What are artificial sweeteners.
Artificial sugars or sweeteners are the name given to artificially made compounds that have a typically 'sweet' taste. There has not been a lot of research into artificial sweeteners, and some have been banned in the past, so are artificial sweeteners bad for you?
Traditional table sugar (caster sugar) is made through the refinement of the natural sugars found in either sugar cane or sugar beet. The final outcome is a white crystallized powder that is pleasingly sweet.
Artificial sweeteners aim to emulate this sweet sensation, but without the calories and the need for a laborious extraction process.
How do artificial sweeteners work?
Artificial sweeteners work in very much the same way as any food does in terms of taste.
The face of the tongue is covered by around 10,000 taste buds, each of which contains many tiny taste receptors that are able to decipher between the 5 main tastes:
When you consume food or put anything in your mouth, the tiny taste receptors on the tongue encounter and interfere with food molecules. Each food molecule is different, so the body can distinguish between them all and send a signal up into the brain to let you know what tastes like what.
Only sweet food molecules can fit into sweet taste receptors, and artificial sweeteners take full advantage of this.
Sweeteners are made in such a way that they fit just right into the sweet taste receptors. The brain knows no difference between a real sweetness and a fake one, all it knows is that when something fits into that sweet receptor, it tells you that it tastes something sweet.
Artificial sweeteners are soo good at emulating sugar, that they are almost all sweeter than sugar itself.
The only difference is that the body can not break down synthetic sweeteners and use them as energy in the same way that it does with sugar.
Types of artificial sweeteners.
- Aspartame - 200 times sweeter than table sugar.
- Acesulfame potassium - 200 times sweeter than table sugar.
- Advantame - 20,000 times sweeter than table sugar
- Aspartame-acesulfame salt - 350 times sweeter than table sugar.
- Cyclamate - 50 times sweeter than table sugar
- Neotame - 13,000 times sweeter than table sugar
- Neohesperidin - 340 times sweeter than table sugar
- Sacchari - 700 times sweeter than table sugar.
- Sucralose - 600 times sweeter table sugar
Sugar and its effects on the body.
Sugar is generally seen as a 'bad' food, regardless of how tasty it might be. Sugar is incredibly dense in calories and is a type of simple carbohydrate.
Simple carbohydrates are absorbed by the body very quickly, which does give an almost immediate boost in energy levels, but will also lead fat gain if not all used up.
10 ways that sugar affects the body:
- Your brain, by elevating dopamine levels which essentially makes you feel good, but it is also what leads to such strong cravings for sugary foods.
- Your mood in both a positive and negative way because when eating sugar you get an initial sugar rush, but that is shortly followed by a crash, which can lower mood, and increase feelings of depression.
- Your teeth – sugar is one of the main contributor's to tooth decay.
- Joints, as sugar is thought to increase inflammation throughout the body.
- Your skin – many studies have concluded that increased sugar consumption leads to quicker aging of the skin.
- The liver, as blood sugar spikes can cause spikes in insulin levels, which greatly effects the functionality of the liver.
- Your heart, also a result of insulin due to the hormone leading to stress in the arteries, which can lead to many cardiovascular problems.
- The pancreas as spikes in blood sugar causes the body to produce more insulin, which puts added stress on the pancreas.
- Body weight – probably the most well-known effect of sugar, due to the amount of calories, sugar can quickly lead to weight gain if eaten in excess.
- Sexual health – many studies have confirmed that having regularly increased blood sugar levels can lead to troubles maintaining an erection.
Are artificial sweeteners bad for you?
As a whole, artificial sweeteners are not necessarily bad, but much like sugar, they should still only be consumed in moderation.
There can also be a huge difference between one sweetener and the next, so it would be wrong to group them under the same label and regard them all as the same.
That being said, there is a lot of evidence out there that suggests that artificial sweeteners might actually be good for you, and a good alternative to sugar and other natural sweeteners.
Affect on appetite.
Many people believe that artificial sweeteners can increase appetite and encourage weight gain.
This is because there is a theory (not based on fact) that states; artificial sweeteners do nothing to suppress the body's craving for sugar and in turn, the body will still feel hungry, as it has not gotten what it needs and is craving.
Although a popular notion, there is no solid evidence that can prove this theory, and there are actually more studies that suggest that artificial sweeteners can actually reduce appetite.
Affect on weight.
Artificial sweeteners have also been slated as being a contributing factor in the development of weight gain and obesity, but this theory is also not supported by much research.
In fact, there have been a number of recent studies that have found that replacing normal sugar with artificial, especially in drinks, can significantly reduce BMI and waist circumference.
People who suffer from diabetes may benefit from opting for artificial sweeteners over natural as it is thought that artificial sweeteners have a very litter effect (if any at all) on blood sugar levels and insulin.
Reducing blood sugar spike is an essential element to the management of diabetes.
The bacteria that we have in our gut are incredibly important and keeping us happy and functioning, as it allows everything to 'move along' properly as it should.
More research is needed, but there is some evidence to suggest that some artificial sweeteners might disrupt the natural balance of our gut bacteria, and lead to negative side effects such a diarrhea and constipation.
It's no secret that sugar is bad for our teeth, but do you know why?
When naturally sweet is consumed all of the bacteria and enzymes that call the mouth home, start to break down and ferment the sugars into acid. Even though this on a minuscule scale, the produced acid is what leads to leads to tooth decay and cavities.
Natural alternatives to sugar.
If you are trying to reduce your sugar intake, but are apprehensive to try artificial sweeteners, then there are plenty of natural alternatives readily available that you can use to satisfy your cravings.
Honey is one of the oldest forms of natural sweeteners that humans have included in their diet. Honey has even been found in the ancient Egyptian pyramids.
Derived from bees, honey is a 100% natural product that is a healthier alternative to refined sugars and is also belive to support gut bacteria and the immune system.
Quickly gaining popularity in the health world is the natural sugar alternative, agave nectar.
Low on the glycemic index scale, and typically sweeter than sugar, agave does not pose much of a spike in blood sugar levels, nor do you need to use very much.
However, agave nectar is high in fructose, which can lead to weight gain if consumed in excessive amounts, so it should still be avoided by diabetics.
Stevia is often mistaken for an artificial sweetener, due to its powder or pill like appearance and incredibly strong sweet taste.
Stevia sweetener is a plant extract and although it is a heavily processed, it is still considered to be a 100% natural alternative to sugar.
How To Curb Your Sweet Tooth.
Having a sweet tooth can be tuff to budge, after all, there nothing quite like the satisfaction sinking your teeth into a slice of cake or family-sized chocolate bar.
To avoid sugar cravings and curb the sweet tooth, there are a few foods that you can implement into your diet that can significantly help.
Foods that curb sugar cravings:
Fresh fruit is naturally sweet, refreshing, and delicious, making it a perfect alternative to high-calorie, sugary treats.
Dark chocolate is far lower in sugar than its milk and white counterparts, and due to the intense flavor, it can take as little as just one square to satisfy your cravings.
Probably not the first food that you think about when craving something sweet, but having a portion of oily fish is full of high-quality protein and healthy fats – both of which keep you fuller for longer and help you to feel more sustained.