Life in the 21st century has become so fast-paced that we are finding it hard to take out even a moment for ourselves. Humans just don’t care about themselves anymore! If you think what we just said falls under the category of fibbing, let us back our argument with evidence. Tell us something: do you calculate or map your daily sugar intake? Well, guessing from that blank look on your face, we gather that you are not spending much time on this front. Proves our point though, right? We know some of you are countering what we just said with a “we use sugar-free items” retort. Well, we hate to break it to you, but even the sugar-free items are not too healthy for you. And this discussion is going to talk about this point in detail!
Deep stuff can wait for a minute, let us highlight the common rookie mistakes first. These mistakes are committed usually when people don’t care enough about the labels pasted or printed on the back of snacks they pick at the local superstore. Now, there are three types of labels that you might come across. There are sugar-free items that feature less than 0.5[I] grams of sugar, then there are products with reduced sugar percentage (number varies but is around 25 percent usually), and then there is no added sugar type. We are going to focus on the sugar-free type only in this discussion, but you must read the labels more carefully in the future. That was the whole point of mentioning these three types!
Common sugar substitutes
A small percentage of sugar is found, even in the sugar-free products that you are likely to fall for at your local departmental. Either it is the so-called natural sugar (which is usually maple syrup or molasses) or it is an artificial sweetener like sucralose or neotame. We consider it our moral obligation to inform you that neither natural sugars nor artificial sweeteners are free of risk, entirely. We will talk about artificial sweeteners in detail in just a bit but do you know that aspartame is about 200 times [II] sweeter than sucrose? Really gives you an idea of the gravity of the situation!
Do you understand their chemistry?
We are not going to draw the IUPAC structures here, you can relax. In this section of the discussion, we are going to highlight just a few key points that will give you an idea about the extent of dissimilarity that exists between these compounds. We know there is a whole range of artificial sweeteners [III] that are quite popular among the masses these days. However, there are only four [IV] FDA-approved artificial sweeteners which we are going to mention here. Sucrose, the table sugar is a disaccharide by nature. And then there are artificial sweeteners! Aspartame is a methyl ester, saccharin has a different molecular formula than sucrose, and sucralose is a tri-chloride actually. An interesting fact about aspartame is that its stereoisomer is quite bitter to taste, which tells us that structures matter as well!
Sugar-free isn’t calorie-free!
Now that you are well aware of the malarkey associated with the topic under discussion, we feel the time is ripe for you to understand the correlation between sugar and calories. Firstly, no such thing as sugarfree= calorie-free holds valid! This is a tagline that brands are fond of, but don’t believe in. If anything is true, it is the fact that even a one-cup serving of a beverage contains as much as 15 calories. If you want a more specific example, you can take the example of world-famous Hershey’s sugar-free chocolate. Eating one piece of this sugar-free bar equals 30 calories [V] intake. Don’t even get us started on carbs and fat! So, you see, sugar-free is not calorie-free, hence the idea that opting for sugar-free products will help you control your calorie intake massively is nothing but optimistic foolishness at best.
An added sugar that is sweeter than honey but as dubious as Russia’s Covid-19 vaccine! As mentioned previously, aspartame is a methyl ester, chemically. It is a bond between two amino acids i.e. aspartic acid and phenylalanine dipeptide. The artificial sweetener was given the green light by the USA’s FDA in the 1980s [VI] but there has been a lot of controversies associated with this sweetener that is commonly available as EQUAL and a few other brand names. Most of it is just rumor-mongering but there are a few concerning points which we have mentioned briefly in the next section.
Side effects of aspartame
There are none! However, people who suffer from Phenylketonuria (PKU) must refrain from aspartame consumption. In this condition, a patient has too much phenylalanine in their blood. And since aspartame has phenylalanine as well, you can understand why phenylketonuria patients should stay away from aspartame.
Chemically processed sweeteners: Health concerns
Interestingly, and disturbingly we must add, animal studies have shown the relation between artificial sweeteners consumption and headaches, nausea, and even bladder cancer [VII], apart from some other minor health issues. So, when someone turns up all hustled and rushed because they came across a study that says aspartame did bad to the lab rats in the 1990s, their concern is genuine. However, despite their best efforts, food biologists and other scientists have not been able to establish any links between sweeteners and diseases that we have mentioned. However, as we all know, research is an evolving process! So, we will still have to wait for a bit for a definitive answer on this subject.
Conclusion – Sugar-Free Items Are Bad For You
Well, folks, that would be all for now. If there is a takeaway for you from this discussion, it is moderation. Sure, satisfy your cravings with aspartame and other sweeteners. But don’t overdo stuff. As we have explained in the discussion, overconsumption of sugar-free items can make you obese in no time. Make sure things don’t get out of your control!