artificial sweetener
sugar free
August 24, 2011

Food Labels: Artificial Sweeteners

The truth about the stuff that makes our food taste sweet.

Jessica: In the war on obesity, some call sugar the enemy. So does that mean sugar free is the way to go?

Do you eat sugar free?

Teen: Not really. If anything, gum.

Teen: It depends if I’m on an exercise routine or trying to lose weight.

Jessica: Sugar-free may mean no sugar. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is healthier because those products are usually sweetened with something else — artificial sweeteners.

For those sugar-free products, how do you think they are sweetened?

“Chemically. Chemical sweeteners.”

“A lot of them use Splenda.”

Jessica: Artificial sweeteners, are synthetic sugar substitutes used instead of table sugar to sweeten foods and beverages. Some common names are saccharin, aspartame and sucralose.

Cynthia Sass: I don’t recommend sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners myself.

Jessica: Cynthia Sass is a registered dietician and worries sugar substitutes like Splenda and Equal can trigger bad habits. There’s some indication they may stoke a sweet tooth, so you will be looking for sweets elsewhere or you are just obsessively thinking about sweets all the time. I mean, those are like a poison. I used to be addicted to Splenda.

Jessica: Concerns about the safety of artificial sweeteners aren’t new. Back in the 1970s, the very first artificial sweetener, called saccharine, nicknamed ‘the pink packet,’ actually had a warning label that said the product caused cancer in laboratory animals. The cancer warning came off more than ten years ago. That is because additional lab studies could not show a clear link between saccharine and cancer in humans. Today, the pink packet is not your only choice of artificial sweeteners. There is the blue one, yellow one, and sometimes even a green one. They have different ingredients but one thing in common, zero calories per serving.

“It’s not just what you find in a coffee shop. A lot of the foods you’re slurping, sipping or chewing have artificial sweeteners.”

Jessica: Nutritionists worry that dieters assume sugar free means it will help you lose weight. Not always true since the products can still contain fats and carbohydrates.

“It just depends which is worse — carbs are worse or sugars are worse. I’m not sure really what’s worse.”

Jessica: The bottom line: look beyond the hype. Artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes may help with weight management, but they aren’t magic and should be used only in moderation.

Jessica Kumari, Channel One News .


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