Sugar Talk Sugar Talk
Artificial Sweeteners and Your Health
Conventional understanding is that cutting out sugar in favour of artificial sweeteners helps in the battle against obesity. But new research and changing understandings are challenging this deep-rooted perspective.
An ongoing debate
The debate between sugars versus artificial sweeteners has been going on for decades. Public Health England, celebrity chefs, diet enthusiasts and health officials regularly communicate that replacing sugar in food and drink with a substitute is the way forward to combatting obesity and living a fuller, healthier life. Questions remain, however, as to how true these claims are. With this in mind, are artificial sweeteners really an ideal answer?
Extensive research goes into the ingredients used in food and beverages.
This is a controversial topic, where research by scientists and food & drink specialists has shown that artificial sweeteners are not as benign as once thought. Sucralose, aspartame, and other similar substitutes have dominated the weight loss world for such a long time. Now, however, it may be time for scientists to address the subject in the hope to reach a fair and balanced conclusion.
“Artificial sweeteners are not risk-free,” says Brian Hoffmann, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Marquette University.
Rats, cultures, and genes
Hoffman indicated that his research findings show that artificial sweeteners contribute to “metabolic disorder and disease through an entirely different pathway compared to (normal) sugar.” The research shows that these sugar substitutes change the way certain specific genes, which are responsible for breaking down fats and proteins, work. Performed by utilising both human cell cultures and rats, the study in question concluded that several metabolic changes could occur within as little as three weeks, indicating that the influence of sweeteners can be relatively fast-acting in the body.
“If you use sweeteners as an alternative to sugar, the sweeteners suppress the production of the hormone lecithin. Lecithin tells the brain when it’s had enough carbohydrate, but with sweeteners the brain doesn’t receive that signal; you just keep eating.”
Using rats and human cell cultures, Hoffman and his team of scientists found that in just three weeks of exposure to the sweeteners aspartame and acesulfame potassium, the select genes charged with lipid metabolism were altered.
Explaining further, Hoffman added “Aspartame had some significant changes, and one of those was an increase in lipids in the bloodstream and a decrease in a biomolecule that is involved in clearing (lipids) from the bloodstream. And we saw the exact same thing with the acesulfame potassium.”
Substitutes and health risks
Hoffman and his team have shown that artificial sweeteners cause metabolic changes at a genetic level — changes that do not take place when regular sugar is consumed.
There has been research in past years suggesting that sugar substitutes can increase the risk of diabetes by up to 500%. Published research similarly revealed that, over a 10-year period, one can of diet drink or more on a daily basis was associated with a three times increased risk for stroke and dementia compared with consumers who drank regular beverages. Further research by the U.S National Institutes of Health show that malodextrin, a food additive commonly used in some sugar substitutes may cause Crohn’s disease, as it encourages the growth of the bacteria E. coli in the small intestine.
These are just a handful of studies that have shown that while artificial sweeteners may be low in calories, they are not good for the human body. Reliable sugar products, such as those provided by Ragus, are safe products with an extensive history of peer-reviewed research behind them.
A board member and co-leader of the business, Ben is responsible for our marketing strategy and its execution by the agency team he leads and is the guardian of our corporate brand vision. He also manages key customers and distributors.
In 2005, he took on the role of globally sourcing our ‘speciality sugars’. With his background in laboratory product testing and following three decades of supplier visits, his expertise means we get high quality, consistent and reliable raw materials from ethical sources.