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The Sour Truth About Sugar and Sweeteners

The Sour Truth About Sugar and Sweeteners

According to the International Food Council, 75% of Americans are trying to cut back on their sugar intake. Though knowing the health benefits of consuming fewer sweets, it can be extremely difficult to eliminate sugar from your diet. Sugars and sweeteners are primary ingredients in some of the most beloved foods and drinks of the typical American diet, with the average person eating roughly 20 teaspoons of sugar a day. That’s 80 grams of sugar! It isn’t just about the caloric impact sugars have that give a reason for alarm. The human body struggles to process that much sugar, and research is connecting the dots between a rising tide of diseases and health conditions.

Sweet but Sour

No matter how much you love your soft drinks or the occasional snack cake, excessive sugar consumption can have a very sour effect on your health. Your parents might have warned you about an increased risk of cavities growing up, but that’s just the start of it. There is a direct connection between excessive sweetener consumption and the risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Recent reports are showing that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is quickly becoming the number one reason behind liver transplant requests in the United States. Because of the severe impact sugar consumption can have on your health and weight, it is one of the primary ingredients listed on the “don’t” list of many weight loss plans. For diets that allow people to choose their own foods according to certain criteria, like the HCG diet, it is a bit easier to stay away from the addictive substance. However, there are so many hidden types of sugar in food products, that even prepackaged diet meals, shakes, and low-fat snacks aren’t always healthy.

Substituting Your Sweets

As health experts demanded healthier options for sweeteners, besides refined white sugar, the market was flooded with artificial sweetening products. Aspartame, sucralose, and stevia are just a few of the substitutions, but there is still the question of whether or not they are any better for you than real sugar. Early reports on aspartame revealed that it led to cancer in the lab rats used for testing, but prominent researchers have responded to those claims. The human body does not respond to the products in the same manner as anything in the animal kingdom. There was another report that aspartame and other noncaloric sweeteners can act as triggers for migraines. As with any synthesized substance, prolonged and heavy use can always lead the body’s inability to tolerate it. However, as a whole, it is important to know the health concerns or benefits associated with artificial sweeteners.

The Price to Party

The human diet is so overloaded with sugar consumption that it has almost become an addiction. However, sugar is a nonessential part of a healthy diet. There are natural sugars found in organic fruits and vegetables or sources of food (such as honey), and the body is able to adequately process a limited amount. Unfortunately, the food products the American diet is exposed to have added sugars. These are just empty calories you are putting in your body, and as a result, it converts to unwanted belly fat. A slice of birthday cake isn’t going to kill you, but a lifetime of indulgence in sugar products will. If you stop and read the nutritional label on something like spaghetti sauce, you will find that there is an average of 9 grams of sugar per half-cup serving. It is very difficult to move away from added sugars.

The Take on Fake

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume less than 25 grams of sugar a day and men should consume less than 38 grams. As a result, artificial sweeteners have become an alternative for those looking to improve their health and reduce their sugar intake. Artificial sweeteners are made to have a low-calorie impact on the diet, but research shows that your health concerns should involve more than just a calorie count. Several studies have linked artificial sweeteners to harmful changes in the gut microbiome, possible heart conditions, and increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Each sweetener is synthesized from different components, so not all fake sugars can be categorized as inherently good or bad. While physicians do emphasize the switch to a noncaloric substitute if you are working on weight management, the best option for a healthy life is to avoid sweeteners altogether. There are several forms of sugar found in nature that has less of an impact on the body.


It is always best to consult with a doctor before making significant changes to your diet. However, in the case of sugar against artificial sweeteners, less is always best. The effects on your digestive system, cognitive performance, and heart health always support consuming fewer sweets.


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About the author

Dr. Constance Odom, MD

4 min read