HOUSTON – Shreela Sharma, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition specialist at UTHealth School of Public Health, analyzed these artificial sweeteners to determine who should use which.
SWEET ‘N LOW AND EQUAL
While there are studies to indicate enormous amounts of these artificial sweeteners can lead to cancer, Sharma is not convinced we are consuming enough to be dangerous.
“They're little packets that you add in your iced tea, you may not know how much you're adding so there's uncertainty in the data that we have in regards to how much consumption is really happening. However, we do know that you would have to consume very large amounts which typically does not happen in humans,” she said.
Sharma prefers sweeteners like Truvia because she said this is a natural option. Anyone looking to reduce sugar and keep a natural diet may want to try Truvia.
It does have sugar in it, but about 12 grams in two tablespoons versus 24 grams in real sugar or 32 grams of sugar in agave.
For diabetic patients, she recommends Splenda, which contains almost no sugar.
Stevia is also a good option for diabetic patients and people looking to reduce sugar intake because it is also sugar-free but is a natural sweetener because it comes from a plant.
“If a patient has diabetes, then we know that their metabolism as it pertains to sugar is compromised. So in that case, these non-sugar sweeteners are definitely a much better alternative because their body does not have the ability to metabolize sugar,” Sharma said.
The good news is you can bake with all of these sweeteners, but Splenda, Stevia and Truvia get the best reviews for taste. Some contain a conversion chart on the back of the product to tell you how much of the sweetener can replace sugar in a recipe.
Sharma said real food is the best option for children. In this case, that means giving them sugar and not an artificial sweetener. She said their bodies are not just like a miniature adult, they metabolize things differently.
Very few studies have been done on pregnant women so there's no good recommendation on which of these to use. Sharma said Stevia might be the best choice, especially for women with gestational diabetes, because it has no sugar but it's natural because it comes from plants.