Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate present in our diet and is considered to be one of the main reasons for weight gain and lifestyle disorders. Therefore, many people make an effort to replace sugar with artificial sweeteners. But how useful or healthy is this replacement?

What is sugar?

Sugar is a generic name given to carbohydrates content present in any food. 1 gram of pure sugar provides 4 kcal. This sugar content is also responsible for the spike in serum insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas to help in the uptake of sugar in human cells. It works as a lock and key mechanism, which means that the insulin fits on sugar molecules and helps in transporting them inside the cell where it can be utilised to generate energy. The milk that you drink contains sugar known as lactose while fruits contain fructose and table sugar is known as sucrose.

What is artificial sweetener?

Artificial sweeteners provide sweetness but not calories. That is the main reason for choosing artificial sweeteners over natural sweeteners. However, the human body cannot utilise these artificial sweeteners metabolically. Some examples of artificial sweeteners include saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, acesulphame k and stevia. These artificial sweeteners have different degrees of sweetness and various properties for heat resistance, dosage and usage. For example, saccharin is 300-400 times sweeter while both aspartame and acesulphame k are 200 times sweeter than sucrose.

Replacing natural sugars with artificial sweeteners!

It seems beneficial to replace natural sugar with artificial sweeteners because of the absence of calories still providing the sweet flavour. These artificial sweeteners stimulate the taste receptor present in tongue which sense the sweet taste and signals the brain, which in turn signals the β- cells of pancreas to release more insulin, which leads to lower the serum sugar levels leading to an increase in sugar craving. But as the human body can’t utilise the artificial sweeteners they tends to increase sugar requirement in the body. Therefore, people consuming artificial sweeteners on a regular basis start to feel natural sugar like fruits unpleasant and less sweet in taste. Also, many researches have shown the side effects of these artificial sweeteners such as kidney damage etc. But now this growing industry is working on developing artificial sweeteners like sucralose and stevia from natural sources that seem to have less to no side effects. 

It is always better to have natural sugar in the form of honey, table sugar, fruits and more with portion control and you should ensure to train yourself to have balanced meals. Do not fool yourself to have excessive artificial sweeteners in a diet to avoid extra natural calories as it may bounce back. For example, many usually think that it’s okay to have 2 cans of cold drink if it is diet coke! If you want to manage your weight, focus on a balanced diet and right eating habits while also adding some form of physical activities on a regular basis.

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