March 7, 2017

Ask a Dietitian: Artificial Sugars

Q: Why are artificial or added sugars worse for your health than sugars naturally found in fruits and vegetables?

MANNA RD: This is an ongoing health topic that has been given much debate over most recent years. My own perspective on the subject is that if the term “artificial” is being used to describe a food item, proceed with caution as anything not in its natural form may have consequences.

Not to say you can never drink a Diet Coke again, but if your diet consists of consuming a lot of beverages and food products with artificial sweeteners you may want to consider cutting back on your intake.

Currently there are six artificial sweeteners approved by the FDA: acesulfame potassium, (Sweet One) aspartame (Nutrasweet or Equal), saccharin (Sweet N’ Low), sucralose (Splenda), neotame, and advantame.

All of these offer a sweet flavor to food or beverage while not adding any calories or any grams of sugar. In that sense it seems obvious to choose a diet beverage compared to a regular 12 oz can of soda at 140 calories and 39g of sugar.

However, there is still much to be said on how the brain responds to artificial sweeteners. According to a 2012 article by Harvard Health, when comparing natural sugars found in fruits, artificial sweeteners by taste are much sweeter. Therefore, people who consume high amounts of artificial sweeteners may find naturally sweetened foods not as desirable causing for more consumption of artificially sweetened products.

Even though less calories and sugar are being consumed from these products, there is also less consumption nutrition such as fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

While there is still no definitive answer on the effects of artificial sweeteners, everything in moderation is key. So if you are the individual that consumes a Diet Pepsi with every meal and enjoys sugar free frozen yogurt as a night-time dessert, you may want to start grabbing a water and piece of fruit more often.