One of the very few times we love to hear the number ‘Zero’ is when it comes to calories, isn’t it…
Manufacturers love to position zero-calorie sweetened foods and drinks as better because they create a ‘guilt- free effect’ and therefore more likely to get picked off the shelf. The moment we read zero calorie or low calorie food, it straight away makes a place in our grocery basket without a second thought. Who are we trying to cheat?
There are two types of sweeteners: nutritive and non-nutritive
- Nutritive or reduced calorie sweeteners approved by the FDA include sugar alcohols (polyols) such as erythritol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, tagatose, and hydrogenated starch Sugar alcohols contain, on average, about 2 calories/g (one-half the calories of other sweeteners such as sucrose (table sugar). The use of sugar alcohols appears to be safe; however, they may have some side effects such as diarrhea in children.
- FDA has approved five non-nutritive sweeteners for use: acesulfame potassium, aspartame, neotame, saccharin and sucralose. FDA has also set an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for these artificial sweeteners. Another sweetener inching toward the safe zone in this category is Stevia. It is a leaf, so would be best if one can get their hands on stevia leaves in its original form.
Have you ever wondered things like – how come the products with these artificial sweeteners taste so sweet? And these chemicals do not get digested in our body (hence no caloric load), then what happens to them once they’re past our tongues?
These sweeteners are mostly manufactured (the word ‘artificial’ is a giveaway right…) chemicals that are 1000 times sweeter in taste than naturally occurring regular sugar (or sucrose) that our bodies cannot digest or absorb. This puts a load on our organs to push them out. For years researchers have been puzzling over the fact that non-caloric artificial sweeteners do not seem to assist in weight loss, and some studies have suggested they may even have an opposite effect. Wondering how? Read on.
It’s that guilt free effect again – since the sweetener is supposed to be sugar-free, most of us tend to get a little trigger happy with the portions of sweetened food. What we need to understand is that a calorie from any source still counts and higher quantities of food will up the intake.
Artificial sweeteners rewire your brain chemistry and metabolism confusing the body into thinking it is consuming real sugar. Your body reacts and gets ready to receive the sugar by revving up production of the fat-storage hormones. Your metabolism slows down, you become hungry more quickly, you’re prone to eat way more food (especially carbs), and increased belly fat is the inevitable result.
I regularly see patients who complain about not being able to kick their diet-soda habit. It isn’t just their imagination: Artificial sweeteners can quickly become addictive just like smoking. Research shows that non nutritive sweeteners and nicotine produce similar effects in the brain i.e., a craving for more of the same.
It is imperative for people with diabetes to reduce stress on their organs by controlling blood sugar levels. And here we are, doing just the opposite by consuming highly processed food products laden with artificial sweeteners.
Don’t get carried away with what the big-name cola companies want us to believe in their glitzy ad campaigns highlighting their efforts to fight diabetes and obesity. Soda companies proudly promote the fact that their diet drinks have low or no calories and that they have cut sales of sugary drinks in schools by 90 percent. Is that a good thing? I don’t think so. Just cut these sodas out of your lives altogether and you’ll be healthier and happier for it. And if you have a desire for something sweet just have a little sugar and make sure you walk or jog it off.
So my health Mantra still remains the same, eat natural, stay super!
From the Expert Desk
Ms. Pariksha Rao
She is an accomplished clinical nutritionist, diabetes and behavioural expert, nutrition and wellness consultant, eminent speaker and a passionate writer. She has over 13 years of professional experience and trained over 2000 paramedics and patient counsellors. She specializes in therapeutic nutrition, diabetes, mindfulness, health and wellness.