Eating a lot of sugars and sweets usually causes weight gain and obesity, and to get rid of this problem, many resort to relying on sweeteners or artificial sweeteners, which is a general term that includes all kinds of sweeteners and sugar substitutes. Here the question arises: Do these artificial sweeteners represent a healthy alternative to sugar?
To answer this question, the doctor in the Endocrinology and Metabolic Medicine Clinic at Berlin Charite Hospital, Stefan Kabisch, said: “Sweeteners are highly effective, meaning that they are several times sweeter than sugar. From a chemical point of view, sweeteners are a variety of ingredients and substances that are formulated differently, and they differ in their method of action, so that some of them taste bitter, and while sweeteners are absorbed in the intestines, others may not be absorbed.
“Sweeteners have some health benefits compared to sugar, as they do not cause tooth decay, and they do not contain calories,” said expert Catherine Botner, from the Consumer Protection Center in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The European Union approved 12 types of sweeteners, including acesulfame K (E 950), aspartame (E 951), cyclamate (E 952), saccharin (E 954), and steviol glycosides from Stefa (E 960a). On the other hand, sugar substitutes are sugar alcohols. “Sugar substitutes have a similar chemical composition,” explained German doctor Stefan Kabich. The European Union has currently approved eight types of sugar substitutes, such as erythritol (E 968), sorbitol (E 420), and xylitol (E 967).
Sugar substitutes have the same or less sweetening power than sugar, but have fewer calories than sugar, with the exception of erythritol, which has no calories.
Dr. Kabish added, “This substance is not decomposed in the intestines by bacteria, but is completely absorbed and excreted through the urine. Erythritol can also be used in baked goods, just like sugar.”
However, consuming a large amount of sugar substitutes may lead to digestive problems and the emergence of pathological symptoms, such as bloating or diarrhea, according to Catherine Botner, who said, “The ability to tolerate these substances varies from one person to another.”
Dr. Kabeesh explained that one has to take into account that his consumption of sugar is not limited to sweeteners and artificial sweeteners only that are added to foods, but there are other sweeteners that are eaten, including fruits, honey and agave syrup.
He added, “Agave syrup is a liquid sugar, so from a health point of view, it can only be classified as industrial sugar.”
It is very difficult to determine the “healthy” amount of sugar. The World Health Organization and the German Society for Nutrition indicated that one should not consume more than 10% of the daily calories in the form of sugar, and when the daily requirements are 2000 calories, the consumption of sugar is about 50 grams, but this applies to free sugar; Any sugar found in products or found naturally in honey, fruit juices or syrups, and does not include sugar from fresh fruit.
“It’s clear that sugar is a health problem, but sweeteners and sugar substitutes are less dangerous,” Dr. Kabich continued. Substances that are less dangerous or more healthy cannot be identified, due to the lack of sufficient research on this subject.
Experts summarized the status of studies on sweeteners and sugar substitutes as unclear or incomplete, in addition to the fact that many studies were not methodologically sound.
“Ultimately, sweeteners and artificial sweeteners come down to personal preference,” said Catherine Botner. Although the majority of studies have not been able to confirm any harmful health effects of sweeteners, there is still a need to conduct many empirical studies.
While Dr. Kapich indicated that there is less research on sugar substitutes, it is clear that they change the intestinal flora, so people who suffer from intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome should be careful and careful when using sugar substitutes.
German doctor Stefan Kabich advised to reduce sugar consumption in the long term, as the healthiest solution is to refrain from eating sweets, instead of eating foods that include sweeteners and sugar substitutes.
In order for one to be able to achieve this goal, he should train himself to stay away from sugars in the long term. It is also important to check the list of ingredients well while shopping, because sweeteners are present in processed foods to a greater extent than is believed, so you should look for the letter E or the phrase “sweetened” on food packages.
“Although the majority of studies have not confirmed any harmful effects of sweeteners, there is still a need for more empirical studies to be conducted.”
“Sugar substitutes change the intestinal flora, so those suffering from intestinal diseases should be careful with them.”
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