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Diet Center tip of the week – Sugar versus Aspartame

Eunice Mesick

Eunice Mesick

Hi, this is Eunice from Diet Center.

Fruits and vegetables contain fructose and glucose. Milk also derives some of its flavor from lactose(natural sugar). These sugars are considered “intrinsic” or “naturally occurring.” “Extrinsic” or “added” sugar refers to sucrose and other refined sugars. Maple, granulated, raw, and powdered sugar are all forms of sucrose. Extrinsic sugars are used in soft drinks and foods like cakes, cookies, and candies. Foods high in extrinsic sugar generally offer only empty calories. Such high sugar foods often displace nutrient-dense foods(soda instead of milk).

The key to incorporating sugar in a healthy diet is to consume moderate amounts and choose nutrient-dense foods containing sugar. Foods with intrinsic sugars(fruits and milk) offer vitamins, minerals and/or fiber. When selecting foods that contain extrinsic sugar, look for additional nutrients. Example, are there significant amounts of vitamins and minerals in the item? Is the product a good source of protein, complex carbohydrate, and/or fiber? Is the product low in fat and calories?

Sugar does not have to be eliminated. It can add flavor and fit into a nutritious diet. Calories add up quickly. 1 teaspoon of sugar contains 20 calories, 1 tablespoon 60 calories, ½ cup 480 calories, and 1 cup 960 calories.

What about artificial sweeteners? Do they cause cancer?

Aspartame is one of the most common artificial sweeteners used as an alternative to sugar. Although there are no side effects scientifically documented, there are negative rumors about aspartame. You may have read or heard that aspartame causes headaches, blindness, allergic reactions and various diseases. Aspartame has been more intensely studied than most food additives. It’s noted that scientific advisors to the European Union, the FDA, the American Medical Association, and the World Health Organization have confirmed that aspartame is safe, based on the latest data. Aspartame has been found to be safe for human consumption by more than ninety countries worldwide. The only proven danger is for people with a rare genetic disorder called phenylketonuria.

The FDA established an Acceptable Daily Intake for aspartame at 50 mg/kg. This amount equals about 20 diet soft drinks or 97 packets of sugar substitute containing aspartame. The average consumption of aspartame is only 2 to 3 mg/kg. A 2007 safety evaluation found that existing scientific evidence indicates that aspartame is safe at current levels of consumption as a non-nutritive sweetener.

“Can’t I just drink less regular soda?” Sodas are high sugar beverages that lack nutrients. A 12-ounce soda contains about 150 calories. If a person adds just one 12-ounce soda a day to his/her daily intake this could amount to a 15-pound weight gain in one year! By eliminating regular soft drinks, you have more room for nutritious, low-calorie foods.

If you have eliminated sugary foods/beverages from your diet and are still struggling with weight loss please call me today at 928-753-5066.