Sugar substitutes can come in a variety of forms. They can be made from genetically engineered amino acids like in aspartame, or they can be extracted from the sugars within fruit, yielding products like sucrose. They can also be created from processed saccharides like in sugar alcohols or high fructose corn syrup. Even products extracted directly from plants can be used as sugar substitutes, such as honey or agave nectar. Regardless of what you choose, there are benefits and drawbacks associated with all kinds.

Benefits

Lower calories

The draw to using sugar substitutes lies in lowering the amount of calories one intakes on a daily basis. This is the mark of an artificial sweetener, as most have less than 3 calories per gram, some even boasting a calorie count of zero.

Energy

Many products like sucrose provide a burst of energy when consumed, which may seem more useful in certain situations over regular sugar.

They Can be Sweeter

Many artificial sweeteners are sweeter than normal table sugar. Neotame, an artificial sweetener, for example, has a sweetness that’s 8,00 times more than its traditional counterpart.

Drawbacks

Less nutritional value

While it may provide a burst of energy, because they contain little to no calories, many artificial sweeteners provide no nutritional value. Experts agree that added sugars should make up no more than 7.5 teaspoons of you daily diet.

More likely to reduce your metabolism

Products like Agave nectar contains more fructose than table sugar, and in turn can lower your metabolism, which means you’ll digest and process food more slowly than usual.

Can Lead to Weight Gain

High fructose corn syrup in many packaged foods has proven to promote weight gain faster than traditional sugar. Additionally, the FDA suggests that no more than 50 mg per kilogram of body weight (or around four 12-oz. cans of diet soda) be consumed per day.

Do They Cause Cancer?

The short answer: not really. The notion that artificial sweeteners cause cancer arose in the early 80’s when testing for a sugar substitute named cyclamate began. The sweetener used a now banned ingredient that caused bladder cancer to form in laboratory mice. Today, artificial sweeteners are approved and regulated by FDA, and deemed “safe to consume” by the American Cancer Society. However, there have been no recorded tests done to study the long term effects of artificial sweeteners on the body.

Whether you decide on good old table sugar, or its various substitutes, they should both be enjoyed in moderation in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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