In recent years, sugar control and anti-sugar have become a new trend of health. Studies have found that the reduction of sugar intake is beneficial to weight loss, skin care, health and so on. However, sugar control is a torment for the carboholic. Hence the "Sugar Substitute" foods with the characteristics of "sugar-free, fat-free and low-carbon water" appear on the market, which are both sweet and healthy, and never make you fat, becoming more and more popular. So what is "Sugar Substitute" exactly? Is it real health or is it just a fake gimmick?
"Sugar Substitute" foods have no sugar, why they are sweet?
Sugar Substitute" foods are sweet because they contain flavorings, which can be divided into three categories: sugar alcohols, natural sweeteners and artificial sweeteners.
When you look at sugar alcohols, you might think of xylitol, and in addition to that, you might think of sorbitol and mannitol; natural sweeteners include stevioside and mogrosides, which are extracted from plants; artificial sweeteners include saccharins, sweeteners, acesulfame, sucralose, aspartame, etc.
It is these flavorings that give the "Sugar Substitute" food with sugary taste. Of these flavorings, except sugar alcohols are not as sweet as sucrose, all the others are sweeter than sucrose, even hundreds of times sweeter than sucrose. Because they have very little or no heat, they are widely used.
Xylitol, the star product in "Sugar Substitute"
The current researches have found that the natural sweeteners and sugar alcohols are considered to be relatively healthy choices among flavorings of "Sugar Substitute". Xylitol, the star product, is as sweet as sucrose. Since it does not cause caries and has the function of anti-caries, it is added to a lot of gum and fruit drops. Moreover, the metabolism of xylitol is not regulated by insulin, thus, the diabetics can also eat it in moderation. In addition, it also has the effect of improving liver function and anti-fatty liver.
It should be noted that even xylitol "Sugar Substitute" foods are mostly made of refined rice and flour, these raw materials can quickly increase blood glucose in a short time after eating, thus, it is not suitable for diabetics to eat in large quantities, nor can it prevent diabetes.
The safety of artificial sweeteners is controversial
Scholars have long debated the safety of "Sugar Substitute", especially artificial flavors. Artificial sweeteners do not exist in nature, and they are chemically synthesized. Although they have been proved harmless by many studies, a number of studies have found that they may stimulate appetite and promote obesity; excessive intake of artificial sweeteners may cause diarrhea, increase the burden on the kidneys, disturb the normal intestinal flora, inhibit beneficial bacteria, and promote harmful bacteria.
"Sugar Substitute" soft drinks are associated with an increased risk of disease death
Recently, the JAMA Journal of Internal Medicine published the largest cohort study ever on soft drinks and the risk of death . The data showed that participants who drink two cups of soft drinks a day have a 17% higher risk of all-cause death than those who drink no more than one cup of soft drinks a month. What needs to be emphasized is that if the soft drinks containing sugar and "Sugar Substitute" soft drinks are studied separately, the former’s data related to the increasing of death risk is 8%, while the latter is 26%.
Moreover, the study found that these two types of beverages were associated with different disease risks. The risk of circulatory disease was the highest, with studies showing that people who drink two cups of soft drinks a day have a 27% higher risk of circulatory death than those who drink less than one cup a month, and those who choose "Sugar Substitute" drinks have a more horrible data of 52%. Inexplicably, the correlation among drinks containing sugar is not significant.
In addition, the study is the first to find the relation between the intake of soft drinks and the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Compared with those who drink less than one cup of soft drinks a month, people who drink more than one cup of soft drinks a day also have a 59% increased risk of dying of Parkinson’s disease.
Uebanso T, Kano S, Yoshimoto A, Naito C, Shimohata T, Mawatari K, Takahashi A. Effects of consuming xylitol on gut microbiota and lipid metabolism in mice. Nutrients, 2017, 9(7):756, doi: 10.3390/nu9070756.