The pandemic might be overstaying its welcome, but the past few months have taught us to prioritise our health and well-being to ensure fitness and immunity.
With the work from home situation taking over the world, it is very easy to become lethargic and give in to binge-eating. Which is why it is crucial to monitor one’s eating habits and ensure a balanced lifestyle. Eating the right kind of food is just as essential as eating at the right time. With our work routine going for a toss, our caffeine/tea intake has increased multifold and we don’t tend to realize the amount of sugar we unknowingly consume with every cup. This added sugar drastically increases our calorie intake and with limited physical movement, it can lead to lifestyle disorders and problems.
Here’s where the role of low calorie sweeteners (LCS) makes all the difference. Low calorie sweeteners are food additives that provide sweetness with minimal calories. The sweetness intensity of LCS is extremely high in comparison to free sugar, which means comparatively a small dose of LCS is required to perceive the sense of sweetness. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that free sugars should constitute less than 10 percent of total calories, to reduce the risk of lifestyle diseases. In a country like India, where sugar is a key component of everyday food and beverages, people find it really difficult to adhere such recommendations.
Safety is the key concern when a new product is launched into the market and LCS are no exception. For years, their safety apprehensions have floated around the internet. The EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) and US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and Indian FSSAI have declared them safe when consumed within the recommended ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake). The ADI represents an amount 100 times less than the quantity found to be safe in research studies.
There are multiple benefits of low calorie sweeteners:
Weight Management – The prevalence of obesity and overweight has increased exponentially while working from home. Replacing sugar with LCS alone cannot reduce weight magically. Weight reduction is a complicated process that requires balanced diet and exercise in addition to reduction of calories through sugar. With current evidence, it is safe to conclude that LCS may help in weight loss in the short-term but more evidence are required to substantiate their long-term benefits.
Appetite and Satiety – As LCS are capable of providing the feeling of sweetness with low calories, questions have been raised whether brain responds to free sugar and LCS in same way and whether they result or interfere in any change in hunger and appetite. British Nutrition Foundation also says that LCS do no increase hunger or appetite. The view is supported by the International Sweeteners Association which says, “LCS do not increase appetite and have no discernible effect on satiety.”
Oral Health – Tooth decay or cavities are caused by acid produced by bacteria by fermenting sugars in the mouth. Oral bacteria cannot metabolize LCS, hence they do not cause any dental caries. EFSA opines that LCS maintains tooth mineralization by decreasing tooth demineralisation.41 Canadian Dental Association recommends replacing sugars with sugar substitutes.42 The view is supported by International Sweeteners Association which says, “LCS have dental benefits when used in food, beverages, toothpaste, and medications, provided other constituents are also non-cariogenic and non-erosive.