Splenda…Stevia…Sweet’ N Low…OH MY!!
With the sugar epidemic the United States is facing, and with all of the dangers associated with them, many people (seniors, dieters and diabetics especially) turn to sugar alternatives. Because there are so many to choose from, it gets a bit confusing to know which product to choose. I will cover some of the more popular types, so that you may decide which is best for you.
Erythritol: this is a sugar alcohol which looks like table sugar and tastes 70% as sweet. Erythritol has a low glycemic index, making it perfect for low-carb diets.
Stevia (Stevia In The Raw/Truvia): this is a natural sweetener used in smaller doses because its taste is so sweet. In fact, it is about 300 times sweeter than table sugar. Stevia can be found in liquid or granular form. It also has a low effect on blood glucose levels (if used in moderation, of course). This great for controlling blood sugar, but might tip your daily carbohydrate count.
Saccharin (Sweet’N Low): This alternative is very low calorie at only 4 calories per packet. It can be used in baking and cooking and can also be added to sweeten drinks. Saccharin is less recommended due to its bitter aftertaste. Additionally, there are many health risks associated with it, such as potential links to bladder cancer.
Honey: this is not simply fructose or glucose, but a mixture of many compounds, minerals and more. In many studies, honey has been shown to improve blood lipid levels, lower inflammatory markers, and had a minimal effect on blood glucose levels. Honey also does not leave you with a high glucose/insulin spike.
Aspartame (Equal): this low-calorie, lab-generated alternative is the stuff we find in our diet sodas, or in the blue Equal packets at restaurants This alternative falls in a very gray zone because there definitely needs to be more research on it. Depending on who you listen to, aspartame could be a safe aid for weight loss and diabetes, or it could be a deadly, cancer-causing poison. Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar.
Agave Nectar: this nectar originates as a natural sweetener derived from a cactus, however, by the time it hits our kitchen cabinets, the sweeteners are so processed and refined, that it becomes almost the same as high fructose corn syrup (BAD!)
Sucralose (Splenda): this non-caloric artificial sweetener is actually harder for the body to break down. It is about 600 times sweeter than table sugar, so only small amounts are needed. Sucralose is sold as a protein powder, as Splenda, or as other products supporting low-sugar/low-carb diets. It can cause some digestive sensitivity, such as gas, bloating and diarrhea, if consumed in high doses.
Final Comment: The above listed sweeteners make up a list of only some of the many sweeteners out in the market. When deciding which one is best for you, it is always important to do a bit more personal research. Different sweeteners serve different purposes. Some are for baking and cooking only, while some are for drinks only. Some can be total sugar substitutes. Some sweeteners also have their own list of pros and cons. Some are great for lowering blood sugar and triglyceride counts, but others have been linked to different types of cancers. In the end, feel free to talk to your friends and family about which sweeteners they prefer, and also to your physician about which sweeteners you think are meant for you. We would be happy to hear what you pick!
Call our office at 662-280-8222 or email [email protected] if you have questions.
Ulric Duncan MD, Diplomate of Obesity Medicine
9140 Highway 51 North
Southaven MS 38671
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