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Five questions about artificial sweeteners

I also brought a sampling of some of my favorite (top secret) (but not anymore) ingredients from Europe - Amanpana's hot cocoa mix and matcha blend, gula java coconut sugar and my favorite spice blend on planet earth, their ORAC-botanico mix that adds the most incredible flavor and boost of nutrition to every dish imaginable. They're finally available in the USA - très exciting!

Rebecca Leffler, author, journalist &consultant about healthy food & lifestyle, Long time fan of the Amanprana products, New York, USA
Artificial sweeteners, stevia called into question
Photograph: Artificial sweeteners (such as stevia and aspartame) were once considered as the miracle solution for anyone who wanted to lose a few kilos, but their side effects are increasingly being questioned. Have we been misled for years by so-called 'diet' products that secretly ensure that our waistline continues to expand? Food experts and diet fanatics offer their opinion on low-calorie sugar substitutes.

1. Do artificial sweeteners make you fat?

According to Joanna Blythman, the British author of What To Eat, various studies have shown that consuming low-calorie artificial sweeteners will make you gain weight rather than lose it.

"Our bodies are made to process natural foodstuffs", explains Blythman. James Duigan from Bodyism, the London gym that is highly popular with celebrities, is no fan of sugar substitutes either. "When you eat regular sugar, your taste buds tell your brain that something sweet is on its way. So if you consume artificial sweeteners instead of sugar and your stomach does not need to process any or very few calories then it confuses your body."

An American study showed that anyone who drinks one or two cans of soft drinks (containing sugar) increases his or her chance of suffering from obesity within seven to eight years by 33%. In people that regularly reach for diet soft drinks this risk increases by as much as 65%.

2. Are they making you sweet-toothed?

"Saccharine can be between 200 and 700 times sweeter than regular sugar", says Duigan. "As a result you may find that fruit and other foodstuffs that contain a lot of natural sugar no longer taste sweet." Last year, an American study also showed that animals that consumed low-calorie sweeteners tended to eat more, higher calorie and sweet foods.

3. Are there any other disadvantages?

Nutritional therapist Marilyn Glenville has serious concerns about the consumption of artificial sweeteners and particularly the use of aspartame. "It is 180 times sweeter than sugar and can lead to binge eating. It is also linked to mood swings and depression because it influences the amount of serotonin in the brain," she reveals. Glenville also states that aspartame can be addictive: "People who drink three to four cans of diet soft drinks a day or who regularly chew sugar-free gum, may display withdrawal symptoms if they stop." There are also several studies performed on animals that suggest that artificial sweeteners can lead to serious health problems. "Some people are convinced that they are carcinogenic but there is no proof of that," says food expert Ian Marber. "What we do know is that they tax the liver and increase fat levels in the blood. This can eventually lead to heart disease, diabetes, strokes and weight gain."

4. Are natural sugars healthier?

Natural sugars such as honey and agave syrup are often considered to be healthier than white sugar but according to food expert Marber this is not necessarily the case. "Natural sugars are not completely innocent. I know people who would never drink a can of cola but who sprinkle their breakfast with a generous helping of agave syrup. Too much sweetness - even natural sugar - can make you fat", he says.

According to James Duigan of Bodyism, cinnamon is also an option: "It tastes delicious, reduces your craving for sweet sins and regulates your blood sugar level. I stir it into my coffee and sprinkle it on my yoghurt. It is also the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of porridge."

5. The ultimate question: a can of soft drink with sugar or the diet version?

Duigan is firm but clear: "If you want to satisfy your thirst with a healthy drink there is nothing better than a large glass of cold water."

Amanprana's viewpoint:

Artificial sweeteners are in fact 'sweet chemicals'. Amanprana is against that. We also believe refined sugar is unhealthy. This also applies to cane and beet sugar as well as stevia. Stevia is a highly refined product, perhaps low in calories but stripped of its synergetic nutrients and is similar to refined sugar. Sugar cane, sugar beet and stevia are healthy in themselves, but if they are refined then they are converted into an unhealthy product. Steviol glycosides or steviosides, the stevia extract that is sold as a sweetener, is no longer similar to the stevia leaf from which it is derived. Don't say sugar to Gula Java! Organic Gula Java coconut blossom sugar by Amanprana is a 100% natural and unrefined sugar, extremely rich in minerals and with a low glycemic index of just 35. Until now it is the only known sugar to contain lots of antioxidants (more than most fruit and vegetables). Because of its low glycemic index the sugars that are naturally present are slowly absorbed into the bloodstream. This means that there are no peaks in your blood sugar levels, no rapid absorption of sugar in your body fat but a gradual conversion of sugar into energy.

Would you like to read more about this topic? Gula Java coconut blossom sugar

Source 'Five questions about artificial sweeteners':

Gula Java coconut blossom sugar
Gula Java coconut blossom sugar
  • Unrefined coconut blossom sugar
  • Many antioxidants and minerals: including chromium and Inositol
  • Low glycemic index of 35
  • Most sustainable sugar according to the 'World Health Organisation.'
More info + buy
Canderel and aspartame are not healthy and make you fat Wholemeal crepes with coconut blossom sugar stevia in itself is healthy, but when refined, it is unhealthy