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Are safety concerns around low calorie sweeteners real?

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ET Health
10th October, 2019 18:32 IST
New Delhi: The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that free sugars should constitute less than 10% of total calories, to reduce the risk of lifestyle diseases like diabetes. Most of the life style diseases have a close link with what you eat, which is often the most neglected part of people’s life. Lack of knowledge around nutrition often results in poor lifestyle choices which over a period of time manifest as poor health. High intake of sugar has been associated with multiple chronic diseases.

Low-calorie sweeteners entered the market as an alternative to free sugar to decrease total calorie intake without compromising on sweetness of the food. However, they soon entered into controversy because of their safety concerns.

Speaking on the safety of Low-Calorie Sweeteners Dr. Rebeca López-García, Toxicology and regulations Expert, said, “We know that low-calorie sweeteners are safe because as food additives they have to go through an extensive evaluation to get legally approved. So even if each country has its own systems basically the protocols are the same. The evaluation starts with simple studies on molecules and moves to complex studies where their digestion, excretion, and effect on the body are studied. If at any point during the evaluation process the molecule shows a toxic effect, no further studies are conducted and the product never enters the market. Toxicology studies are conducted based on internationally approved protocols and sometimes take up to 20 years to complete. After completion of all studies, international or local authorities look into these petitions and also call for international data. After a profound analysis of all the data available, authorities come up with recommendations.”

When we talk about the safety of the low-calorie sweeteners, we are talking about years of research behind them before they enter the market. Diabetics can be one of the target groups for the low-calorie sweeteners and in safety evaluations, it is made sure that that LCS do not interfere with the blood glucose, insulin, diabetes management, and control. Additionally, low-calorie sweeteners are also assessed for their impact on the reproductive system. It is made sure that there is no effect on people’s health who are planning to get pregnant or on infants’ health going through development, added, Sandhya Pandey, Head Clinical Nutrition, Fortis Memorial Research Institute Gurugram.

In addition to safety, taste is also a major concern for regular users who expect a taste like that of sugar. Sanjeev Kapoor, Indian Celebrity Chef, said, “Correct knowledge is the key to correct choices. Replacing most of the high-calorie food products is difficult. However, sugar which adds free calories to the diet can be replaced easily with low-calorie sweeteners. People often say that it doesn’t taste the same and I agree with them. It won’t taste 100% same, however, if one tries it for 2-3 weeks then they will get habituated to the taste. If compromising on 10% of taste can help you cut down on your total calorie intake, it is a deal worth taking.”
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