn into an entire pint, or quart even, in a matter of seconds.
But, what if dieters had a low calorie alternative to some of their favorite "trigger" foods? Artificial sweeteners provide people who are trying to watch their figure with an easy escape for their sweet tooth. If you must have sugar in your coffee, or prefer sodas over any other type of beverage, artificial sweeteners will allow you to indulge yourself without the added consequence of calorie overload.
Another major health benefit associated with artificial sweeteners is they typically don't raise blood sugar levels since they aren't carbohydrates. The next time you reach for a diet soda, compare its nutrition label to a regular soda. You'll notice that the diet soda has absolutely no calories, nor carbohydrates when compared to the regular version. This makes them a great food substitute for people with diabetes.
People who once thought their diabetes would forever prevent them from enjoying sweets without serious repercussions to their health have turned to artificial sweeteners. Now, they can enjoy sweets again without the added health risks associated with sugary foods. Diabetics looking for artificially sweetened foods need to keep an eye for the artificial sweeteners listed above, and for package labeling like "sugar free" or "no added sugar."
Dental Health Benefits
Do you remember your parents ever telling you that candy and soda would rot your teeth or give you cavities? Well, unfortunately they were right. However, artificial sweeteners, like saccharin, have been found to not only be tooth-friendly, but have also been shown to prevent tooth decay.
There have been numerous health concerns associated with artificial sweeteners that go as far back as the 1970s. They are commonly associated with different forms of cancer, causing people to doubt their effective health benefits. According to the National Cancer Institute, there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that artificial sweeteners that are FDA approved actually cause cancer or any health related problems.
Although FDA approved artificial sweeteners are considered safe, even for expectant women, people should be mindful of their artificial sweetener intake. A possible health risk that is still under investigation is an increase in weight associated with artificial sweeteners. Now, you might be wondering how that would be possible if artificial sweeteners are low calorie or calorie free. One theory is people who add artificial sweeteners to their diet subconsciously increase their caloric intake, thinking their loss of calories through artificial sweeteners gives them a free pass to more food, or food with higher calories.
If you plan on adding artificial sweeteners to your diet, use them in moderation and maintain a healthy diet and eating habits.