Can You Debunk These Myths About Artificial Sweeteners?
Eating Right
May 22, 2019
Can You Debunk These Myths About Artificial Sweeteners?
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We’ll keep this short and sweet — Americans love their sweets. In fact, the average American consumes more than 126 grams of sugar per day, which is equivalent to about three 12-ounce cans of Coca-Cola or 30 teaspoons of sugar.

That being said, reaching for items sweetened with artificial sweeteners may seem like a healthier choice, but there’s a lot of talk regarding the health factor of artificial sweeteners. So we spoke to Kim Allen, M.D., an internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Dallas and Texas Health Adult Care, and Madge Barnes, M.D., a primary care physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Family Care – Grand Prairie, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice, to crack down on the not-so-sweet truth about artificial sweeteners, and their answers may surprise you. Test your knowledge about added sugar and artificial sweeteners and let us know how you do!

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  • Did we surprise you on a few of those myths? Navigating proper nutrition is a journey we all have to face every single day, and it’s definitely not easy, especially when you’re craving something a little indulgent. Allen adds that treating yourself every now and then isn’t going to derail any health or nutrition goals you may have, but being cognizant of how much sugar — natural or artificial — you consume is important.   

    Working with a certified nutritionist can help guide you on your journey and answer any questions you have along the way. Call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355) to find out what nutrition services your local Texas Health location offers. 

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  1. Question 1 of 10
    1. Question

     

    Correct

    Artificial sugars are not made of sucrose (table sugar). They are comprised of synthetic chemicals that stimulate sweet receptors on the tongue.

    Incorrect

    False — Artificial sugars are not made of sucrose (table sugar). They are comprised of synthetic chemicals that stimulate sweet receptors on the tongue.

  2. Question 2 of 10
    2. Question

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    Many artificial sugars are a lot sweeter than table sugar.

    Aspartame (NutraSweet® and Equal®) is about 200 times sweeter than table sugar; Saccharin (Sweet’N Low®) is about 200 to 400 times sweeter; Sucralose (Splenda®) is about 600 times sweeter, and Stevia rebaudiana (Truvia®) is 200 to 400 times sweeter.   

     

    Incorrect

    False — Many artificial sugars are a lot sweeter than table sugar.

    Aspartame (NutraSweet® and Equal®) is about 200 times sweeter than table sugar; Saccharin (Sweet’N Low®) is about 200 to 400 times sweeter; Sucralose (Splenda®) is about 600 times sweeter, and Stevia rebaudiana (Truvia®) is 200 to 400 times sweeter.

     

  3. Question 3 of 10
    3. Question

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    Although these sweeteners have been accused of causing cancer, there have not been any direct links between artificial sweeteners and an increased occurrence of cancer.

    “Early studies seemed to show that saccharin in combination with cyclamate caused bladder cancer in lab animals,” Allen says. “Results from subsequent carcinogenicity studies have not provided clear evidence of an association of cancer in humans.”

    Incorrect

    False — Although these sweeteners have been accused of causing cancer, there have not been any direct links between artificial sweeteners and an increased occurrence of cancer.

    “Early studies seemed to show that saccharin in combination with cyclamate caused bladder cancer in lab animals,” Allen says. “Results from subsequent carcinogenicity studies have not provided clear evidence of an association of cancer in humans.”

  4. Question 4 of 10
    4. Question

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    Although natural sweeteners are extracted from plants, the plant sugars must be purified using methods involving chemicals such as methanol, and are still 200 to 300 times sweeter than regular table sugar. However, both types of sweeteners are deemed safe.

     

    Incorrect

    False — Although natural sweeteners are extracted from plants, the plant sugars must be purified using methods involving chemicals such as methanol, and are still 200 to 300 times sweeter than regular table sugar. However, both types of sweeteners are deemed safe.

     

  5. Question 5 of 10
    5. Question

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    A study published by researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K concluded that artificial sweeteners do not cause weight gain. But while artificial sugars may not be the direct cause of weight gain, Barnes says they are not without consequences.

    “People tend to have a false sense of security when drinking diet soda, so they are more likely to overeat,” she explains. “Artificial sweeteners might also ‘trick the brain’ into craving rich, high-calorie foods, leading to weight gain.”

    Incorrect

    False —  A study published by researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K concluded that artificial sweeteners do not cause weight gain. But while artificial sugars may not be the direct cause of weight gain, Barnes says they are not without consequences.

    “People tend to have a false sense of security when drinking diet soda, so they are more likely to overeat,” she explains. “Artificial sweeteners might also ‘trick the brain’ into craving rich, high-calorie foods, leading to weight gain.”

  6. Question 6 of 10
    6. Question

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    “Artificial sweeteners can aid in weight loss if paired with adequate sleep quantities, water intake, avoidance of other excess carbs, such as bread, buns and French fries, and exercise of at least 150 minutes,” Allen says.

    Incorrect

    True — “Artificial sweeteners can aid in weight loss if paired with adequate sleep quantities, water intake, avoidance of other excess carbs, such as bread, buns and French fries, and exercise of at least 150 minutes a week,” Allen says.

  7. Question 7 of 10
    7. Question

    Correct

    But they are not required to list how much of the sweetener is included in the food item. Unlike fats, carbs, cholesterol and regular sugar, which are conveniently listed in an easy-to-read nutrition label on food and drink items, artificial sugars are buried deep within ingredients lists. And many times, you might not recognize their names.

    In a small study conducted by a member of the National Institutes of Health, parents who stated they would not purchase foods with artificial sweeteners for their children were asked to select a few items from a table with popular packaged foods and drinks. Most still chose products with sugar substitutes because they were not able to identify them as such on the labels.

    Allen adds that marketers will typically use the chemical name of sweeteners to trick consumers into thinking the item is free of artificial sugars.

    Incorrect

    True — But they are not required to list how much of the sweetener is included in the food item. Unlike fats, carbs, cholesterol and regular sugar, which are conveniently listed in an easy-to-read nutrition label on food and drink items, artificial sugars are buried deep within ingredients lists. And many times, you might not recognize their names.

    In a small study conducted by a member of the National Institutes of Health, parents who stated they would not purchase foods with artificial sweeteners for their children were asked to select a few items from a table with popular packaged foods and drinks. Most still chose products with sugar substitutes because they were not able to identify them as such on the labels.

    Allen adds that marketers will typically use the chemical name of sweeteners to trick consumers into thinking the item is free of artificial sugars.

  8. Question 8 of 10
    8. Question

    Correct

    While table sugar has a set four calories per gram and most artificial sweeteners are virtually calorie-free, there’s another group of sweeteners known as “sugar alcohols” that can lie somewhere between the two. Thankfully, sugar alcohols are listed on nutrition labels, so you can easily see how many grams are included.

     

     

    Incorrect

    True — While table sugar has a set four calories per gram and most artificial sweeteners are virtually calorie-free, there’s another group of sweeteners known as “sugar alcohols” that can lie somewhere between the two. Thankfully, sugar alcohols are listed on nutrition labels, so you can easily see how many grams are included.

     

     

  9. Question 9 of 10
    9. Question

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    Since artificial sweeteners are metabolized more slowly, replacing sugar with an artificial option may help stabilize blood glucose levels over a longer period, potentially lowering your A1C count.

    But Allen notes that the jury is still out on whether artificial sugars spike insulin levels as regular sugar does, so it’s still smart to keep an eye on your artificial sweetener intake.

    Incorrect

    True – Since artificial sweeteners are metabolized more slowly, replacing sugar with an artificial option may help stabilize blood glucose levels over a longer period, potentially lowering your A1C count.

    But Allen notes that the jury is still out on whether artificial sugars spike insulin levels as regular sugar does, so it’s still smart to keep an eye on your artificial sweetener intake.

  10. Question 10 of 10
    10. Question

    Correct

    This one is false, for now, but some studies on animals have shown that sucralose, aspartame and saccharin may have negative effects on the balance and diversity of gut bacteria. Allen notes that it’s hard to predict whether or not this also occurs in humans and if it has the same negative effects.

    Incorrect

    False — This one is false, for now, but some studies on animals have shown that sucralose, aspartame and saccharin may have negative effects on the balance and diversity of gut bacteria. Allen notes that it’s hard to predict whether or not this also occurs in humans and if it has the same negative effects.

Reaching for items sweetened with artificial sugars may seem like a healthier choice, but there’s a lot of talk regarding the health-factor of artificial sweeteners. Crackdown on the not-so-sweet-truth about artificial sweeteners and test your knowledge.

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