An artificial sweetener or sugar substitute is a chemical. It is added to some foods to make them taste sweet. It is made to taste like sugar or corn syrup. Usually it has a much lower energy value than sugar. It can be found in many products which say Light or Diet in their name.
Consumers use artificial sweeteners for one of the following reasons:
- Diabetes mellitus - People with diabetes have problems regulating their sugar levels in the blood. Artificial sweeteners are better for them than sugar.
- Reactive hypoglycemia - This is a condition similar to diabetes. People who suffer from it therefore often use artificial sweeteners.
- Some people think that artificial sweeteners can help them lose weight. A study at the university showed, however, that those people using artificially sweetened drink are more likely to become obese than those who do not.
- Dental hygiene – sugar substitutes are tooth-friendly, as they are not fermented by the microflora of the dental plaque.
Studies done with animals have shown that artificial sweeteners cause weight gain. A sweet taste causes insulin to be produced. This will store some of the sugar in the blood in tissues, including fat. With artificial sweeteners, the amount of sugar in the blood does not increase. This means that there will be too little sugar in the blood. This is known as hypoglycemia. On the next meal, more food will be eaten to get the blood sugar level back to normal values. After a while, rats given sweeteners have steadily increased the amount of calories. This increased body weight, and adiposity (fatness). The natural response to eating sugary foods is to eat less at the next meal and to use some of the extra energy to warm the body after the meal. When using artificial sweeteners, this effect is lost gradually.
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Artificial sweetener Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.