10 August 2010
There’s more than what meets the eye when it comes to the ‘sugar–free’ sweeteners. Manasi Mathkar tries to find out how advisable is it to consume them
Why, even top models and actresses like Bipasha Basu endorse these to help their fans get a perfect and ‘healthy’ figure. But are these sweeteners sweet enough for your health? Apparently they are, if and only if, taken in the right dosage.
Says Dr Amruta, DORL, "Consuming an artificial sweetener means taking zero calories. This is especially good for diabetic patients, who can continue to have regular foods without their affecting sugar levels, or even for obese people, who need to cut down on their sugar intake drastically. For them, completely stopping sweet foods is tough and hence they can go fo these substitutes."
Agrees Kasturi Padhye, a nutritionist, "Say, if you consume 2 cups of tea daily with an average of 2 tsp sugar for each cup, you are practically gaining 100–120 calories just through your tea. Hence, having one to two tablets a day wouldn’t cause much harm. It is when patients have close to 25–30 tablets a day, that the real health concerns begin."
Scientific studies have proven that artificial sweeteners are carcinogenic and affect the kidneys when consumed over a period of time. Apart from that, their chemical composition too is definitely harmful for the body. Hence, it would be advisable to limit their use and consumption, and in fact, preferably try and go without sugar at all, if possible. Says Dr Amruta, "It doesn’t really matter which brand of artificial sweetener one is using, as all of them have Aspartame as their basic content. The side effects of a particular sweetener depends on the percentage of Aspartame used in it; the higher its value, more is the risk factor".
One should definitely be careful in the usage of sugar substitutes as a lot of side–effects are well known. Common ones include chronic muscle pain, headache, and fatigue or weakness, and doctors request patients to discontinue consuming these sweeteners immediately if problems persist.
So, should we opt for these "sugar–free" mithais and sweets that seem to flood the market these days, trying to woo the health–conscious population? Padhye thinks otherwise. "I’m not too sure about the authenticity of the sugar–free foods. Sugar is not just about calories, but it also adds to properties like texture and consistency. With these sugar–free mithais, if they still seem to have the same texture and consistency as that of the regular sweet ones, I doubt how genuine the former are."
In any case, doctors do not recommend an entire preparation to be cooked with these artificial sweeteners for the large amount of toxins that would be consumed at one go.
It seems that one needs to use discretion when it comes to artificial sweeteners. They do have long–term disadvantages, and ideally if one can do without sugar at all, especially in their daily cups of tea or coffee, that would be a safer and healthier situation to be in.