This is an interesting review of about the controversies and different opinions around the use of sugar and artificial sweeteners. Make your own mind, but remember, the natural path is always a pleasant one.

Brief Introduction

Today, there is still no consensus on the usefulness of substituting artificial sweeteners for sugar (sucrose) to obtain better weight control. Considering the worldwide increase in the prevalence of obesity, it seems important to clarify whether artificial sweeteners can help regulate body weight or not. It has been suggested that eliminating sucrose from the diet will increase the relative dietary fat content, which will then result in increased energy intake and body weight over the long term.
Most of the published studies on artificial sweeteners are short-term studies lasting from a few hours to 1–2 days. A few of these studies found a stimulating effect of artificial sweeteners on appetite, whereas most of the other studies did not find this effect. However, short-term studies are not very informative because appetite regulation and macronutrient balance probably do not correct for the missing energy and sucrose until the individual has consumed the diet for several days.
Therefore, epidemiologic studies or studies lasting for weeks or months are of greater interest. Long-term intervention studies without energy restriction are scarce, and those that have been done did not last for > 3 wk. These studies suggested that increased intake of artificial sweeteners either has no effect or decreases energy intake and body weight compared with sucrose consumption. Epidemiologic studies, on the other hand, found an inverse relation between the intake of sucrose and body weight in adults and children, suggesting that sucrose may help prevent overweight. These epidemiologic data were recently supported by the long-term, multi-center trial CARMEN, in which a diet low in fat and high in simple sugars, consumed ad libitum for 6 months, reduced body weight and fat mass in overweight subjects.
Furthermore, normal-weight to moderately overweight Scottish men lost more body weight and fat mass with a fat-reduced diet than with a fat- and sucrose-reduced diet.
Regarding artificial sweeteners, a long-term epidemiologic study reported a positive relation between saccharin intake and weight change in adults and a positive relation between intake of carbonated soft drinks and body mass index (BMI; in kg/m2) in 12–16-y-old children. This may suggest that artificial sweeteners do not prevent weight gain, although cause and effect cannot be determined from these studies. In contrast, long-term intervention studies with energy restriction have shown that the inclusion of artificial sweeteners can increase compliance, improve quality of life, and help maintain weight loss. Persons who are concerned about their weight but are not following a diet typically use artificial sweeteners because they wish to reduce their daily energy intake without changing the rest of their diet; with this approach, they hope to maintain or reduce their body weight. Whether this actually happens or not has not been adequately investigated yet.

Sweet memories

One of my favorite childhood photos shows me shoveling down a piece of gooey birthday cake, totally absorbed in the moment and not caring (or knowing) a bit about sugar content, fat or calories. Oh, if only life were so simple today. As an adult, indulging in something sweet now elicits feelings of guilt and overindulgence. After all, what diet doesn’t eliminate sugary selections right up front? With the discovery of saccharin in 1879 and the subsequent no-cal and low-cal sweeteners, people now have a way to have their cake and eat it, too. But at what price?
Keep Natural

What´s the deal?

Of course, the biggest issue in this debate is weight loss. New research at the University of Texas has found that people who use diet drinks don’t necessarily lose weight. In fact, they can put it on.
Dr Sharon Fowler and her colleagues examined more than five thousand people over a seven-year study. “Those who used artificial sweeteners gained 50 percent more weight than the people who did not,” says Dr Fowler.
How could people using diet drinks put on weight? One possibility is people mistakenly think a “diet drink” means they can eat more non-diet food. They overcompensate and stack on the kilos.
Another theory is zero calorie diet drinks might actually make you hungry.
“It could be that when you put anything in your body that is not water, the gastric acid levels start to rise in anticipation with dealing with calories,” explains Dr Fowler. “Well, then you start feeling hungry. If there are no calories, you may wind up looking for something else.”
All this doesn’t mean artificial sweeteners are bad for us, says co-author on Dr Fowler’s study, Professor Michael Stern — they just haven’t solved our obesity problem.
“The introduction of diet products, which is now many decades ago, has not in any way prevented this really worldwide epidemic of obesity,” he says.
Artificial sweeteners aren’t a magic bullet. If you want to watch your weight, you still need to eat well and exercise regularly.

Against artificial sweeteners, sugar, also watch out!

You get a sweet taste on the tongue when you eat sugar. That sweet taste is a signal to the liver: “there’ll be lots of blood sugar from the digestive tract in a minute or two, can’t have too much blood sugar at once, I’ll pull the blood sugar right now.”
And that’s fine and dandy as long as that sweet taste really is a high-caloric fast-showing sugar. For instance candies, sweet pastries, honey, or the “health foods” grape, grape juice, or carrot juice. And similar things.
But if you’ve just eaten an artificial sweetener (for instance aspartame), your liver is fooled into pulling the blood sugar, but you don’t get the corresponding blood sugar surge from the food you just ate.
So you suddenly have low blood sugar, and all that comes with that: tiredness, irritation, and/or the Munchies with a capital M. You have low blood sugar, you need something sugary now.
So you add sweeteners to your coffee and munch on candies, all the time. And you wonder why you simply can’t lose weight.
We all react to the low blood sugar which artificial sweeteners bring with them, but it’s rare to see it that clearly.
Forget about artificial sweeteners and the sweets, do magnesium, chromium, zinc, B6, and fish oils, in order to get the insulin – blood sugar system working properly.
Stevia or licorice won’t fool the liver into pulling the blood sugar, but their taste isn’t just sweet.
The moral of the story: use sugar or honey if you have to sweeten your coffee. And enjoy that sweet coffee: sip it slowly, don’t gulp it down.
I’d also suggest ditching the “cholesterol is bad for you” idea, and eating full-fat foods: most low-fat foods are loaded with sugar.

A sugar fan, but with moderation

So what’s wrong with real sugar? Some anti-sugar diet books may have you believe you’re better off mainlining heroin than stirring a teaspoon or two of sugar into your coffee. Despite the negative media hype, Americans have an addiction to the sweet stuff, according to many experts who believe we are programmed at an early age to crave sugar. Plenty of research supports sugar’s addictive effect: Sugar triggers the release of dopamine in the brain the same way that opiates do.
The brain recognizes this pleasurable feeling and craves more of it, and the cycle repeats itself.
Most nutrition experts agree that, unless you have diabetes or other medical conditions where your doctor has banned the substance, a little sugar won’t hurt you. Eating sugary foods in place of nutritious foods, however, is where you may eventually run into problems. Having a glazed donut or cinnamon bun every single morning instead of whole-grain cereal can set you up for diabetes, obesity and inflammation, so go easy.
If you have strong sugar cravings, you should probably completely abstain for a while until you get over it. Although, sugar in moderation and as part of a healthy diet works fine for most people.

Sources: health, henriettesherbal, ocmetro.

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