America is becoming more and more aware of what we're putting in our bodies. As a result, it's becoming more and more common to see food and beverage products that are labeled "zero sugar" or "zero calories".
In theory, this is a great idea. Of course, we want to be able to enjoy our favorite foods without filling up with unnecessary sugars and calories.
These foods are able to have "zero sugar" by using artificial sweeteners. One of the most popular artificial sweeteners is sucralose.
Sucralose, otherwise known as Splenda, is found in sugar-free versions of your favorite drinks worldwide.
Popular drinks with sucralose:
Despite being around since the 1990s, there has not been a ton of human research done on the effects of sucralose. There have been sucralose studies conducted on rats showing damage to good gut bacteria. The rats that were fed sucralose saw a 50% decrease in beneficial gut bacteria while also experiencing a rise in their intestinal pH and heightened enzyme levels. The heightened enzyme levels could impede their ability to absorb nutrients.
High risk of cancer?
There have also been studies linking sucralose to a higher risk of cancer in studies done with rats. The rats were fed doses of sucralose throughout their entire lives. The male rats that were given higher doses of sucralose were found to have a higher risk of cancer.
Glucose and insulin issues
Sucralose has also been found to increase blood glucose levels and insulin levels while decreasing sensitivity, which could negatively impact people with diabetes who are consuming sucralose to manage blood glucose levels.
Sucralose is made by attaching chlorine molecules to normal white sugar. These chlorine molecules much harder for you to digest, which leads to you not being able to metabolize the sweetener. Sucralose passes through your body undigested and builds up in your fat cells.
Studies show that when heated, sucralose forms chloropropanols, which are possible carcinogens. With most products containing sucralose having been heated at some point in the cooking process, it's a risk you shouldn't take.
Of course! Erythritol and Stevia are two natural sugar alternatives that can be used instead of the dangerous artificial sugars. These sugar alternatives are generally found in small amounts in fruits and vegetables.
Erythritol only has 6% of the calories of sugar but retains 70% of the sweetness. Erythritol doesn’t spike your blood sugar or insulin, so this makes it a great sugar substitute for diabetics. Studies have shown that erythritol acts as an antioxidant, reducing blood vessel damage that has been caused by high blood sugar levels. Erythritol also will not cause your teeth to decay, unlike sugar and other artificial sweeteners.
Stevia also makes for a great natural sugar substitute. Stevia has no calories and is 200x sweeter than sugar. Studies have shown that stevia has the potential for treating diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Antioxidant compounds, including kaempferol, can be found in Stevia. Studies have shown that kaempferol can reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by 23%.
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