The effects of sugar and artificial sweeteners

Sugar is addictive. Recent studies conducted by Princeton University suggest that sugar can be just as dangerously addictive as any drug.

As most of us can attest to after several weeks of over-indulging during the holidays, it is difficult to kick the sugar habit. For many people it is hard to go through the day without some kind of sweet snack, be it a cookie, some chocolate, a piece of cake, or even fruity yogurt or sweetened cereal.

It is easy enough to identify cookies as being loaded with sugar, but when it comes to processed foods reading the ingredients might hold some surprising information. Most yogurts contain excessive amounts of sugar.

A portion of Danone Activia strawberry yogurt contains 3 ½ teaspoons of sugar and it is just one of the many similar overly-sugary yogurts out there. Watch out for condiments too. One tablespoon of Heinz Ketchup has an entire teaspoon of sugar.

While it is good that consumers are becoming more aware of the dangers of sugar, our desire to stay away from it has had its drawbacks as well. As the concern with sugar-related issues has been growing (especially because more people are being diagnosed with diabetes), the market for artificial sweeteners has also been steadily rising.

Dieters tend to choose artificial sweeteners over natural sugars due to fewer calories in most artificial sweeteners. Just because a food product is low in calories, however, does not mean that it is healthier.

Some artificial sweeteners such as cyclamate (commonly known as Sweet‘N Low or Sugar Twin) have been found to be related to cancer in animals. Aspartame (also known as Equal) is also reputed to have negative effects such as headaches and other similar physical complaints. Sucralose (or Splenda) has so far not been associated with rates of cancer, but it is a chemically processed sweetener that could potentially be very harmful.

Both sugar and artificial sweeteners are major culprits when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. However, despite being addictive, sugar is a natural substance and will not be nearly as harmful to your body as artificial sweeteners. Honey (in moderation) is even considered by some to be a health food.

Getting rid of all artificial sweeteners will improve your health immensely. Wean yourself off of sugar by choosing real fruit and vegetables over foods with added sugar.

Bananas, apples and carrots will all satisfy a sweet tooth due to their high content of natural sugar.

Decrease the amount of sugar in baking when possible. Even getting by one day without eating any added sugars or artificial sweeteners is a great start, and soon you won’t be missing them at all.

By gradually cutting out all artificial sweeteners from your diet, and as much added sugar as is realistically possible, you will be well on your way to cultivating that healthy lifestyle.

University of Winnipeg student Sagan Morrow writes a health and wellness blog. Check it out at

Published in Volume 63, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 22, 2009)

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