CINCINNATI - From real sugar to its several substitutes, choosing a sweet solution to satisfy a craving often requires a souring decision.
Real sugar tastes the most authentic but is high in calories and, when ingested regularly in large quantities, can lead to obesity and a bevy of other health complications. But zero-calorie alternatives aren’t as appetizing and might cause other problems, according to The New York Times .
Take, for example, sucralose, the sweetener produced and sold as Splenda. Sugar molecules are partially replaced with chlorine atoms, which the digestive system does not break down, but chlorine can lead to problems if absorbed by the body, and it can also enter the water supply with unknown effects on wildlife.
Aspartame, which comes in blue packets in restaurants and is sold as Equal or NutraSweet, has sometimes been tied to headaches, neurological disorders or even cancer, though most regulation agencies have not linked the sweetener to its alleged by-products.
Italian scientists once gave aspartame to rats, which developed cancer at a higher rate, but the National Cancer Institute in Maryland found no such tie to human consumption. The two amino acids in the sweetener are essential to the human diet, but they can cause problems when out of balance.
The Food and Drug Administration sought to ban saccharin, the sweetener found in brands such as Sweet’N Low, because rats who fed on it in the 1970s developed bladder cancer, but decades later the pink packets still can be found in thousands of restaurants.
Artificial sweeteners have not been linked to weight gain, and though there are no clear signs that they cause other health problems, researchers warn that some substances take decades to show up in harmful ways. Lung cancer, for example, sometimes takes 30 years of smoking cigarettes to develop.
Healthcare professionals generally agree that eating and drinking fewer sweet products can improve personal wellness, but artificial sweeteners appear to be healthier than real sugar — at least on the surface.
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