By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy
When I first started working at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy and asked Pat for sweetener in my coffee he kind of gave me a funny look and told me that real men drink their coffee black. Others have also told me the stuff is not natural and that I will get a “tumor” from that stuff. It is a common belief, so I have decided to look a little more into artificial and no calorie sweeteners.
Artificial sweetener use is on the rise with food companies trying to make their products healthier in today’s diet craze. And there are some pretty good products out there including the “sugar free” iced tea I was slipping on while writing this!
Sugar alcohols are similar in structure to sugar, may provide anywhere from 25%-100% of the sweetness compared to sugar but they only have the fraction of calories pure sugar has. The reason for sugar alcohols being considered calorie free is they are not well absorbed by our body. An example of a sugar alcohol is xylitol which is used in “sugar free” gum.
Artificial sweeteners were discovered by accident when researchers tasted the products they were creating for other purposes and found they tasted sweet. The artificial sweeteners most of us are familiar with are saccharin, aspartame and sucralose. Another is acesulfame potassium which may not sound familiar but it is used in almost all diet pop. These products contain calories like sugar, but are up to 600 times sweeter than sugar. Therefore very little of it is needed to sweeten the food.
Aspartame is one of the most commonly used and likely the most controversial sweetener. Aspartame has been reported to contribute to headaches and worsen the severity of mood and depression. However the degree aspartame contributes has never been established. Most of the controversy is likely due a study where twelve of 320 rats given extremely high doses of aspartame developed cancerous tumors. However, there is no evidence aspartame increases the risk of cancer in humans, even above upper limits, but the debate will likely continue.
Acceptable daily intakes of artificial sweeteners have been developed based on the amount a person can consume without posing significant health risks. This upper limit for aspartame is over 4000mg for the average person. This would be equivalent to about 20 cans of diet soda per day.
Sucralose, marketed as Splenda, is exploding in popularity due to the fact you can cook with it and thanks to some very good marketing strategies. While it is a good alternative to sugar the company claiming it is “natural” is not accurate. It is a synthetically developed chemical and the concern surrounding sucralose is it contains traces of chlorine. It has been reported to have gastrointestinal effects but more long-term human studies are needed to see the true effects of sucralose. The upper daily limit for the average person is about 37 individual sugar packets we add to coffee or tea.
The facts about the safety of these artificial sweeteners are not completely clear cut. There tends to be a split in the medical community for being for or against their use. However, from everything we do know about artificial sweeteners they are fine to use if consumed at or below the daily limits.
The facts about sugar are clear. More than 26% of Canadian children are obese and over 60% of Canadian adults are overweight and sugar is one of main reasons for it. Approximately nine million Canadians have diabetes or are at risk of getting diabetes, a disease where there is too much sugar in the blood. Many of these people have uncontrolled weight and uncontrolled blood glucose levels.
A can of pop is a great product to consider. A sugar sweetened soda contains an average of 150 calories per can from the 9 teaspoons of sugar in it. If you were to drink a can of soda per day this is an extra 15 pounds of potential weight gain per year. If you are diabetic this will cause a huge sugar spike in your blood. Switching to a diet drink turns the calorie, weight and blood sugar increase to almost zero.
Too much of anything can be a bad thing. If you are a relatively healthy person you can have a can of Pepsi or sweet treat as long as it is in moderation. If you are diabetic or are trying to reduce your calorie intake sweeteners can be a very good option; again if consumed in moderation. If you are looking at trying some no calorie salad dressings, sugar free jams or BBQ sauces we now carry these products at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy. Walden Farms uses Splenda to sweeten their products which are creating some very positive reviews. Visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/clinicpharmacy to print a $1.00 off coupon for any Walden Farms sugar free product.
As always if you have any questions or concerns about these products, ask your pharmacist.
The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.
We now have this and most other articles published in the Parkland Shopper on our Website. Please visit us at www.dcp.ca