To Sweeten With Artificial or Not…That is the Question

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • You want to lose weight and you’ve been told that liquid calories are public enemy number one, specifically sodas and other sweetened drinks.  Even 100% juice needs strict portion control.  You are not keen on water or unsweetened teas, which you are told are the two beverages of choice.  So you decide to drink diet soda and to use artificial sweeteners in coffee, tea and other beverages so they remain zero calorie options that taste good.  But now you’ve heard that using artificial sweeteners is not a panacea – you may actually feel hungrier, because your brain senses sweetness without energy calories to accompany that pleasurable sensation – and so you are prodded (with cravings and perceived hunger) to get calories, meaning eat more.  Or maybe you’ve heard that aspartame or other zero calorie or very low calorie sweetener choices could, in large doses, be associated with increased risk of certain cancers, though double blind studies do not appear to formally confirm this.     

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    Frankly, most of us are able to taste and tell pretty easily when there is a stand in for the real deal, namely sugar.  Our taste buds are so acutely sensitive, that in most cases initial sweetness that appears to taste like sugar, often has a strange lingering aftertaste that is not initially perceptible.  Or the sweetener just tastes downright bitter to some of us with hyper-sensitive taste buds.  And one naturally occurring, zero calorie sugar substitute, made from beets and milk and which would probably pass muster for the real deal, has not been manufactured in quantities usable at a commercial level.  PepsiCo is apparently working on a way to magnify the sweetness of sugar so we can use far less of it, which translates into less calories. 


    So what's the deal with HFCS or high fructose corn syrup?  Sugar is actually made up of fructose and glucose, since glucose alone is not sweet enough.  High fructose corn syrup is very sweet but it is broken down in the liver and experts believe our over-consumption of HFCS is overwhelming our liver, causing it to overwork.  That’s why Mayor Bloomberg of New York City was so adamant on reducing portion sizes of drinks made with HFCS.  Our waistlines are growing due to super-sizing, and our livers may be breaking down because of overconsumption of HFCS and sugar-laden drinks.


    So despite the claims that regular soda (sweetened with sugar or HFCS)  is not the only cause of obesity, and because zero calorie drinks are not the ultimate answer – we need to start somewhere, to somehow make a dent on obesity.  Reducing soda consumption has its part, so does turning to zero calorie beverages like water.  It may take lots of different habit changes and food choice changes.  But we need to start somewhere.


    Do you use articficial sweeteners in your weight loss program? Do you feel a soda size ban has merit?  Would you want to see other food restrictions or is the whole idea of government control abhorrent?



Published On: June 21, 2012