Switching from sugar to a non-nutritive sweetener could help people keep the weight off and those with diabetes control their blood sugar level.
According to a new joint statement issued by the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association, lead author Christopher Gardner of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California says, “Smart use of non-nutritive sweeteners can be a tool for consumers, reducing calories, added sugars in the diet, and helping consumers maintain or reach a healthy weight that fights the risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. Determining the benefits of non-nutritive sweeteners is a complex issue. For example, if you choose a beverage sweetened with non-nutritive sweetener, replacing the 150 calories of a sugar sweetened drink, and then indulge in a 300 calorie cookie later in the day, you’re going to end up eating more calories than you subtracted.”
Researchers took a look at the artificial sweeteners aspartame, acesulfame-K, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, and stevia and found that people benefited from replacing added sugars with one of those.
Co-author Diane Reader of the International Diabetes Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota said in a statement, “For example, soft drinks sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners do not increase blood glucose levels, and thus can provide a sweet option for those with diabetes.”
Four of the sweetners: sucralose (Splenda), acesuflame-K, neotame (made by NutraSweet) and saccharin (Sweet’N Low) – are artificial sweeteners and are regulated as food additives by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Aspartame (Equal or NutraSweet) is composed of three amino acids and stevia is a plant derivative, so technically both are not considered artificial, but they do have FDA approval, Gardner explained.
In 2009, the American Heart Association recommended the population to cutback in added sugars in foods, urging that women eat no more than 100 calories a day and men no more than 150 calories daily of added sugars.
The study only looked to see if people had weight control and blood sugar control, not whether or not these artificial sweeteners carried health risks. “We didn’t address safety,” Gardner says.
Gardner added. “If people are counting on this as the way to control calories and sugar, this isn’t it. The bigger impact has to be from an overall healthy diet. You’re never going to turn a junk food into a health food just because you eliminated the sugar content. You never find non-nutritive sweeteners in carrots, broccoli or kidney beans, all the things we tell people to eat.”