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Sugar or sweeteners: what is better?

This issue is never easy: sugar is a major cause of obesity, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular mortality, whereas the use of sweeteners is debatable.

When we consume sugar or products that contain it, our signs of appetite and satiety are modified. We feel hungry again, just after eating them! This “need of food” makes us eat more, accelerating fat accumulation and increasing inflammation levels.

Artificial or low-calories sweeteners were invented with an interesting scope: reduce the harmful actions of sugar, keeping the appealing sugary taste while satisfying the consumers’ palate. Sounds great right? However it did not work as expected.

The first thing to consider is who consumes artificial sweeteners or zero-calorie drinks. One might think that these consumers are people who are looking for a reduction in their body mass. Yet, the main users of these products are normal weight people. The observation indicates that these consumers chose sweeteners because they tend to pay more attention to their diet, not because they are trying to lose weight.

Here goes another interesting fact regarding the intake of low-calories sweetened drinks. Many diabetic patients are prone to consume them since they consider this drinks “safe” - why not? They are sugar-free! A study published in 2015 demonstrated, although a possible bias was declared, an association between the consumption of these drinks with type 2 diabetes. The correlation was stronger than the one found between sugar sweetened beverages and the disease. The conclusions of the study were very clear: “artificially sweetened beverages are not suitable alternatives to sugar sweetened ones for the prevention of type 2 diabetes (insulin resistant). In fact, the use of artificially sweetened beverages could cause diabetes by itself. "Whoops!”

By artificial sweeteners we mainly refer to aspartame, acesulfame K and saccharin. They are all, especially aspartame, associated with metabolic conditions that increase blood glucose levels.

And what about the short-term hunger caused by sugar? Well, artificial sweeteners provoke the same effect too. If you were hungry before drinking the low-calories sweetener beverage, you will keep feeling hungry after drinking it; in fact you might even look for something else to eat...

To sum up, it really seems that the only positive effect of having zero-calorie drinks and artificial sweeteners instead of sugar ones, is the motivation of their main consumers: pay more attention to the diet. But... there are so many other ways to do so, rather than substituting sugar with sweeteners! We are talking about simple habits that you can implement in your daily routine with great results: a healthier diet, physical activity, awareness of your food inflammation levels.

The sweet taste - in the form of candies, soft drinks, coffee sugar packets, etc. - reduces the ability to lose weight and increases gain weight, regardless of their natural or synthetic origin.

So dear reader, at this point you might already know the answer to the title of the article. Sugar or sweeteners: what is better?... None of them! The real difference is realizing that both are harmful to our health when consumed daily.

On a special occasion, once in a while you can have one of them to satisfy your sugary desire. But remember that your daily life is based on choices, try to make the right ones each and every day: introduce a pleasant healthy breakfast, learn how to balance your meals properly, stay active and control your food inflammation levels. We know it is difficult, but try to reduce your sugar/sweeteners intake as much as possible... you’re sweet enough already.