Study a sweetner by any name
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Dear readers A shout out to my colleague at ECU Family Medicine, Kay Craven, who was honored at the international meeting of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for her excellence in practice in the community. Many of you have benefited from her diet counseling, weight classes, teaching and research over the last 15 years. We are thankful that she and her family are in Pitt County. Congratulations Kay! A second shout out to the Pitt County Health department for sponsoring a diabetes event called Move Your Way on Nov. 13 from 10-11:30 a.m. It’s free and open to everyone. More information at 252-902-2361.
Q: Can non-nutritive sweeteners contribute to weight loss? JR, Greenville.
A: There seems to be some controversy about if and how non-nutritive or what most of us call artificial sweeteners can affect our weight. Sruthi Boddapati, a senior ECU dietetics student wants to share some information with you.
We have all experienced the need to shed a few pounds but hit the pesky roadblock of having to decide between what we love to eat and what is good for us. What can be the culprit of such a common and costly problem? The answer lies in the fact that weight gain is often caused by simply eating too many calories.
Sugar provides 4 calories per gram without any nutrient benefit. Non-nutritive sweeteners, or what can be commonly referred to as low-calorie or artificial sweeteners don’t provide nutrients either but have fewer or no calories.
This may sound like a quick fix and potentially even a ticket to continue eating the sweet foods you love just by switching to “sugar-free” foods. However, some researchers suggest this works only when you consume them following a meal plan that contains nutritious foods and involves moderation.
Most nutrition experts would agree that eating healthy foods is preferred over consuming sugar-free substitutes for weight management. Based on studies they would say that the ideal standard for keeping your body hydrated is to consume water. Better weight-loss results have been achieved for those who drank water versus those who drank sugar-free beverages in several clinical trials.
Even so, for those who want to use sugar substitutes, the American Heart Association in 2018 suggested that use of non-nutritive sweeteners could be a useful strategy for reducing intake of sugary foods and drinks for some people. The American Diabetes Association further suggested that use of products containing non-nutritive sweeteners can lower added sugar intake, help with weight loss, and boost metabolism if used short-term.
Following that advice may be a great consideration if you struggle with maintaining such lifestyle changes and would like a middle ground before cutting out sugary foods entirely. If you do choose to use non-nutritive sweeteners in your weight loss journey, it is important to know which ones are present in foods and how to tell them apart.
The FDA labeled five sweeteners as “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) to show the product purity and quality. These GRAS sweeteners include: Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal and Sugar Twin), Acesulfame-K (Sunett and Sweet One), Neotame (Neotame), Saccharin (Sweet’N Low, Sweet Twin, and Necta Sweet), and Sucralose (Splenda).
As you know there are many more products on the store shelves. Look at the ingredient list to see if they contain any of these alternatives. When considering sugar substitutes, it is important to look at the multiplier of sweetness intensity (how sweet it is compared to sugar), acceptable daily intake (how much you can eat per day), and the regulatory status (if the product is approved by the FDA).
Additionally, some sweeteners may be better for a particular dish or provide a preferred mouthfeel/texture. For example, Neotame and Erythritol are great for baking as they can withstand high heat and have no aftertaste. On the other hand, you may want to avoid sweeteners such as Aspartame, one of the most controversial food additives since there is a mix of evidence about side effects that some people experience.
Before you change the sweeteners, you consume, it’s important to learn about them. An in-depth comparison of these sweeteners as well as a list of products in which they are available and can be found here: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/additional-information-about-high-intensity-sweeteners-permitted-use-food-united-states.
Another important resource is a visit with a registered dietitian who can help find which sweetener(s) may be best for you, understand/set weight management goals, and even create a meal plan to help you reach these goals.
Professor emeritus Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Ph.D., is an affiliate professor in the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.