What’s better, sugar or sweeteners?

By Dr Paul Kasenene

Are sweeteners a good substitute for sugar? – Maggie 
Dear Maggie,
With more and more of us appreciating the need to reduce our sugar intake, sweeteners have risen to prominence. There are generally two types of sweeteners; artificial and natural sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners do have the sweet taste but without any calories that natural sweeteners have and so may seem like a good alternative. Common artificial sweeteners used today include aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame, sucralose,  and xylitol. Unfortunately, artificial sweeteners are not as safe as we may think. Artificial sweeteners have three negative effects. First, because most are synthetic, they are linked to a range of health problems. Research shows that people who commonly consume artificial sweeteners and diet drinks that contain artificial sweeteners are at increased risk for diabetes and heart disease. Some artificial sweeteners like aspartame commonly used in diet soda have possible cancer-causing effects. Other problems linked to artificial sweeteners include headaches, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, dizziness, anxiety, depression, and increased stress.
Second, they are linked to weight gain and not weight loss. This is because the brain associates sweet taste with energy from calories. When it doesn’t get these calories, the brain compels you to fulfil the promise of calories it expected with the sweet taste, and so people inadvertently eat much more and gain weight. 
Third, some sweeteners are so sweet that they make your taste buds less sensitive to sweetness, and so people need more sweetness to get the same effect. This can cause people to consume more sugar and sugary foods.
Fortunately, there are some natural sweeteners that are healthier. The two types I recommend are from stevia leaf and monk fruit. 
Stevia doesn’t have the adverse effects associated with artificial sweeteners and may even be helpful with diabetes. However, only use whole stevia leaves, the dried ground leaves and powder extracts. Avoid altered stevia blends and stevia products made with other artificial ingredients.

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