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Sugar or Sugar Alternatives: An educated analysis of nutritional value Camelle St. Georges Prof. Lesley Macaskill November 16th, 2011

2 Sugar plays a prominent role in the average persons every day diet. It can be found listed in the ingredients of most things people can buy at the grocery store. Decades of research have given scientists the ability to synthesize a wide array of artificial sugars, or sweeteners. In Canada six different sugar substitutes have been approved for use by Health Canada. These sugar substitutes are stevia, aspartame, sucralose, erythritol, acesulfame potassium, and saccharin. Despite the existence of these sweeteners, it is evident that natural sugar possesses the greater nutritional value. The focus of this essay is to demonstrate why natural sugar is a healthier choice than readily available sugar substitutes. Natural sugar is the healthier option for a number of reasons. These reasons pertain to the adverse health effects associated with certain sugar alternatives, the overall taste and suitability of the product, and the quality of the sweetening agent. Over the years numerous sugar substitutes have been the subjects of controversial medical studies. These medical studies illustrated a link between the consumption of copious amounts of sweeteners and medical conditions such as cancer. Although sugar substitutes like aspartame are regarded as being excellent sweeteners, the fact that they have been thought to cause cancer is a concern for most consumers. Aspartame has been at the heart of a health debate since the 1980s, when it was approved in the United States by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for human consumption despite numerous studies that suggested a link between aspartame consumption and the development of malignant brain tumours. Although aspartame and the other sugar substitutes mentioned in this essay have been approved for use by Health Canada, people should be cautious when using them. The reason for this cautious attitude towards sugar substitutes relates to the fact that the vast majority of sugar substitutes have only been brought into use within the past decade and there is a lack of credible research into the long-term health impacts of these compounds.i It is this knowledge of potential health issues

3 that makes consumers feel that they have to cut back on their use of sugar substitutes. This reduction in the amount of sugar consumption can be explained by the concept of avoidance motivation. In recent years, people have become more conscious when it comes to their health. It is thought that consuming too much artificial sugar can be harmful to a persons health. This notion is supported by the fact that health issues previously blamed on sugar intake, such as diabetes and obesity have continued to increase in frequency despite the introduction of several calorie free artificial sweeteners.ii This has resulted in a push towards using more natural sugar in place of sugar substitutes. The reason why sugar substitutes have established a strong foothold in food related industries relates to the cost of the product. The low cost of sugar substitutes is responsible for making them a popular choice of manufacturers. The popularity of erythritol, a low-calorie white crystalline sugar alcohol, has steadily increased since the 1990s. Erythritol is approximately 70 percent as sweet as sucrose (table sugar), yet it has almost no calories. It has a non-hygroscopic surface that prevents clumping and is easily digestible. The fact that this sugar substitute is relatively safe provides a sense of comfort for consumers. However, consumers should not start to feel too comfortable ingesting sugar substitutes, because although this one is safe, it is still not among the most widely used. Aside from the potential health risks, a number of people notice a difference in both taste and consistency when comparing natural sugars to artificial sweeteners. In addition to this, it is not easy to find a sugar substitute that is a perfect match for actual sugar in terms of taste and consistency. It has become a standard practice in the food industry for a number of sweeteners to be combined in an attempt to replicate the taste of natural sugar. The texture of an artificial

4 sweetener can also be altered to resemble natural sugar by adding a bulking agent to the production process in order to give the sugar substitute a similar weight to natural sugar. Producing an artificial sweetener is more cost effective than growing and refining cane sugar or other natural sweeteners. This creates the possibility of a much larger profit margin for manufacturers. As a result of this desire for higher profits, many corporations are pushing their diet lines, which use artificial sweetener instead of actual sugar, since they make a great deal more money off of each unit sold. There is not an artificial sweetener in existence today that should play a major role in a balanced diet. The reason for this is the fact that even if all of these sugar substitutes were shown to have no long-term health effects, they would still come up short when it comes to good nutrition. Like sugar substitutes and many of the foods that contain them contribute little or nothing in the way of nutrients, and also take the place of more nutritious foods in the diet. Limit yourself to a couple of servings a day. The health issues of sugar alternative surpass real sugar in the long run. As many people now recognise, oxygen intake is responsible for hindering the development of cancers. However, sugar substitutes have been shown to increase acidosis and eliminate oxygen in the human body. Refined sugar is the prime energy source for fuelling cancer cells, and it is found in large quantities throughout the modern diet. The long-term toxicity of many sugar substitutes is also responsible for increasing the prevalence of cancers. It is highly recommended that people remove sugar alternatives from their diet. Medical studies have linked artificial sweeteners to obesity in lab animals. These studies showed that sugar substitutes were responsible for making the lab animals consume excessive quantities of artificial sugars and to put on more body mass than the other lab rats, which were fed natural sugar.iii Maintaining a balanced diet consisting of foods high in nutritional value can help

5 people maintain a healthy body weight and normal insulin levels. Artificial sugars should only be consumed by people who feel the need to regulate their overall blood sugar levels,iv and even then in moderation. One of the major deficiencies associated with sugar substitutes relates to the overall quality of the product. Unlike natural sugars, which have been refined and purified in the same manner for hundreds of years, the ingredients of sugar substitutes are relatively new. The fact that artificial sugars are produced using chemicals that are subject to little or no regulation should be of concern to the general public and the scientific community. Recent developments in the manufacturing industries have led to the production of many goods, including sugar substitutes, being outsourced to Third World nations. This is significant because the health and safety standards in Third World countries are usually lax or rarely enforced. In conclusion, based on evidence provided by countless medical studies conducted all over the world, it is apparent that natural sugar is better for your overall health and possesses more nutritional value. This is demonstrated by the fact that artificial sugars are thought to cause certain types of cancers, as well as diabetes and obesity. Natural sugars are better for your overall health because they do not contain the various chemicals that are commonly found in most sugar substitutes. The fact that the long-term impacts on health of sugar substitutes are unknown should be concerning to consumers.

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