Sugar or sweetener?
This is a very common question in clinic, especially by weight loss clients.
The marketing of artificially sweetened products has convinced many people opt for zero calorie drinks and low sugar products when they are trying to make healthy choices. This is mainly because the calorie is still king for many. Reducing calories is still seen as a good way to lose weight. Artificial sweeteners are low calorie, man made chemical products such as aspartame, saccharin and sucralose.
Eating a low calorie diet by replacing regular foods with diet products is how many people have been conditioned to approach weight loss. These artificial sweeteners are used as a sugar replacement in hundreds of processed food products. There is a high demand for sweet foods, sugar and sweeteners have been added into many of our favourite convenience foods for years. Many people have consequently developed sugar cravings and what we call a sweet tooth.
The artificial sweeteners are cheap to produce and hundreds of times sweeter than sugar so only a small amount is needed. They are chemical based and they have no nutritional value. I normally recommend clients to avoid them, especially weight loss clients.
Artificial sweeteners can promote more sweet cravings and don’t really help you to eat healthier in the long term. They are not thought to affect blood sugar, but there is evidence that shows they may increase insulin. This can lead to weight gain, metabolic disorders and hormone imbalance. The insulin increase might be due to the fact that they have been proven to disrupt our gut bacteria. More clinical studies are required to build on this information. We need to understand how they affect us as individuals. In my opinion they are best used very sparingly and infrequently until more is known.