As obesity and diabetes rates increase across the United States, Americans are incorporating sugar substitutes, both artificial and natural, into their diets. Popular artificial sweeteners include Splenda (sucralose), Sweet'N Low (saccharin), and Equal(aspartame), while many use the natural sweetener, stevia. While these substitutes are meant to control an individual’s sugar intake, health experts argue about whether they actually improve health, as well as whether they are safe for human consumption.
— Meenakshi Parashar, Nia Creator
There are two kind of sugar substitutes that are mainly mentioned in this Nia: artificial sugar substitutes and natural sugar substitutes, and they are quite different.
Even thought taking too much natural sugar may be not good for health, it does not mean sugar substitutes are good. Especially for artificial sugar substitutes, there are quotes shows that it may cause metabolic syndrome and even cancer. Therefore, it seems that if people are not on a diet or diabetics but just taking natural sugar normally, it is not necessary for them to take artificial sugar substitutes instead of natural sugar.
Natural sugar substitutes, for example, stevia, could produce a direct effect on beta cells in the pancreas to release insulin. However, the question comes again — is it necessary for normal people who just take natural sugar normally to take natural sugar substitutes instead? Maybe not. Also, many people have the concern about the flavor of natural sugar substitutes.
Therefore, for people who have diabetes or other diseases that must avoid taking sugar, they need to choose real safe sugar substitutes under doctors’ professional instructions and suggestions.
For normal and healthy people, maybe the best choice is to take less sugar during daily life. We do not need to totally give up natural sugar and turn to sugar substitutes, but just need to cultivate a more healthy lifestyle.
Given most of the research, it seems clear that not all sugar substitutes are created equal so it is hard to pose a strong 'pro' or 'anti' stance on this one. Another reason I chose to vote in the middle for sugar substitutes is because the evidence seems to be overwhelmingly in a gray area. The research largely states that while sugar substitutes are not detrimental, they are not necessarily beneficial either. Most do not cause adverse effects to diabetics, but they do not cure or curb diabetes either. Again, this is an over-arching, holistic, look at sugar substitutes. If one were to zoom in on a single substitute (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, or stevia) results might come out slightly more skewed in one direction, but overall the research shows that sugar substitutes might not be as bad as people originally thought, but they also are not a completely consequence-free alternative to table sugar, an unhealthy addition to a diet on its own.
Even if they pose or do not pose serious health risks (although most of the evidence seems to largely deem sugar substitutes as safe in moderation), there is one reason that I am hesitant to turn towards sugar substitutes and it is probably one of the most obvious, if under-discussed, issues: the taste. I simply prefer the taste of real sugar. To me sodas that are flavored with cane sugar instead of an artificial sweetening substitute simply taste a lot better. As an avid coffee addict I have tried to put the free packets of Sweet'N'Low or other sweeteners in my morning cup, but I have always been very sensitive to the taste. and it has always bothered me. Thus, while most of the evidence in this Nia seems to show that artificial sweeteners, used in normal amounts, is probably fine, if not beneficial for your health, I think I'm still going to stick to sugar.
I dithered between a "pro" or "depends" point of view on this one, but ultimately I'll have to agree that I am not fully pro sugar substitute, as I would not always use sugar substitutes instead of real sugar. However, I see no definitive reasons to be "anti" sugar substitutes.
The research and wording on the anti side are very clear that studies show correlation between sugar substitutes and negative health effects -- not causation. So why are we so quick to demonize them?
Personally, I prefer the taste of aspartame to normal sugar (especially in Coke Zero), and normal Coke is simply too sugary (and caloric) for me - it's as if I'm drinking my dessert. However, in coffee I always prefer to use sugar in the raw, because it is a modest amount and not too overpowering.
While many of the sweeteners do not seem to have adverse health effects, there do not seem to be many positive reasons for using sugar substitutes either. Using sugar substitutes is linked to obesity, although it's not clear if people with weight problems are more likely to use such products, or if it's the actual sweeteners causing weight gain. I prefer the taste of actual sugar, and when eaten in moderation, I see it as being the better choice over these potentially harmful sweeteners.
The hardest thing about answering this question is that each sugar substitute is fundamentally different from the next. Just because one may cause problems doesn't mean they all do.
I think the most critical aspect of this research really boils down to whether there are consequences from sugar substitutes. And there may be, specifically in potentially contributing to metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.
While it will take time to determine if diet soda and other sources of sugar substitutes actually cause metabolic syndrome, it really begs the question: is that really the best option?
I think the answer to that is: no. Perhaps just having less sweet things is the safest, healthiest, and most prudent path forward, whether or not you have diabetes or are overweight.
We can't always have what we want when we want it in the quantity that we want it. Rarely is life without consequences...
Substitutes are necessary if an individual is very careful about their sugar intakes. I have many problems with substitutes, the first being that they have an unpleasant taste. Even the "natural" substitute Stevia has a very metallic flavor to it. Not to mention that these substitutes are much sweeter than sugar, leading to increased sugar dependency. From my research, sugar substitutes do more to reverse issues associated with sugar, such as weight gain and diabetes.