Which artificial sweetener is best for your health?
From the Editors of Live Right Live Well
All artificial sweeteners currently sold in the U.S. have been approved and deemed safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, says FDA spokesperson Michael Herndon. What’s more, despite persistent rumors that some sweeteners cause cancer, the National Cancer Institute has found no evidence of cancer risk in humans. The only caution is for people who have difficulty metabolizing phenylalanine due to a rare hereditary disease called phenylketonuria, or PKU. Since aspartame contains phenylalanine, aspartame should be avoided by people with PKU. Other than that, you can rest assured that all five sugar substitutes currently on the market -- aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame-K, sucralose and neotame -- are considered safe for your health.
But before you start filling up on artificially sweetened foods, consider why you’re consuming them in the first place. For people with diabetes, sugar substitutes can make healthful additions to the diet because they don’t raise blood glucose levels, according to the American Diabetes Association. However, the jury is still out on whether these sweeteners actually help you lose weight. Recent animal studies conducted at Purdue University have suggested that artificial sweeteners may contribute to weight gain because when the body gets something sweet to eat, it anticipates calories. With artificial sweeteners, there’s no caloric payoff, so you may crave more food to feel satisfied. What’s more, if you load up on artificially sweetened foods, you miss out on more nutritious choices, notes Cindy Moore, a registered dietitian and director of nutrition therapy for the Cleveland Clinic. So don’t look at sugar substitutes as a free ticket. “The best plan is to eat a variety of foods, with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” says Moore.
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