Reunion of friends is a pompous affair especially for women who get to meet their buddies not very often! In one such reunion I found one of my besties treating herself to a cup of caffeine-rich beverage and adding a pinch of artificial sweetener to it. Taken by surprise I probed into it and enquired whether she was a victim of diabetes but I was taken aback by her reply. She has been using these since a few years as they are low in calories and prevent weight gain! So, we are ready to do anything and everything that’s going to prevent us from putting on fat and in this process, we are putting our health in a self-destruction mode. The controversies surrounding such sweeteners have been resolved and in fact, we have been getting more and more evidences that help in proving their negative impact on our body.
Artificial Sweeteners: A Not-so-sweet Affair?
Peaking obesity rates have forced many countries to levy extra taxes on overweight people and some countries have introduced sugar taxes too to improve the health of their citizens. This move has forced many companies in the food industry to include low/zero-calorie sweeteners instead of white sugar to meet the rising demands on low-calorie and low-sugar foods.
Sweeteners offer 0% nutrition and they are substances that have been used for improving taste but nothing else. This world has witnessed an increase in consuming these sweeteners in foods and beverages owing to rising obesity rates. Its not only oily food but also sugar which is a major culprit when it comes to calories. One gram of sugar contains 4 calories and if you are including a teaspoon of sugar in your beverage it amounts to 16 calories plus your milk plus your cream. Do you know that consuming one of your favorite donuts adds upon more than 250 calories to your body? Don’t take sugar lightly though it might be white and as pure as milk!
Artificial sweeteners, a substance that was invented to prevent increase in blood sugar levels is now proven to act as a bait for diabetes. Our very own discovery has backfired! A new study now shows us that artificial sweeteners have the ability to promote metabolic syndrome and put people at an increased risk of prediabetes and diabetes especially when the individual suffers from obesity. Metabolic syndrome is a dangerous one that puts an individual at a greater risk of high blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Abdominal fat increase is also highly likelier putting the individual at an increased risk of heart attack and strokes and, increasing the risk of diabetes by 3-5 times. Read more about artificial sweeteners and various evidence proving its benefits and disadvantages from the website www.firsteatright.com.
The stem cell-based study on animals by researchers showed that low-calorie sweeteners increased fat accumulation in cells depending on the quantity of the sweeteners used. When obese individuals were tested for fat samples after consuming these sweeteners, they displayed a change in gene expression. This research comes as a warning sign for obese individuals especially those affected by diabetes/prediabetes as they are already at an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. Moreover, they suffer from increased insulin resistance and increased glucose levels in the blood.
In another research, biopsy samples of abdominal fat of 18 subjects who consumed low-calorie sweeteners were taken. While four of them were on a healthy weight the other 14 of them had obesity. While gene expression of the healthy-weighted candidates was not significant the obese individuals showed increased glucose transportation and overexpression of fat-producing genes.
So, have we come to a dead end with regard to artificial sweeteners? The ones that were introduced as sugar-friendly ones have proved to have disastrous effect on humans. While avoiding sugars as much as possible is the healthiest option it is not practical in real world. Most of us like our coffee and tea with sugar. Sweets are unavoidable during a celebration or announcement of some good news. But, understand that moderation is the key to everything. Cut down your sugar intake, use artificial sweeteners minimally (I would personally recommend against using them) and lead a healthy lifestyle with nutritive meal plans and regular exercise schedules to keep blood sugar levels under control.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.
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