Sweeteners, obesity and diabetes (i): the siege narrows

It has been long time ago that sweeteners have postulated as a healthy option instead of sugar. However, up to date, a growing corpse of evidence points that far from an innocuous substitute sweeteners could be rather harmful.

Our biology has an instinctive, atavistic, tendency towards sweet. There are several mechanisms that explains it. To identify sugar in foodstuff, as an important and immediate source of energy is the most basic of them. Back in time, when the worry was survival finding foodstuff and energy was crucial. With this background is rather comprehensive that our nature encourages and rewards the consumption of this type of food sources, sugar enriched, reporting a special pleasant sensation.

Edulcorantes, obesidad y diabetes: el cerco se estrecha

Nevertheless, the setting has changed substantially. First, in our current scenario we don´t have to struggle daily neither for foodstuff nor for sugar, and second, our biology has hardly changed. Therefore, we continue to feel huge stimulus to eat food with these characteristics. Such are the circumstances that something that once was essential for survival today has become a serious public health problem. Nowadays we know that excessive consumption of sugar (short of foodstuff we are predisposed by nature) is a key factor to suffer metabolic disorders, such is obesity and type 2 diabetes. That overconsumption is easy to reach due to everlasting presence of hyper-sugar foodstuff around. This foodstuff is available in many different, they are myriad, they are tasty and they are cheap. Considering sugar issue the surrounding cannot be more hostile regarding our health expectations.

Sweeteners as so-called solution

With these approaches, the replacement of sugar with sweeteners seems to be a good choice. I mean, over the blank paper the advantages are three: 1) Their different chemical nature from sugar would avoid the metabolic effects to raise blood glucose and its effects in different tissues, including adipose. 2.) Sweeteners don´t contribute with calories, therefore the energy balance would be more positive, downward trend, something that would be more appropriate in our overabundance of energy. And 3.) All this without detracting the product quality (to some extent). Using sweeteners, on paper, is all extra-bonus.

  • Edulcorantes, obesidad y diabetes: el cerco se estrechaThe use of foods with a “healthy” profile from their calorie shortage offers a “halo effect” on the consumer and with this a feeling of indulgence that may make you think that since you are doing “well”, you can To some extent exceed on the other hand. Something like: “If I’m having toast with butter and jam with sweetener, I can prepare three more bread toasts”
  • The sweet taste, even that provided by caloric sweeteners can produce an excessive need to continue looking for these intense flavors that give us so much reward in terms of pleasure, ending up craving to eat more and more.
    • Intense sweetness surpasses cocaine reward emphasizes that the reward sensation gained from sweetener consumption may be greater than that obtained even with cocaine, and hence the obsession with eating more and more in the search of those feelings.

CHAPTER 2: Sweeteners and Type 2 Diabetes

Juan Revenga, Dietitian-nutritionist.

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Juan Revenga Frauca
I am Dietician-Nutritionist and Biologist from the University of Navarra and I practice the profession of dietician-nutritionist and as professor at San Jorge University. I am also a collaborator in different media in the fields of nutrition, food and health . I am member of the Spanish Foundation for Dietitians and Nutritionists (FEDN), and part of both its Scientific Committee and its Technical Advisory Committee. I have been president and founder of the Professional College of Aragon D-N (CPDNA). I am an active user of social media. You can follow me on twitter (@juan_revenga) or Facebook.