As a Halloween enthusiast and nutrition/health connoisseur, I face conflict in Autumn. What even is October without sugary candy corn and luscious ghost Peeps?
My sophomore year, I discovered problems with my blood sugar, and I learned to navigate our sticky, sweet world. Last decade, 33% of adults and 15% of children aged two to 17-years-old reported consumption of low-calorie sweeteners. But did they know what they were putting into their bodies? If you have ever picked up a sugar-free option on the basis that is was "healthier" or have a loved one who regularly chooses diet soda, read on.
Coke Zero, like many diet sodas, is sweetened with aspartame. I have several qualms with aspartame. First, studies show lifelong aspartame produced insulin resistance and high blood glucose levels in mice. (Read: not good.)
Additionally, aspartame consumption leads to a higher risk of metabolic problems. Studies show that very high doses of aspartame might increase the risk of some blood-related cancers (leukemias and lymphomas) in rats, although the FDA requires further evidence to accept these claims. My take for now? I'll pass, thanks.
Yes, these exist. As a gal who runs on the hypoglycemic side, it sounded like a nifty solution. However, studies show that large quantities of these candies sweetened by malitol can lead to undesirable consequences. Many countries require malitol-sweetened products to carry the warning, I kid you not, "Excessive consumption may have a laxative effect." Although otherwise safe, again...Maybe let's not.
Werther's Sugar Free Caramels
I first discovered these in the German pavilion in Disney's Epcot and they taste great. Turns out, they are sweetened with acesulfame potassium, also known as acesulfame K, which is a calorie-free sweetener 200 times sweeter than sugar and as sweet as aspartame.
The jury is still out on acesulfame K: studies show it affects prenatal development, some dispute whether is has been sufficiently studied for carcinogenic effects, and others link the chemical with increased weight gain. Personally, I'm not thrilled with these prospects.
What You Need to Know
Artificial sweeteners have been linked to metabolic syndrome, weight gain, Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.
Studies have found more lymphomas and leukemias in rats fed very high doses of aspartame.
Consumption of saccharin can lead to increased risk of diabetes and obesity.
The ever-frustrating solution? There is no magic answer. Sugary candies spike my blood sugar, yet I am not comfortable with these artificially sweetened concoctions' implications. Laboratory results' applications for human beings are disputed and until they are resolved, it is ultimately your judgement call. Consider moderation, portion-control, and naturally-sweetened foods as an alternative to this dilemma.