Many of us use sugar substitutes like Stevia to sweeten our food and drinks. We use these sweeteners because we think they reduce our calorie intake, are healthier than sugar, and are better for weight management in the long run. However, public health researchers and dietary guidelines are beginning to sing a different tune.
Canada recently released updated national food and dietary guidelines, which say low-calorie or calorie-free sugar substitutes are not helpful. The guidelines state these artificial sweeteners do not provide health benefits. The United States won’t release updated guidelines for another year, but it’s interesting to see attitudes are changing when it comes to artificial sweeteners. The American Diabetes Association recently recommended that people replace sugar- and artificially sweetened beverages with water.
What are sugar substitutes? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved six kinds, including aspartame, neotame, Stevia and sucralose. They are hundreds of times sweeter than regular sugar and are found in baked goods, processed foods and beverages like diet sodas.
Public health research suggests these products may lead people to become desensitized to sweeteners, causing them to consume more calories as a result. Studies have also suggested use of the sweeteners can lead to an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and cancer.
What if you like the taste of their taste? Like everything, moderation is key and it’s OK to indulge occasionally. But, use sweeteners sparingly, and choose water over a sugary beverage when you can.