Artificial sweeteners – just as bad for you?

Artificial sweeteners and moderation.

Recent research out of the Department of Psychological Sciences and Ingestive Behavior Research Center at Purdue University suggests that artificially sweetened beverages may be just as bad for you as sugar sweetened beverages. The researchers believe that sweeteners in diet sodas may trick your body by pretending it is real food. Then when your body doesn't get the things it expects, it becomes confused on how to respond. The body then may not release the hormone that regulates blood sugar and blood pressure.

Artificial sweeteners contain little to zero calories and grams of sugar, which may be beneficial in weight loss and weight maintenance. Currently there are over 20 different sweeteners, including carbohydrate based sweeteners that are available as ingredients on the marketplace.

A large amount of sugar may increase the chance of developing obesity and coronary heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that the average American limit their intake of added sugar to five teaspoons for women and nine teaspoons for men per day.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends ingesting no more than 50 milligrams of aspartame per kilogram of body weight every day. Harmful effects would be felt at that amount, which is equivalent to 22 cans of diet soda for a 175-pound man and 15 cans for a 120-pound woman. Of course this level of soda consumption may then lead to deficiencies in other nutrients that our body needs from fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and whole grains.

Moderation is key in the consumption of sugar or artificial sweeteners.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans focused on choosing a variety of foods from each of the five food groups, limiting sodium, total fat and saturated fat; as well as, increasing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, milk and milk products and to choose a variety of protein foods.

Two key messages to consumers include:

  • Reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Michigan State University Extension offers nutrition education classes for adults that discuss choosing healthy options from each food group, shopping on a budget, as well as basic nutrition information. More information visit the Eating Right is Basic program page.

Read Artificial sweeteners in beverages: Part 2

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