Sweeteners and our health: Are they compatible?

For several reasons, the use of sweeteners is sometimes used as a replacement for sugar in everyday recipes, especially in the case of people with type 2 diabetes who suffer from a pronounced need for sweet products and a difficulty in reducing its quantities, and for those who simply want to lose weight by reducing their daily calorific intake.

Promising 0 calories, sweeteners can be very practical by replacing white sugar or glucose syrups. The products are commonly known as 0% products  (sugars), and are found as yogurts, drinks, cookies . Widely used in the food industry, sweeteners can also be bought separately in most supermarkets.

Although there are a lot of sweeteners in the market, they can actually all be classified into just two categories, synthetic sweeteners and natural sweeteners.

The first group consists of intense sweeteners: aspartame, acesulfame-K (for potassium), neotame, sucralose, saccharine. They are not all made from the same base, and each one has a significantly different sweetening power and calorific content.

This group of sweeteners is particularly controversial for scientists and for good reason. According to a study from universities in Israel and Singapore *, six of these synthetic sweeteners can cause an imbalance in our microbiota (dysbiosis). These small bacteria found in our intestines have many important roles; in particular, that of determining our weight, appetite, and protecting us from diseases, both chronic and infectious. Since these bacterias are so important to us to keep healthy, we should try to avoid harming them as much as possible and, on the contrary, provide them with the correct nourishment that allows them to maintain their condition and to even develop.

Published in 2010 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, another research **, studied the effect of sweeteners found in sodas on pregnant women. In their studies, they revealed that these sweeteners can cause a lower birth weight for the foetus and an increased risk of a premature birth. Similarly, a daily consumption of aspartame increases the risk of cancer ***, even when this consumption corresponds to the acceptable daily doses approved by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).

Finally, by replacing sugar with sweeteners and therefore not taking in carbohydrates, we deny important nutrients to our body. Moreover, our taste buds react to the sweeteners by sending a message to our brain which naturally expects to receive  sugar (which of course, never happens)! Reacting to this sugary stimulation, the brain responds by sending hormones to regulate the sugar rate. Because there are is no sugar to regulate, it then sends a signal commonly interpreted as a “sugar craving” …….and we all knows what happens then! So we have here, a case of an unnecessary hormone secretion which can lead to hypoglycemia (too low blood sugar), usually manifested by a feeling of discomfort and fatigue. In short, the consumption of sweeteners causes a frequent imbalance in blood sugar levels which is why they should be consumed very occasionally . However when monitored properly by a health professional, they are actually recommended for people suffering from diabetes.

Do natural sweeteners have the same effects on our health? We will answer that in another article so you have all the information to help you choose the right products. In order to eat “intelligently”, we have a very complete “Bikini Program” which allows you to lose weight while enjoying seasonal fruits and vegetables. So, no more need to worry about what you should and shouldn’t eat; your dietitian-nutritionist will take care of everything; with constant follow-up calls everyday support and a whole selection of healthy recipes as the cornerstone of the program. 

*Harpaz, D., Pin Yeo, L., & Cecchini, F. & Al. (2018) Volume 23, Issue 10. Measuring Artificial Sweeteners Toxicity Using a Bioluminescent Bacterial Panel. Molecule.

** Halldorsson TI, Strøm M, Petersen SB, Olsen SF. (2010) Intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks and risk of preterm delivery: a prospective cohort study of 59,334 Danish pregnant women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

*** Soffritti M, Belpoggi F, Tibaldi E, & Al. (2007) Volume 115, Issue 9. Life-span exposure to low doses of aspartame beginning during prenatal life increases cancer effects in rats. Environ Health Perspect.

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