Obesity has become a global concern, and even children are now suffering from terrible metabolic diseases associated with overweight, such as type 2 diabetes and hormonal imbalances. For both aesthetic and medical reasons, sugar substitutes have become a popular way to avoid carbohydrates, reduce our daily intake, and still enjoy a sweet taste in our morning coffee.
Unlike traditional sugar, substitutes are food additives that mimic the sweet taste of sugar but do not provide energy (calories) or have a significantly reduced amount. They can be either natural extracts from plants and leaves, as in stevia, or synthetic molecules like sucralose and aspartame.
However, many studies and inaccurate information in social media has led people to adopt a defensive posture because these apparently healthy choices are now said to increase the risk of cancer, kidney stones, and, ironically, induce overweight and obesity. What does the science say? What are the real benefits and dangers of sugar substitutes?
Benefits of sugar substitutes
There is a lot of misinformation around the topic of sugar substitutes, and it has led to the formation of many myths we need to clear out first:
· Sugar substitutes and cancer: According to a review, only 1 out of 20 studies in animals have found an increase in cancer risk after consuming saccharine. However, studies in primates and humans do not show any association between cancer risk and consuming sugar substitutes. Thus, this claim is false.
· Sugar substitutes and appetite: There are contradicting results about whether or not sugar substitute promote more weight gain on the long-term. However, according to the evidence, they are by far more useful than they are dangerous. Thus, there’s no reason to cut them off from the diet.
The real dangers you should know about
Not everything is a myth, and there are things we should know about sugar substitutes before consuming them:
· Patients with fibromyalgia should not consume aspartame because it is known to aggravate the disease.
· Aspartame is also a trigger of headaches in some patients.
· Ingestion of these substitutes is tagged by the FDA as “generally considered as safe.” There is an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for each one of them, and we should always stay safe by maintaining our consumption below these numbers.