Nowadays the use of sugar (in various forms) in food production is very common. This is the reason for the increased consumption of calories in the diet of the average person, which can lead to weight gain and obesity and diseases associated with them. Due to the health consequences of the consumption of excess sugars, replacement is sought for their use in the food industry. One of them is the use of sweeteners. Is this a healthy idea?
Consequences of excessive sugar consumption
One of the effects of consuming excessive amounts of sugar is – already mentioned – too much adipose tissue. It is worth remembering that sugar is not only white crystals that are used to sweeten coffee or tea, but also a common ingredient in foods, especially such highly-popular highly processed foods. Obesity may in turn be the cause of type II diabetes, in which sugar consumption is of particular importance. Also, do not forget about tooth decay – it is difficult to expect healthy teeth when there are a lot of simple sugars in your daily diet. Preservation of health is very much dependent on the use of a balanced diet, in which carbohydrates are supplied in the right proportions (mainly in the form of complex carbohydrates).
Sweeteners allowed for use in the European Union
Each of the additives used in the food industry must meet specific requirements and be approved for use by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority). This fact confirms the belief that additives that can be found in food products are constantly tested and checked. Therefore, if the name of the additive appears in the composition of the product admitted to the food market, it is certain that according to the current state of knowledge it does not pose a threat to health. In the European Union you can use ten acesulfame K sweeteners, aspartame, aspratam-acesulfam salt, cyclamate, neohesperedin, saccharin, sucralose, thaumatin, neotame and from December 2, 2011 – stevia.
This full name for sweeteners defines in the simplest way two characteristic features of sweeteners. The first of these is the low energy value, and in fact its lack – sweeteners do not digest in the human body, so they do not provide calories. The exception is aspartame, whose energy value is equal to table sugar (sucrose), but the amount of aspartame used is so small that actually the amount of calories delivered is equal to zero. The second feature is the purpose of their use they are supposed to provide a sweet taste and it really is. Each sweetener is many times sweeter than sucrose – 50 times for cyclamate, up to 8,000 times for neotamy.
Application of sweeteners
Most of the permitted low-calorie sweeteners are available as table-top sweeteners in the form of tablets or powders. They are also added to foods such as non-alcoholic beverages, sweets, dairy products, milk desserts, chewing gums, medicines. In the product description , their name or symbol may appear, eg E950 is acesulfame K, and E951 – aspartame. Often they also occur in mixtures. An additional advantage of some sweeteners is also that they do not decompose at high temperatures, e.g. stevia, acesulfame K, sucralose. Then they can be used, for example, as an addition in baked goods.
A brief history and controversy in the use of sweeteners
In 1879, the American chemist Constantin Fahlberg discovered the saccharine and that’s when the history of low-calorie sweeteners began. During wars and shortage of sugar production, sweeteners were used as a substitute for it, while from the 1980s, they began to be added to food, thus creating versions of „light” products. At the same time, the first results of research into the safety of using this alternative for sugar appeared. The connection between the consumption of sweeteners and the occurrence of various types of cancer, the intensification of the symptoms of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, degenerative diseases of the brain and disorders of the nervous system were found. The most controversy was probably caused by aspartame. In addition, it was considered whether consumption of sweeteners does not affect the increase in food intake.
The safety of using sweeteners
The use of sweeteners in the context of health has been repeatedly examined and, in general, it can be said that multiple analyzes of reliable clinical trials have not proven that they increase the risk of diseases attributed to them (according to the current state of knowledge). It is worth noting that one of the characteristics of sweeteners is that they do not break down in the human body and are excreted unchanged. In addition, these compounds must undergo ongoing control, which is another argument for their safety (those that are allowed to use!).
The only risk associated with sweeteners is the issue of aspartame. It breaks down in the body into two naturally occurring amino acids, asparagine and phenylalanine. Its use by people suffering from phenylketonuria is unacceptable. Therefore, the information „contains a source of phenylalanine” must appear on packages of products containing aspartame.
Evolutionary taste of sweet was to recognize products of high energy value – once difficult to obtain. Besides, people (and not only!) Have the innate pleasure of eating sweet foods. It has been observed that it is the most severe in childhood and adolescence, and then decreases with age. However, it should be remembered that eating habits are shaped by oneself – for this reason (for health!) It is worth limiting the habit to sugar, eg by avoiding the use of sweeteners, such as sweeteners, from childhood.
Sweeteners in a slimming diet
Is it worth reaching for sweeteners while on a diet? Will it contribute to weight loss? Many people ask about such a question. For some time, sweeteners were simply accused of increasing the appetite for sweet products. Previous studies, however, prove that these sweeteners do not increase the motivation to eat or the amount of food consumed. On the other hand, it has not been proven that they significantly contribute to weight loss! The decision to eat sweeteners is therefore an individual matter, but it is worth remembering to use common sense once you start using them!