Sugar Substitutes Sweet but Deadly? Research Paper

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The effect of sugar substitutes on weight control was controversial for a while. A 1986 British study claimed that those who consumed aspartame-sweetened water increased the appetite more than those who drank plain water. But this finding was debunked by those of other studies, which suggested that the consumption of aspartame or other sugar substitutes did not increase the appetite. A Harvard Medical School study even suggested that these substitutes are helpful to those who wish to control their weight. The study participants were overweight women with similar weights during a four-month multidisciplinary weight reduction program. The women were grouped into two, one which consumed aspartame-sweetened products and another, which avoided the products. Both groups lost similar amounts of weight during the program but those in the aspartame group maintained their weight loss better than the other group, which avoided the aspartame-sweetened products (Meister).

Polyols or sugar alcohols may be used if bulk should go with the sweetness (Meister, 2006). Polyols confer 3 advantages, such as, not promoting tooth decay, a lower glycemic response, and lower calories than sugar has (Meister).


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Two experiments were conducted on the effects of this sugar substitute (Islam, 2011). One was on non-diabetic rats and the other, on rats with type-2 diabetes. In the first, seven-week-old male Dawley rats were given xylitol feeding. The rats were divided into 3 groups: control, sucrose and xylitol groups. They wee also given rat pellet diet, generous supply of water, and sucrose solution. After 3 weeks on the diets, it was found that the rats in the xylitol group had lower body weight than the sucrose group. Weekly non-fsting blood glucose was greatly increased while fasting blood glucose was significantly decreased. The xylitol group displayed much better glucose tolerance than either of the two other groups. Results showed that xylitol may work as a better sweetener than sucrose in maintaining the diet of diabetics (Islam).

TOPIC: Research Paper on Sugar Substitutes Sweet but Deadly? Assignment

This year, a follow-up study was conducted to determine the anti-diabetic effects of xylitol on a type-2 diabetic rat model (Islam & Indrajit, 2012). It used 6-week-old male Sprague-Dawley rats, grouped into 3: for normal control, diabetic control, and xylitol. Diabetes was induced in the last 2 groups by feeding them with 10% fructose solution for 2 weeks and then by injecting streptozotocin to raise their non-fasting blood glucose level to more than 300 mg/dl. The xylitol group was given 10% xylitol solution while the first two were given ordinary drinking water only. After 5 weeks, the xylitol group had significant decreases in food and fluid intake, body weight, blood glucose, serum fructosamine and serum lipids. At the same time, there was a significant increase in this group's serum insulin concentration and glucose tolerance as compared with the diabetic control group. This finding suggests that xylitol is beneficial not only as a sugar substitute but also as a supplemental anti-diabetic food (Islam & Indrajit).

Soft Drink Consumption and Health

A meta-analysis of 88 studies found that soft drink intake produces negative health effects (Vartanian & Brownell, 2007). The studies used longitudinal and experimental methods and factors, which moderated effect sizes. Those studies funded by the food industry reported minimal effects as compared with those not industry-funded. Results of the meta-analysis showed a clear and consistent connection between soft drink intake and increased energy and body weight; lower intakes of milk, calcium, and other nutrients; and increased risk of medical problems, such as diabetes. Sweeteners are only one among the many sources of energy in a typical diet. But all alone, they can have such an impact on total energy intake. Furthermore, soft drinks displace that of important nutrients and may increase the risk of health conditions, such as diabetes. The study thus recommends decreasing soft drink consumption (Vartanian & Brownell).

Negative Effects of Sugar Substitutes on Health

Animal studies show that the consumption of too much sugar damages the teeth, increases weight, displaces nutritious foods in the diet and leads to certain degenerative diseases (Tandel, 2011). These diseases in humans include bladder cancer. A group of studies was conducted to break the controversy between the safety and risk of using these substances. These studies, however, were limited to animals and had small sample sizes, among other limitations. Replication on human subjects in the general population should be conducted to come up with more reliable findings (Tandel).

Anecdotal evidence gathered from the database of case histories suggests that the study subjects developed a number of symptoms after using the sugar substitutes (Tandel, 2011). Consequences of urbanization, sedentary lifestyles and over-consumption of sugar and fatty foods led an otherwise healthy and lean Indian population to become obese, according to one study. The Indian population was subjected to these phenomena, especially diets of saturated fats. Another study revealed obesity as the primary factor behind the spread of type-2 diabetes in India and the consequence of India's becoming the diabetic capital of the world in 2030 (Tandel).

In response to these developments, consumers urged for a wider range of low-calorie products for health maintenance (Tandel, 2011). Sugar substitutes appear to be among the answers to this call. They have fewer calories and about 200 times sweeter than natural sugar. This is clearly why the food and beverage industry has been replacing sugar or corn syrup with artificial sweeteners more and more. This endeavor costs the industry only a fraction and promises enormous profit in return (Tandel).

Health Risks with Sugar Sweetened Beverages

The rising incidence of obesity worldwide and the consequent co-morbidities, reduced quality of life and expenses incurred have sounded a serious call about sugar-sweetened beverages or SSB consumption (Malik et al., 2010). Longer studies with increasing number of participants have shown that intake of SSBs entails increased risk of type-2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease. These beverages are the biggest contributor of sugar in the diet in the U.S. And believed to increase weight partly due to incomplete compensation for liquid calories during meals. They are also a likely source and contributor of a high dietary GL and increased fructose metabolism, which leads to inflammation, insulin resistance, impaired beta-cell function and high blood pressure. At the same time, it promotes the accumulation of visceral fat and atherogenic dyslipidemia. On top of all, SSBs have little or no nutritional value. These studies, therefore, recommend limiting their intake and replacing them with health alternatives, such as water (Malik et al.).

Phenylketonuria or PKU

This is an inherited disorder characterized by increased levels of phenylalanine in the blood (GHR, 2012). Phenylalanine is an amino acid ingested from food. It is found in proteins and in some artificial sweeteners, like aspartame. Untreated PKU increases the harmful levels of phenylalanine in the body. This can lead to intellectual disability and other still unknown health problems. Signs and symptoms range from mild to severe. The most severe is classic PKU, which consists of permanent intellectual disability. If untreated, it can produce seizures, delayed development, behavioral and psychiatric disorders. Children with classic PKU develop lighter skin and hair than their family members. Less serious forms are variant PKU and non-PKU hyperphenylalaninemia, which have a slight risk of brain damage (GHR).

The concern is on babies who are exposed to their mother's PKU and uncontrolled phenylalanine levels (GHR, 2012). These babies are a high risk for developing intellectual disability in utero because of their exposure to very high phenylalamine levels. When born, the infants may also develop low birth weight and have slower growth than other children. Moreover, they are at a risk for heart defects or other heart problems, a very small head, and behavioral problems. Their mother also faces increased risk for pregnancy loss (GHR).

PKU occurs in 1 out of 10,000 to 15,000 newborns (GHR, 2012). Most cases are detected right after delivery when the newborn is screened. Treatment is usually begun immediately and this is why severe signs and symptoms of classic PKU are often quickly eliminated. Mutations in the PAH gene are responsible for PKU. This gene produces phenylalanine hydroxylase, which converts the amino acid to other important compounds. When mutations inhibit the enzyme's activity, phenylalanine that comes from the diet cannot be adequately processed. The amino acid builds up in toxic levels. Excessive amounts can cause brain damage. Changes in the gene may cause phenylketonuria. The condition can be inherited in what is called an autosomal recessive pattern. In this pattern, both copies of the gene have mutations. A parent with this condition can carry one copy of the mutated gene without showing signs or symptoms of the condition (GHR).

The highest incidence of PKU in the world has been reported in Turkey at approximately 1 in 2,600 births and the lowest in Finland and Japan with less than 1 out of 100,000 and 1 in 125,000, respectively (Steiner, 2011). Women with PKU need to bring down their phenylalamine levels during pregnancy to avoid possible birth defects in their offspring, such as intellectual disability. PKU is most common among white in the U.S.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Sugar Substitutes Sweet but Deadly?.  (2012, September 30).  Retrieved September 26, 2021, from

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"Sugar Substitutes Sweet but Deadly?."  30 September 2012.  Web.  26 September 2021. <>.

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"Sugar Substitutes Sweet but Deadly?."  September 30, 2012.  Accessed September 26, 2021.