The human consumption of sugar has risen exponentially as technology and agricultural practices have enabled sugar to be more readily available, and coupled with a society that has a culturally accepted sweet-tooth, the average consumption of sugar is 142 pounds each year by Americans!
With all of that sugar comes a whole host of negative effects: diabetes, weight gain, cavities, and more.
Instead of eliminating or lessening sugar intake in the diet, sugar “alternatives” have been making their way into foods and drinks, to satisfy that sweet-tooth, but decrease risk for the negativities associated with high sugar intake. Does that mean it’s actually a healthy alternative? Well, take what you want from it, but we’ll scan the world of stevia, aspartame, high-fructose corn syrup and more versus good ‘ole sucrose to help de-mystify the benefits and recourses of sweetened foods.
Sugar comes in many different forms: sucrose, glucose, fructose, galactose, and maltose, primarily, and provide about 4kcal for every gram. These types of sugars are all natural, in that they actually occur in foods straight from the earth. Many alternative sugars are generally called nonnutritive sugars – meaning that they increase the “sugary” taste of something, but provide minimal to absolutely no nutritional value. These are your aspartames (NutraSweet, Equal), stevias, saccharins (Sweet’n Low) and more. They were produced because they have little to no effect on blood sugar levels, feeling of hunger, or weight increase – perfect products for a fattening society with a rise in diabetes. If you made a cake with Sweet’n Low, you could have your cake and eat it, too, and not go into a blood sugar-induced coma.
These types of sweeteners began to get a bad rap for being linked to cancers, behavioral problems, weight gain, and more, especially within the homeopathic/naturopathic industries. However, veritable studies which were organized to have unbiased results-finding processes have found no legitimate link between nonnutritive sugars and major health risks.
Even with no scientific backing, people were still hesitant about chemically made sugars, so then a cheap, but still sweet product came on the market that is great for stabilizing a product’s shelf life and is very abundant. Enter stage right 1970’s, high fructose corn syrup. If you have 90 minutes to learn something about anything, YouTube the video Sugar: the Bitter Truth by Dr. Robert Lustig. HFCS definitely has a track record of correlation between weight gain, diabetes and other metabolic diseases in the body.
The newest alternative sugar on the block is Stevia. Stevia is the name of the plant, while the sugar additive is steviol glycosides or stevioside. Just like aspartame and saccharin, it has little to no effect on blood sugar levels, weight gain, satiety, or hunger! The difference is that stevioside is directly derived from an actual plant. There haven’t been many studies that have found any negative links with Stevia (though, to be fair, there haven’t been with the other nonnutritive sweeteners either), but plenty of studies that show it may yield positive benefits through allowing the sweet taste without the Calories or other metabolic problems.
How does this shape against plain sucrose sugar? Sucrose gives off about 4 kcals worth of energy for every gram. It is directly linked to diabetes, weight gain, behavioral problems, and other metabolic diseases, as it effects hunger, fullness, blood sugar levels, Calorie intake and more, but it occurs naturally in plants that are able to be harvested and processed. An overabundance of sugar will give you love handles and diabetes.
Still on the fence about sugar alternatives? Us too, and a lot of other people. Fuelixir will provide product options containing no nonnutritive sugars, and most will have little to no actual sugar either. Remember, sugar isn’t evil if you can contain it, count it and use it sparingly.