Two Keys to Artificial Sweeteners—Variety and Moderation

When you Google artificial sweeteners, you get a display of conflicting information. There’s a ton of mixed information out there and many, many different options on artificial sweeteners.
According to Amber Cranfield, a Registered Dietitian at the St. Elizabeth Physicians Weight Management Center, the key is to use them in moderation and don’t over consume one particular kind of artificial sweetener.

“There are sweeteners approved by the FDA as food additives that are generally recognized as safe in limited quantities. Although, there are some more recent studies that aren’t conclusive, and they show some possible negatives to using artificial sweetener including impacting our sweet taste receptors which could stimulate our appetite/cravings,” says Amber.

A large study last year published in the Nutrition Journal showed very mixed results and called on a need for more research.

What are Artificial Sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners are generally sugar substitutes. They include any sweetener you use in place of table sugar. Artificial sweeteners are used in many different beverages including sodas, water enhancers, fruit juices and sports drinks. As well as many foods including yogurts, puddings, gelatins, coffee creamers, candies and condiments.

The FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners as food additives:

  • Saccharin
  • Acesulfame
  • Aspartame
  • Neotame
  • Sucralose

The FDA also calls two natural low-calorie sweeteners “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS—Stevia (brand names include Truvia and PureVia) and Monk Fruit (Luo Han Guo).

“The FDA approval and the term GRAS do state that these are safe in limited quantities. The problem is there is little known about what “limited” means though,” says Amber.

Artificial Sweeteners and Diabetes or Bariatric Surgery

If you have a condition like diabetes or have had a surgery like Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, limiting your sugar intake may be necessary to avoid dangerous and unwanted side effects.

Despite this, we still need to be aware of our consumption of artificial sweeteners. Amber recommends, “We should focus more on whole, nutrient-dense foods. Often foods that contain artificial sweeteners may not have the quality nutrients we should strive to make a part of our daily diet.”

Amber also suggested that the use of sweeteners alone will provide little to no benefit in weight loss or managing a condition like diabetes. She adds, “It has to be a combination of healthier choices overall as well as physical activity to accomplish the healthier ‘you’ people are seeking.”

Alternatives to Artificial Sweeteners

Amber offers some suggestions to limit your use of artificial sweeteners. She says, “Look for foods in their natural form like whole fruits.”

She recommends using dates, banana puree, real fruit jam, and balsamic glaze to help provide the sweeter taste you may be craving.

The St. Elizabeth Physicians Weight Management Center offers group classes as part of our Weight Management program. If you are interested in learning more about the Weight Management program at St. Elizabeth, please call (859) 212-GOAL.