Sugar vs Artificial Sweeteners

Health and wellnessHere at Go Imaging, we are all about education, and the truth is that there are a lot of misconceptions about many aspects of health. One such subject that comes under fire a lot in health-related news, is sugar consumption. Is sugar bad for you? Should you switch to artificial sweeteners? Are they both evil? Today we’ll explore the pros and cons of both sugar and artificial sweeteners, and let you be the judge.

Some Sweet Talk And Not-So-Sweet Talk On Sugar

Sugar can be a great source of energy for the body. Although it is often associated with empty calories, sugar is not necessarily all bad. On the other hand, we do have to keep in mind that excessive consumption of sugar can trigger serious health problems.

The pros of sugar

  • Fast energy: The sucrose in common table sugar, as well as many fruits, is quickly transformed into glucose and fructose, which are absorbed into the bloodstream providing immediate fuel. This is why it’s a frequent star in the diets of athletes. All that exercise needs a lot of fuel.
  • A sensation of well-being/comfort: When you consume sugar, there is an increase of endorphins in your body which can boost your mood and temporarily provide a good feeling. Of course, the trouble lies when you consume too much sugar, therefore negating the happy effect you initially felt.
  • Helps you increase your insulin levels: Individuals with hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, often need quick relief if their sugar levels get too low. Even people who are not hypoglycemic need a certain amount of sugar in their diet to keep their insulin levels within a reasonable range.
    • However, table sugar is not exactly the best way to deal with hypoglycemia or blood sugar that has dropped too low. The ideal scenario instead is to consume complex carbohydrates, such as whole wheat pasta, potatoes, brown rice, peas, beans, and vegetables. Since the sugars and starches they contain is released little by little for hours, your body is better able to maintain a stable blood glucose level, without ups and downs.

The cons of sugar

  • It replaces other foods, but not in a good way: When we consume sugar, we are temporarily satiated. Although this may seem as though it’s a good thing, the trouble is the feeling of being full will only be temporary. You’ll find that you’re hungry again much sooner than if you had eaten something with less sugar. Now not only did you consume something unhealthy, but you’ll also need to consume even more calories to maintain the feeling of being satisfied.
  • Sugar can lead to obesity, and diabetes: Consuming too much sugar can lead to being overweight or obese in both children and adults. Excess sugar in your diet can also lead to insulin resistance and that, along with obesity, are two of the biggest risk factors for becoming diabetic.
  • Dental issues: All sugars, including those in natural fruits, honey, and even some vegetables, can cause tooth decay and other dental issues. When we consume sugar, bacteria that is present in the oral cavities transforms into acids that damage tooth enamel and gums.
  • Other problems consuming too much sugar can cause: A diet that is too high and sugar has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, acne, cancer, depression, and many other health ailments.
    • Even though we said in the pros that consuming sugar can give you an energy burst, if you’re not using that energy burst as fuel, it sits in the body and can wreak havoc on your internal organs as well as your overall mental health.
    • Furthermore, too much sugar can lead to the dreaded sugar crash. This leaves you feeling drained of all energy.

The easiest way to ingest too much sugar is by consuming it in your drinks. When we are quenching our thirst, it’s easy to forget just how much sugar is in a soda, juice, or even sweet tea. Unless we are working out and burning it off as quickly as we are consuming it, odds are we’re taking in more than our body actually needs which can lead to weight gain and other problems.

According to the FDA, “The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming less than 10% of calories per day from added sugars.”

Keep in mind the FDA recommends 2000 calories per day for an average person, and only 10% of those calories should be from sugar. If however, you are consuming fewer calories, then you must also lower how much sugar you’re consuming. Click here for the FDA’s estimated daily calorie needs based on activity level, age, and sex.

Now you might be thinking, “If sugar is so bad for you, perhaps I should just switch to artificial sweeteners”. Unfortunately, these too come with their own set of pros and cons.

Sugar’s Twin – The Facts on Artificial Sweeteners

They look alike, they both taste sweet, and they both have pros and cons. Let’s take a look at sugar’s twin – artificial sweeteners.

The pros of artificial sweeteners

  • They are calorie-free, or lower in calories: Because artificial sweeteners have few or no calories, they could aid in your weight loss efforts if you’re on a low calorie/low carb diet. They also have little to no effect on your blood sugar levels.
  • You typically don’t need much to sweeten your food and drinks: They are often used in very small quantities because they have a sweetening power 30 to 300 times higher than that of ordinary sugar.

The cons of artificial sweeteners

  • Unpleasant aftertaste: Many people who consume artificial sweeteners complain of this. In fact, some people also report getting scratchy or sore throats when they use them.
  • They can have unpleasant side effects: Some people who have consumed artificial sweeteners have complained about things like headaches, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
  • They make you want more sweets:  When you frequently consume artificial sweeteners, you get used to having sweets in your diet. Therefore, it only makes sense that you crave them more often as a result. This is why when you’re drinking diet sodas you catch yourself wanting doughnuts, cookies, and cakes more frequently.
  • Artificial sweeteners have been linked to a plethora of ailments including different types of cancers, insulin resistance, circulatory problems, metabolic syndrome, and others. While these ailments may not be directly caused by artificial sweeteners, the number of times the white stuff comes up negatively in scientific studies and health reports is cause for concern. Of course, as of the publishing of this post, no study or report has concluded that artificial sweeteners are in fact harmful. At least not yet.

The jury is still out as to whether or not artificial sweeteners are harmful in the body. Then again, the same could be said about sugar. One thing is for sure though, no matter what you’re consuming, too much of anything can’t be good for you.

Where Should You Stand on Sugar Vs Artificial Sweeteners?

Odds are this post didn’t sway you one way or the other about sugar or artificial sweeteners. Hopefully, it has at least got you thinking about what you consume every day. Should you kick your sugar or artificial sweeteners habit? Are either of the two substances the enemy? Maybe, but maybe not.

In our opinion, for an otherwise healthy person, the most important thing is to maintain a well-balanced diet with whole grains, leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, and proteins. On the other hand, as every person has their own issues, there isn’t exactly a one size fits all answer for something as complex as this. With that in mind, it might be best to talk to your primary care physician about your unique dietary needs.

Do you have questions or need to schedule an imaging test? Contact our Humble or Houston office today!

Posted in: Health & Wellness

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