The majority of us enjoy sweet foods and beverages. However, after that brief taste of sugar, you might be concerned about how sweets affect your weight and overall health. Is sugar truly harmful to our health? Artificial or low-calorie sweeteners, perhaps? What have scientists discovered about the sweet foods and beverages that most of us consume on a daily basis?
To live, our bodies need a specific form of sugar called glucose. Dr. Kristina Rother, an NIH pediatrician and specialist on sweeteners, says, “Glucose is the brain’s number one food, and it’s an incredibly important source of fuel for the body.”However, you don’t need to supplement your diet with glucose because your body can produce it by breaking down food molecules like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Added sugars account for about 15% of the calories consumed by adults in the United States. This equates to about 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Sugar is commonly used to improve the taste of foods and beverages. However, these foods can be high in calories and lack the health benefits that fruits and other naturally sweet foods provide.
Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks, are the most common sources of added sugar in the American diet. Juices are naturally high in sugar. However, to make them taste sweeter, still more is often added.
For decades, people have questioned the protection of artificial sweeteners. To date, no conclusive evidence has been found that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use in the United States cause cancer or other serious health problems in humans.
Will they, however, aid in weight loss? The scientific evidence is contradictory. Diet drinks, according to some reports, can help you lose weight in the short term, but weight tends to creep back up over time. Rother and other NIH-funded researchers are now trying to figure out how artificial sweeteners affect the human body.
According to some studies, the intensely sweet flavor of artificial, low-calorie sweeteners may trigger a “sweet tooth,” or a desire for sweet foods. This, in turn, can result in overeating. More research is required, however, to confirm the relative effects of caloric and non-caloric sweeteners.