Sugar or artificial sweeteners: which is healthier?

Ever do the sweetener cha-cha-cha at the coffee shop? You know — when you hesitate between the sugar shaker and the pink, blue and yellow packets? If this were a cartoon strip, the thought bubble over your head would read, “Which is better or worse? The no-calorie fakes? The full-calorie hard stuff? Help!”

It’s like choosing between raising taxes and increasing the national debt. Pick your poison. OK, neither sugar nor sweeteners are poison if they’re eaten in reasonable quantities. But that’s our point: There’s nothing reasonable about the amount of sugars and syrups being added to all kinds of food, from bagels to frozen veggie mixes. The effect of added sugars? Imagine eating 22 teaspoons of sugar for breakfast every day. That’s average for Americans. For Canadians, it’s 14 teaspoons a day.

What that does to your health reads like a dirty laundry list: lowers good HDL cholesterol, raises bad triglycerides and gloms on to proteins that create destructive substances called AGEs (short for advanced glycation end products). These set you up for heart disease, stiff joints, wrinkles, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, kidney problems, bone fractures and vision loss.  

That’s why we You Docs are on a mission to get added sugars out of healthy foods like low-fat yogurt and whole-grain cereals. And that’s why if you don’t like black coffee or green tea, we’d say — reluctantly — take the sweetener.

Why reluctantly? It’s not that sugar substitutes cause cancer or make hair grow in weird places. In fact, sweeteners have been studied far more than most drugs. The problem is that they subtly mess with how you react to food.

Sometimes they make you eat more, not less. Because no-cal sweeteners essentially don’t register in your brain’s satiety center.

If you love dessert, go for mother nature’s original treat: fruit. Its sugar isn’t added.

The YOU Docs — Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic — are the authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” For more information go to www.RealAge.com.

Sugar’s everywhere

Added sugars/syrups lurk in surprising places:

  • Ketchup
  • Peanut butter
  • Crackers
  • Soups
  • Frozen entrees

… and many more

FeaturesHealthHealth & FitnessSugarYouDocs

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