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Shannon Koehle: Sugar Vs. Artificial Sweeteners -- Which Is Better?

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“Sweetness is the most important ingredient for life,” reads a Splenda packet.

However, the debate continues on whether artificial sweeteners or natural sugar is best to ingest.

Sugar, or sucrose, is a natural product separated from beet or cane plants. This product is 99.95% pure sucrose, says the Sugar Association.

Dedicated to promoting sugar consumption paired with a healthy diet, the Sugar Association adds, “The American Diabetes Association advises diabetics that sugar may be included in their diets provided it’s counted as part of their daily carbohydrate allowance.”

Counted as a carb, sugar is also 15 calories per teaspoon, while manmade sweeteners are deemed “free foods.”

“Free foods” are those not counted as carbohydrates, fats, or any other exchange, says the Mayo Clinic. Additionally, “free foods” will not affect an individual’s blood sugar.

Today, there are four artificial sweeteners the Federal Drug Administration and American Diabetes Association has approved. These include aspartame (brand name: Equal, NutraSweet), saccharin (brand name: Sweet ‘N Low, Sugar Twin), acesulfame potassium (brand name: Sunnett, Sweet One), and sucralose (brand name: Splenda).

Approved by the FDA as an all purpose sugar in 1999, sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar. This is not a natural product, but “made from a process that starts with sugar,” says Splenda.com.

Additionally, the American Academy of Family Physicians says, “It is okay to use artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose while you are pregnant.”

Aspartame, approved as an all purpose sugar in 1996, while acesulfame potassium was approved in 2002, are 200 times sweeter than sugar. “However, people with a rare condition called phenylketonuria (PKU) should limit their intake of aspartame,” says the American Diabetes Association.

Finally, saccharin, approved for a second time in 2000, is 200 to 700 times sweeter than sugar.

While saccharin has been around for more than a century, in 1981 this ingredient was added to a list of substances “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” says the National Cancer Institute.

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