Are Artificially Sweetened Beverages a Healthier Choice?

Do you choose artificially sweetened beverages over sugary beverages to avoid excessive sugar and calorie intake?

Recent research indicates that they may not be the best choice.

Using data from the Framingham Heart Study, a group of researchers recently found that artificially sweetened soft drink consumption was associated with a higher risk of stroke and dementia.

In light of these findings, let’s review artificial sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners are used as substitutes for sugar. They can be up to 3000 times sweeter than table sugar, therefore very small amounts are needed to add sweetness.

There are many different sweeteners available, all of which can be grouped into two types – those that have calories and those that do not.

Those that have calories are the sugar alcohols (e.g., sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol). They have less calories than table sugar and have a minimal effect on blood glucose level.

There are many sweeteners that do not have calories including Acesulfame Potassium, Aspartame, Sucralose, Saccharin, Equal, Cyclamate,, Sugar Twin, Sweet’N Low, Splenda and Stevia. These sweeteners do not have an effect on blood glucose level.

Whether or not artificial sweeteners are safe has been a controversial topic for many years.

According to Health Canada, all sweeteners that are used and sold in Canada are safe when consumed in typical amounts. A moderate consumption of artificial sweeteners is also considered to be safe during pregnancy. However, it is recommended that infants and children avoid artificially sweetened food and drinks as they may replace other more nutritious foods.

In my opinion, it is best to limit your intake of both sugary beverages and artificially sweetened beverages. The majority of these beverages (e.g., soft drinks) are not ‘real food’ and often contain other chemicals and preservatives in addition to the sugar or artificial sweetener.

Consider them as a treat for only occasional consumption (e.g., once per week or less often), and stick to water and milk (if you consume dairy products).

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