Question:

After reading about some issues with artificial sweeteners, I have been trying to stop using them. Are natural sweeteners like Stevia or Monk Fruit, regarded as being better for you?

– Mary W.

Answer:

Yes, natural sweeteners are believed to be better for you than those synthesized in a lab. However, there are no long-term studies to date to support or contradict this notion. Research has tended to focus on blood sugar, insulin secretion and cellular responses to sweeteners. In regards to artificial sweeteners compared to sugar, the bulk of research tends to support benefits such as lowering the risk of diabetes type 2 and coronary heart disease and decreasing body weight.

The two main types of plant/fruit based sweeteners on the market are stevia and monk fruit. According to the FDA, stevia is comprised of “certain steviol glycosides obtained from the leaves of the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni),” and monk fruit sweetener is an “extract obtained from Siraitia grosvenorii Swingle fruit, also known as Luo Han Guo or monk fruit.”

Since we posted our article “Is monk fruit extract a natural sweetener, and is it better for you than sugar? three years ago, not much has changed in the world of natural sugar replacements. In addition to stevia and monk fruit, there is now allulose (also called psicose). Its chemical structure is similar to fructose, the sugar in fruit. Launched in 2015, it is sold as Dolcia Prima® in North America. In most cases, these “natural” sweeteners are naturally derived, meaning that the identified natural compound is somehow produced from its origin or another source. Not surprisingly, even raw sugar is actually a byproduct of sugarcane processing. Oh, and honey and maple syrup may exist in the same form as found in nature, but are both pasteurized for safety.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

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