Artificial Sweeteners

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What role does sugar play in our diet?

How many people do know who say that they have a "sweet tooth"? Ever hear someone say that they are "addicted" to sugar? Sugar and its role in our diet has, indeed, become a controversial topic. Many have blamed the rise in overweight and obesity in our country on sugar. Our intake of sugar has increased, but so has our intake of artificial sweeteners. Are either or both to blame?

There are few people who can resist the taste of sweet foods. We are born with a preference for sweets, and it remains with us throughout our lives. However, too much of a good thing can lead to problems such as dental cavities, tooth decay,obesity, and the health complications related to being overweight and obese (for example, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, hypertriglyceridemia, and heart disease). Problems such as osteoporosis and vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also occur when high-sugar foods replace more nutritionally balanced foods.

The dietary guidelines state that we are to choose beverages and foods to moderate our intake of sugars. In the United States, the number-one source of added sugars is non-diet soft drinks (soda or pop). Other major sources are sweets and candies, cakes and cookies, and fruit drinks and fruitades. Limiting your intake of these foods and avoiding foods with high amounts of added sugars is the best way to control your intake. When reading the ingredients on a food label, you must read carefully. Ingredients are listed in order of the amount used in the product. When a product contains a large amount of sugar, it can be hidden in the ingredients by using lots of different kinds of sugar. For example, if the product has 1 cup of sugar and that was the highest ingredient, sugar would be listed as the first ingredient. This can be avoided by using smaller amounts of different sources of sugar and listing them lower in the ingredient list. Here are the most common sources of sugar found on food labels:

  • Brown sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit-juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Malt syrup
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Sucrose
  • Syrup
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/16/2014

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Aspartame Safety Concerns

Aspartame, which has been on the U.S. market since 1981, is composed primarily of two common amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Each of these is also a building block for conventional foods such as protein and natural flavor molecules. Before its FDA approval, the safety of aspartame was tested in over 100 scientific studies.