Sugar vs. artificial sweeteners: the battle is on. The companies that sell these products are battling for your choice when you decide how to sweeten your food or drinks. The marketing ploys talk about the benefits of sugar vs. artificial sweeteners. You will never hear a company pushing artificial sweeteners mention a potential health risk. Sugar is natural, so you will see it in soda as “throwback”, and all of a sudden soda drinkers think they are drinking something healthier than a drink sweetened with high fructose corn syrup or an artificial sweetener. Websites are dedicated to the differences and the risks vs. the benefits. Local and national news talk about the studies being conducted, and they feature doctors to speak about the topic. Amidst all the hustle and bustle, and the information overload, when it comes to sugar vs. artificial sweeteners, what’s good for you?
Here’s a statement by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
“It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive sweeteners and nonnutritive sweeteners (NNS) when consumed within an eating plan that is guided by current federal nutrition recommendations, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Dietary Reference Intakes, as well as individual health goals and personal preference.”
Just as calories in moderation are not bad for you, sugar and artificial sweeteners in moderation are also not bad for you. Sugar and other natural sweeteners like honey, cane juice, and high fructose corn syrup are all similar in the composition, number of calories, and amount of sweetness. High fructose corn syrup is commonly thought to be an artificial sweetener, when it is actually a natural sweetener made from corn with a composition of higher fructose than glucose. Common table sugar is composed of equal amounts of fructose and glucose at 50% each. The body can not tell tell the difference between the two. Sugar actually has benefits in food. It help preserve and protect flavor, as well as retain moisture. In the body, however, too much sugar consumption can lead to tooth decay, diabetes, and other health problems. While the FDA has not specified a recommended amount of sugar per day (because sugar is not a required nutrient), the daily value is set at between 40 and 50 grams.
Artificial sweeteners have no calories, but they are much sweeter than actual sugar. Because they are synthetic and manmade, many studies conclude in stating that artificial sweeteners could cause cancer or other health problems. These sweeteners, like anything that potentially causes cancer, would have to be consumed in very large amounts on a consistent basis. Other studies will show that the body craves more sugar after consuming artificial sweeteners, because the body is almost “tricked” into thinking it ate sugar. The body does have the ability to crave sugar as a way to attain the necessary calories and energy the body may need at a given time of low energy. So if the body thinks it is eating sugar, it may continue to want more. This has not been established by the FDA.
In the end, just as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states, sugar and artificial sweeteners are allowed in moderation. One is not better than the other, as they both provide zero nutritional value. Everyone would be more healthy by eating less sugar.