Dozens of different sugar substitutes are used to sweeten our food

A Sweetener by Any Other Name is Just as Sweet

This blog was originally written for CalorieControl.org. You can read that  post here.

The ingredients we use to sweeten our foods and beverages come from a wide variety of sources and have many different features and names.  In some cases, the only thing they have in common is that they all taste sweet! Some are ingredients found on our pantry shelves while others are already in the food and drinks we consume. Some have names we cannot easily pronounce while others are words we use in our everyday speech. And the list goes on.

There are so many terms used to describe the sweeteners available to us that it’s easy to become misled into believing some are better than others. We have all these terms because the ones used by the scientists who study sweeteners are different from those used by the food safety agencies that approve and regulate their use. And the terms used by health professionals who counsel people about the role of sweeteners in the diet differ from the ones used by the companies that sell them to us.

Given the heightened awareness of “added sugars” in our diets with the release of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the expected appearance of “added sugars” on the revised Nutrition Facts label due later this year, it seems like a good time to review just what we mean when talking about the sweeteners we consume.

Calories Not Nutrients

The main way all sweeteners can be classified is by whether or not they contain calories. The scientific terms used to describe this distinction are “nutritive” sweeteners, which contain calories, and “non-nutritive” sweeteners, which do not.

Terms for Non-nutritive Sweeteners

This list includes the terms permitted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approved food additives and ingredients, as well as those that are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). This list also includes other terms that have crept into common usage but are not clearly defined by any official source.

  • Alternate or Alternative sweetener – any sweetener used to replace sugar, like aspartame; may include nutritive sweeteners, such as honey and corn syrup
  • Artificial sweetener – derived from plant-based sources or manmade, such as acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, aspartame, cyclamate, neotame, saccharin, sucralose
  • High-intensity sweetener – hundreds of time sweeter than sugar and therefore used in very small amounts, such as acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, aspartame, monk fruit extract (luo han guo), neotame, saccharin, stevia (rebaudioside A), sucralose
  • Intense sweetener – same as high-intensity sweetener
  • Low-calorie sweetener –used in such small amounts the caloric value is minimal, such as allulose and aspartame; can be used to describe a no-calorie sweetener combined with a bulking agent that has calories
  • Natural sweetener –any sweetener derived from plant-based sources; non-nutritive options include  stevia (Rebaudioside A), monk fruit extract (luo han guo), and the polyol erythritol
  • No-calorie sweetener –is not metabolized by the body and passes through it unchanged, such as acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, monk fruit extract (luo han guo) , neotame, saccharin, stevia (Rebaudioside A), sucralose
  • Noncaloric sweetener – same a no-calorie sweetener
  • Polyol –carbohydrates that are not sugars, but have the taste and texture of sugar with less than half the calories, such as D-Tagatose, erythritol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH) isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, trehalose, xylitol
  • Reduced-calorie sweetener –contain less than 4 calories per gram, like polyols, or products that are a combination of nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners
  • Sugar alcohol – same as polyol
  • Sugar replacer – same as alternate sweeteners, artificial sweetener and sugar substitute
  • Sugar substitute – same as alternate sweetener, artificial sweetener and sugar replacer; commonly refers to non-nutritive sweeteners in table-top packets
  • Synthetic sweetener –not derived from plant-based sources, such as acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, aspartame, cyclamate, neotame, saccharin
  • Zero calorie sweetener – same as no-calorie sweetener

Terms for Nutritive Sweeteners or “Added Sugars”

The terms in bold type are recognized by the Food and Drug Administration as ingredient names. The others also sweeten our foods and beverages and appear on food labels, but are not recognized by the FDA as ingredient names for “added sugars.”

  • Agave nectar
  • Anhydrous dextrose
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane juice
  • Cane sugar
  • Carob syrup
  • Coconut sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Crystal dextrose
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Date sugar
  • Dehydrated cane juice
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Evaporated corn sweetener
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Fruit nectar
  • Glucose
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Liquid fructose
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Nectars (e.g. peach nectar, pear nectar)
  • Pancake syrup
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Rice sugar or syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Sugar cane juice
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Table sugar
  • Turbinado
  • White granulated sugar

You may want to print out this list and keep it in a handy place so you won’t be confused the next time you’re reading a food label.

 

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

 

Dieary patterns are more important to health than fad diets

The Hottest New Diet Isn’t a Diet at All

Meet the dietary pattern, a style of eating with a proven record of success.

This post was originally written as a guest blog for Health.USNews.com

Diets are out; dietary patterns are in – at least, that’s what the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans seems to say.

That’s big news for those of us who like to incorporate the report’s nutrition advice into our personal eating habits when it comes out every five years. This time, the government suggests we abandon diets that glorify or shun single foods and nutrients (think butter, eggs, fat and fiber – past years’ targets) and shift our attention to overall eating patterns, or the sum total of what, how often and how much we eat, as well as what we eat it with.

Why the move away from “good food/bad food” diets? For one, nutrition science is continually evolving and we are learning from our mistakes. Back in the 1980s, for instance, the guidelines told us to cut back on “bad fats” to lower our risk of heart disease – the No. 1 cause of death for Americans. But people who followed that recommendation filled the void on their plates with simple carbohydrates, such as pasta, bagels and fat-free cookies. In time, we learned those foods weren’t any better for our hearts (or waistlines) than the high-fat fare they replaced.

So in 2000, we tried again. The guidelines issued that year redeemed fats – as long as they were “good fats.” This recommendation was based on newer research linking populations that regularly ate olive oil, avocados and almonds with a lower incidence of heart disease. We followed suit, dipping our bread in olive oil, adding sliced avocado to our burgers and making almonds our go-to snack. But so far, the only thing that has improved is sales of those foods. Our single-minded pursuit of the perfect food (or fat) to fight heart disease has kept us from seeing everything else that contributes to its lower rates in people with different dietary patterns.

Now, after spending more than two decades rationing just three eggs into our weekly menus, we’re being told cholesterol isn’t as bad for us as we once thought. Does that mean it’s time to order the broiled lobster tail with drawn butter to celebrate?

Not so fast.

What it means is precisely what the latest Dietary Guidelines concluded: When it comes to diet, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Put another way, when you eat foods together, their health benefits are greater than a single food could produce on its own. For example, eating eggs every day can lower your risk of heart disease if you are also eating plenty of vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, whole grains, fish and olive oil. On the other hand, eating eggs every day along with regular servings of fatty meats, refined grains and excess sodium from highly-processed foods can increase that risk. That’s because the connection to heart disease isn’t just about the eggs – it’s also about everything else we consume with them.

Another advantage of adopting a healthy dietary pattern is that the benefits are cumulative, like compounded interest. So, people who have been eating a Mediterranean-style pattern all their lives, for instance, get an immediate return on investment by meeting their nutritional needs early in life to support optimal growth and development. Later, they receive a long-term dividend by preventing, or greatly reducing, their risk of suffering from the noncommunicable diseases of adulthood, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, macular degeneration and the ubiquitous heart disease. But this payoff requires making consistent contributions to your healthy eating plan, just like building retirement wealth depends on making consistent contributions to your 401K. Both are more effective the sooner you get started.

Choosing a healthy dietary pattern over a diet also leaves more room for the occasional holiday food exemption. (Sorry, but weekends don’t count as “occasional.”) That approach is different from the can-eat-can’t-eat diet style, in which we’re open to every loophole that might give us a free pass. Have you ever rushed off to work without eating breakfast so you feel entitled to partake in the office pastries? How about arriving home from work too tired to chop vegetables, so you eat pizza (without a salad) for dinner? What about the Sunday you finally get the whole family together for brunch and end up eating eggs benedict and a Belgian waffle to celebrate? You get the picture: Food choices can change with the seasons, but a dietary pattern remains the same.

Convinced yet? If so, the highly regarded Mediterranean and DASH  plans are a great place  to start. Those patterns offer the best of what is known about the food-health connection when put together right, so you won’t have to upgrade to something new in another five years. You also won’t have to worry about getting caught up in the next fad diet that promises to solve all your health and weight issues because history has shown us they don’t work in the long term. Think gluten-free, low-glycemic index, high-protein, low-carb, antioxidant-rich, paleo and probiotic diets, to name a few. It’s time to move on something more sustainable.

You can start transitioning to a healthier pattern by following some of these simple tips. The goal is to make the right choice a habit so it becomes your default option.

  • Eat at least one piece of whole fruit daily.
  • Order “whole wheat” as your bread choice for sandwiches, toast and pizza crust.
  • Choose fish over meat or poultry for an entree at least once a week.
  • Drink one full glass of water with each meal.
  • Add a layer of fresh or grilled vegetables to every sandwich.
  • Use nuts or seeds instead of croutons on salad.
  • Make chili with more beans and less (or no) meat.
  • Have brown rice with all Chinese takeout.
  • Include some vegetables whenever you grill.
  • Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream in cooking and baking.
  • Make your meat portions no larger than the palm of your hand.
  • Choose vegetables to top pizza, fill an omelet, stuff a potato or stretch a soup.
  • Keep hummus, salsa and sliced vegetables on hand as your go-to snack.
  • Be more inclusive of fruits and vegetables by including fresh, frozen, canned and dried varieties in your repertoire.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and cultural anthropologist who has spent her 30-plus year career counseling, teaching and writing about food, nutrition and health. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food choices possible in their everyday lives. You can read her blog at www.EverydayRD.com and follow her on Twitter at@EverydayRD.

Trust the experts for food safety information about sucralose

Is Sucralose Safe? Clearing Up the Confusion in 3 Steps

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here.

Have you had your daily dose of the latest controversial nutrition headlines? Some days I feel as though I’ve had more than my share. When that happens, I like to step back and remind myself that even the news has to be consumed in moderation for me to remain healthy and sane!

One of the more surprising items I read recently had to do with a new paper (about an old study), in which mice were given diets containing sucralose, the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products and other foods. The research group that performed the study is a small institute in Italy with a history of publishing research that has been found to be unreliable in making safety assessments of food ingredients.

I was surprised to see this study published because it had been the subject of criticism when these researchers published an abstract about it over 4 years ago. Critics said the researchers used an unconventional study design that causes problems when evaluating the data and have found numerous other flaws in the way the study was conducted. They also said the researchers’ conclusions were not supported by a wide body of research that shows sucralose is safe, doesn’t cause cancer, and can be enjoyed in healthy meal plans aimed at reducing our intake of added sugar.

Another surprise was the move by a food “watchdog” group advising consumers to avoid sucralose based solely on this publication, despite the clear availability of reliable research which shows that sucralose is safe. This is disappointing, unwarranted, and not useful to consumers who want tools to help reduce added sugar in the diet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not change its safety rating of sucralose, and neither did the dozens of other food and health agencies around the world that have approved sucralose as a safe sweetener.

After thinking more about this, I decided to prepare the simple steps below to help you keep things in perspective when you see stories about new research on a food or food ingredient that seem too crazy to be true. They just might not be!

3 Steps to Help You Navigate around Nutrition Research that is Drawing Media Attention

  1. A single new research study about a food ingredient or type of food is typically not going to reverse a safety decision when a wide body of evidence already exists to show that an ingredient or type of food is safe.

The safety approval process for foods and additives involves collecting data from all types of research on that product. The designs of the different studies are ranked to make sure those of the highest caliber are given the greatest weight in decisions about safety for human use. Moreover, safety factors are applied to ensure that intakes are well within safe levels. Ongoing research can provide additional information, but new studies that reach conclusions different from the body of existing evidence must be thoroughly evaluated to understand why they differ from what is already known, and those studies must be repeated by other scientists to validate the findings.

The FDA reviewed more than 100 studies in animals and humans to determine the safety of sucralose. You can read about the many other international food safety and regulatory agencies that came to the same conclusions here.

  1. Consider whether experts have weighed in.

It’s important to remember that the media want to have a story that will draw a big audience. Stories that shock or scare us commonly do that, especially if it’s about a food or ingredient that you and your family commonly enjoy. But when new research breaks, there often has not been enough time for a full expert review. If a food ingredient we have safely used for a long period of time is attacked, we need to reserve judgment until more experts can weigh in with their evaluations. A short sound byte from a single researcher which a reporter was able to track down for the story does not represent scientific consensus. Stories from certain “consumer advocacy” or “watchdog” groups need to be carefully monitored since those organizations may not be staffed with experts in food ingredient safety or risk assessment. On the other hand, they have a vested interest in getting your attention. That’s how they stay in existence.

We turn to licensed experts when we need a physician or electrician and should do the same when we need guidance about food safety. It is not possible to read and understand all of the scientific research about no- and low-calorie sweeteners ourselves, but highly qualified individuals have done just that and provide their expert opinions for us to follow.

The more consensus there is among food safety and health experts, the more confident you can be in their findings. If you are interested in learning more about expert evaluations on sucralose safety – you can find more here.

  1. Do a little digging into how well the study was designed.

While you may not be an expert in assessing food ingredient safety (most people aren’t), sometimes things as simple as the dose that was used in a study can help you get a better picture of whether a new scare-story seems legit. It’s not uncommon that “bad” results come from investigating doses that have no relevance to any of us. While we often don’t stop to think about this, there is no food or ingredient that is safe under all circumstances. There is an old saying that “the dose makes the poison”, which is very true. Safety standards for foods and drugs are based on the amount consumed, the frequency of consumption and the age and size of the person, plus consideration of individual differences and environmental exposures. For drugs we call this the “dose.” In foods, it’s the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) or maximum amount we can safely consume on a daily basis over a lifetime without adverse effects. For sucralose, the amount we typically consume is well below the ADI level and poses no risk at current levels of consumption.

Sucralose, the sweetening ingredient found in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products and other foods, is a safe FDA-approved ingredient. TheAcceptable Daily Intake set by FDA is 5 mg/kg body weight. For an adult weighing 150 pounds, this equates to consuming about 30 packets a day, every day, for the entire lifetime.

I hope you find these tips helpful when you’re hit with the next sensationalized news story that paints a distorted picture about food ingredients that were safe and widely used until that story broke. Those stories are frequently way off-track and even harmfully wrong.

With regard to no-calorie sweeteners, these are some of the most studied food ingredients in the world. In particular, sucralose has been found safe by expert health and food safety agencies from around the world – which I’ve also discussed previously here and here.

Importantly, we also know that eating too many calories from added sugars can be contributing to the epidemic of overweight and obesity happening now in many countries around the world, including the U.S. This is reflected in the recent “Guideline: Sugars Intake for Adults and Children,” published by the World Health Organization in 2015, which recommends reducing the intake of free sugars to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases in adults and children, with a particular focus on the prevention and control of unhealthy weight and dental caries. And it’s also reflected in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends a reduction in added sugars intake to less than 10 percent of total calories.

Sucralose and other low-calorie sweeteners can be a useful tool in reducing our intake of added sugars, and numerous clinical trials show that they can help overweight individuals achieve a lower body weight. They can also be an important tool for persons with diabetes when used in place of sugar to help manage carbohydrate intake. Low-calorie sweeteners can help lower intake of unnecessary carbohydrate, leaving room for more nutrient-dense sources like low-fat dairy, whole grains and vegetables.

I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Low calorie sweeteners are an aid to weight loss, not weight gain

What 22,000 Adults Had to Say About Low-Calorie Sweeteners and Weight Loss

This blog was originally written for CalorieControl.org. You can read that  post here.

Research on regular users of low-calorie sweeteners has found they have better diets than nonusers. If that isn’t incentive to use them, I don’t know what is! Of course, adding a low-calorie sweetener to your coffee isn’t all it takes to become healthy and thin, but studies show it can be part of a healthy lifestyle for many people and helps them reach their goals. And that’s exactly what the latest study by researchers Adam Drewnowski and Colin Rehm at the University of Washington found.

Since other research has reported an association between low-calorie sweeteners and obesity by simply looking at who was using them and their weight classification, Drewnowski and Rehm wanted to answer the question, “What came first, the weight gain or the use of low-calorie sweeteners?”

In their study, they went back 10 years to see peoples’ weight histories and their intent, or motivation, to lose weight during that time. What they found is the use of low-calorie sweeteners was common among people who were experiencing weight fluctuations and who were trying to return to a lower weight. In fact, nearly one-third of adults trying to lose or maintain weight used low-calorie sweetened products.

As anyone who has lost weight knows, it is easy to regain. When that starts to happen, there is a tendency to resume the weight loss strategies that helped in the past, like using low-calorie sweeteners. Even people experiencing weight gain for the first time and those with the early warning signs of diabetes may decide to use low-calorie sweeteners as a first step to reduce their caloric intake or added sugars in their diet. In both these examples, the low-calorie sweetener was selected after the problem of weight gain or prediabetes was identified, not the other way around.

Asking the Right Questions

Here’s how the study was done.

Information was collected from more than 22,000 adults about their use of low-calorie sweeteners in the past 24 hours, their intent to lose or maintain weight over the past 12 months and their 10-year weight history. Height and weight records were used to classify the participants as normal weight, overweight or obese during the period under investigation and a questionnaire was completed to determine if they had been diagnosed with diabetes.

Drawing the Right Conclusions

What the researchers found was the use of low-calorie sweeteners was associated with self-reported intention to lose weight during the previous 12 months, indicating it was a strategy being selected to help with weight loss.   They also found those who reported they were trying to lose or maintain weight during the past 12 months were much more likely to use low-calorie sweeteners, and  this was true for participants at any weight, not just those who were overweight or obese. This finding provides the strongest evidence yet that low-calorie sweeteners do not cause weight gain, but are chosen to help prevent it.

They also found those who reported they were trying to lose or maintain weight during the past 12 months were much more likely to use low-calorie sweeteners.

A final conclusion drawn from this research, based on the analysis of the 10-year weight change data, is that obese individuals may have switched to diet beverages made with low-calorie sweeteners after they gained weight.  This supports the possibility that use of low-calorie sweeteners may be a useful “marker” to identify people have experienced weight gain and are trying to reduce it.

What Does This Mean For You?

We now have better evidence than ever that low-calorie sweeteners are deliberately chosen by individuals as a weight management strategy and do not contribute to weight gain. Using low-calorie sweeteners in place of sugar is a simple step anyone can take to help reduce their caloric intake as part of a healthy lifestyle.

 

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

  

Let low calorie sweeteners take the place of added sugars in your diet

What’s New in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans?

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here.

If you don’t like mathematics or tracking what you eat, you may find it difficult to follow the recommendation to reduce the added sugars in your diet found in the latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Guidelines). Even if you do like math and record-keeping, you’re probably not going to be happy with how many of your favorite foods and beverages taste once the new limit on added sugars is applied. (Spoiler Alert: Keep reading for my advice on how to have a lower sugar diet that still tastes sweet!)

The new guidelines encourage us to limit our daily added sugars intake to less than 10 percent of our total calories as part of a healthy eating pattern. To figure out what your daily limit for added sugars is, you first need to know what your daily calorie requirements are. You can use this table in the Guidelines for an estimate of your daily calorie needs based on age, gender and physical activity level.

Once you know how many calories per day you should eat, take 10 percent of that number to know how many calories you can devote to added sugars. Now you must divide that number by 4 to determine the number of grams of added sugars you should try to stay under each day. Another option is to divide the sugar calories by 16 to calculate the daily number of teaspoons that shouldn’t be exceeded in your diet.

Tracking Added Sugars in Foods and Beverages

To stay within your allotted budget for added sugars you should keep track of the grams and/or teaspoons of added sugars consumed each day, along with your total daily calories. Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges with this step is that added sugars are not labeled on the nutrition facts panel of food products.

There are, however, a few ways to use the food label to find foods and beverages with less added sugar as noted in my previous blog, “Lowering Added Sugar in Your Meals.” Try these tips:

  1. Ingredients are listed by weight with the one used in the greatest amount coming first, so if an added sugar is at the end of a long ingredients list on a nutrition panel it is most likely not present in a significant amount.
  2. Foods and drinks made with no- and low-calorie sweeteners, like SPLENDA®Sweetener Products, typically have less added sugar than their full sugar counterparts.
  3. The more types of sugar there are in the ingredient list, the more likely their combined weight would appear higher on the list.

Strategies to Reduce Added Sugars in the Dietary Guidelines

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans report also provides a few strategies to help us reduce added sugars from our foods and beverages:

  • omit the sugar
  • choose unsweetened drinks or ones containing less sugar
  • have sweetened drinks less often
  • have sweetened drinks in smaller portions
  • limit or decrease the portion size, or choose unsweetened or no-sugar added versions of grain-based desserts (cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, doughnuts, sweet rolls, and pastries) and dairy desserts (ice cream, frozen yogurt, pudding, and custard).

Let SPLENDA® Sweeteners Help You Reach Your Goal!

An easy-to-incorporate strategy I recommend is to replace some of the added sugars in your food and beverages with high-intensity sweeteners (also known as sugar substitutes or low-calorie sweeteners) like sucralose (the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products) to retain the sweet taste that is such an important part of our eating experience.

Here’s what the new Guidelines say on the subject of low-calorie sweeteners: “High-intensity sweeteners that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), and sucralose. Based on the available scientific evidence, these high-intensity sweeteners have been determined to be safe for the general population.”

Replacing some added sugars with high-intensity sweeteners is a smart way to reduce added sugars in the diet while providing the sweet taste we want. For example, instead of the typical sweet tea with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you could try this Hot Spiced Tea and spread some No-Sugar Needed Triple Berry Jam on your sandwich.

Using SPLENDA® Sweeteners or other high-intensity sweeteners instead of added sugars is a strategy that can produce big results at the end of the day without doing all the math. For example, just by substituting one can of diet soda for a can of regular soda automatically eliminates 10 teaspoons of added sugars from your day no matter what other changes you may make. Adding a SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener packet instead of 2 teaspoons of sugar to three cups of coffee a day removes six teaspoons of sugar from your tally. And preparing this Berry-Cherry Pie with SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated replaces one cup of sugar in the traditional recipe (or 6 teaspoons per serving).

There are probably a number of other changes you will need to make to limit the added sugars in your daily diet. But being able to continue enjoying a little sweetness in your meals, with less added sugars, should help make those changes a lot easier to achieve.

I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

To learn more about Sugar Substitutes, visit the Sugar Substitutes section of this blog.
Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well. 

 

Aspartame has been help part of healthy diets for 35 years

The Most Studied Low Calorie Sweetener Turns 35 This Year

This blog was originally written for Aspartame.org. You can read that  post here.

The global population is aging at a faster rate than ever before in human history. Right now the number of people throughout the world over the age of 65 makes up 8.5 percent of the total population, or 671 million people according to International Population Reports.  That number is projected to jump to 1,566 million people by the 2050, making 16.7 percent of the world’s population over 65 years of age!

If you’re wondering what this has to do with aspartame and other no- and low-calorie sweeteners, there is a connection. Knowing you may live well into your 80s or 90s can provide the motivation for living better now to extend the quality of your life as you get older. That’s where aspartame can help.

 Benefits of Aspartame

Aspartame has been an approved food additive for over 35 years. Since its introduction into the food supply in the 1980s as an artificial sweetener 200 times sweeter than sugar a growing body of research has demonstrated its role in a healthy lifestyle. The benefits most frequently reported are that aspartame and other artificial sweeteners can aid in:

  • Weight maintenance
  • Weight reduction
  • Reduction in the risks associated with obesity
  • Diet satisfaction with less added sugars and fewer calories
  • Eating a greater variety of healthy foods
  • Management of diabetes

Knowing low-calorie sweeteners can support weight management is significant because, along with getting older, the World Health Organization reports we are also getting heavier. In fact, obesity has more than doubled in the global population since 1980. Today overweight and obesity are the leading risk factors for noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers and are now linked to more deaths worldwide than being underweight.

If you want to prevent the chronic diseases that can strip away independence as you age, achieving a healthy body weight is one of the most important steps you can take. Using aspartame in place of sugar can help by providing a sweet taste to foods and beverages with few or no calories.  And it can be used by the entire family, not just those trying to lose weight, although any unintended weight loss should always be brought to the attention of your physician.

Aspartame is not a drug and, therefore, cannot produce weight loss without making other behavior changes, but it can be a valuable tool in maintaining a balanced and satisfying diet — and that can add more healthy and happy years to your life.

 Safety of Aspartame

The safety of aspartame has been rigorously monitored by food safety experts since it was first approved for use as a food additive more than three decades ago. New research from human and animal studies is regularly evaluated along with the existing body of evidence to determine any potential risk to the population at current levels of exposure or Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI). The experts report aspartame does not cause damage to the genes or induce cancer, does not harm the brain or nervous system, and does not affect behavior or cognitive function in children or adults. They also have found no risk to the developing fetus from its use during pregnancy at the current ADI levels (except in women suffering from PKU).

Regulatory agencies representing more than 90 countries have conducted their own reviews of the scientific literature on aspartame and approved its use for their populations. This list includes the United States, Canada, the member countries of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), France, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. In 2013 the EFSA re-issued a Scientific Opinion on the safety of aspartame as a food additive and again concluded it was not a safety concern based on current exposure estimates and there was no reason to revise the ADI of 40mg/kg body weight per day.

It is reassuring to know there is a consensus among so many experts about the safety of aspartame, especially when conflicting reports from single studies hit the news. Living well into our nineties is a big enough challenge without having to worry about that!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness.  Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

Vacation weight gain can lead to creeping obesity

The Spring Break Souvenir Nobody Wants

This post was originally written for TheSkinnyOnLowCal.org.

When college students return to campus after their winter break most of them can’t tell you exactly when they’ll be taking their final exams, but they all know the dates for spring break. Reservations are booked long before anyone cracks open a book at the start of the semester. Escaping to someplace tropical for fun in the sun is standard fare, but for many there is a souvenir that can linger long after the tan marks have faded. It’s called creeping obesity.

Just like holiday weight gain that isn’t lost from one year to the next, weight gained while on vacation can contribute to creeping obesity – or gradual weight gain over time – if those extra pounds aren’t lost when you get home.  A recent study found the average weight gain for vacations of one to three weeks was .7 pounds, with some subjects gaining as much as 7 pounds.

Another finding in that study was that weight was gained despite the slight increase in physical activity reported during vacations. Apparently snorkeling and beach volleyball aren’t enough to offset the increased caloric intake, especially from alcoholic drinks which tended to double while on vacation!

Gaining a small amount of weight may seem like no big deal, but as I said in my book Fighting the Freshman Fifteen, if you don’t deal with the ounces they’ll turn into pounds by the time you graduate.  And since it’s much easier to lose one or two pounds than five or ten, why not make it part of your vacation plans to drop those unwanted pounds as quickly as you gained them?   Here’s how to do it.

Ways to Spring Back From a Spring Break!

  1. Know Your Number– Before you go on vacation use a customized program, like SuperTracker, to determine the number of calories you consume each day to maintain your present weight with your usual amount of physical activity. This is number your baseline calorie allowance.
  2. Step on the Scale– Weigh yourself before you leave for vacation and again on the morning after you return to see if you’ve gained weight and how much you need to lose to get back to your pre-vacation weight. Weigh yourself daily while following the steps below until you reach your goal.
  3. Keep a Record– Start recording everything you eat and drink, and the amounts, so you can tally your daily caloric intake. Keep it 200 calories below your maintenance number, calculated in #1. One way to drop 200 calories a day is to replace sugar-sweetened drinks with diet drinks and to use no- and low-calorie sweeteners in place of sugar.
  4. Up Your Activity– Increase your usual time spent in physical activity by at least one hour per week by adding a single 60-minute workout or an additional 15 minutes to four regular workouts.
  5. Monitor Your Maintenance– You can stop the calorie counting and extra hour of exercise once you return to your pre-vacation weight, but continue to weigh yourself weekly. Resume the food records and added exercise time if you see your weight going up before your next vacation.

Robyn Flipse. Fighting the Freshman Fifteen. Three Rivers Press, 2002.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian and cultural anthropologist whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness.  Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

 

Introduce sugar free drinks to children to reduce added sugars

Winning Kids Over from Sugary Drinks to Ones with Less Added Sugar or Sugar-Free Drinks

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here

Every generation of parents faces different challenges when it comes to raising their children. That may explain why grandparents and their adult children don’t always see eye-to-eye over what a child should eat for breakfast. Yet the one part of childhood nutrition they usually do agree on is the need to reduce the amount of added sugars children consume.

Back when I was in elementary school parents and teachers warned us to cut back on added sugars to avoid cavities and those dreaded trips to the dentist for drillings and fillings. Today, thanks to fluoridated water and better dental hygiene, childhood tooth decay is better controlled. Now children face rising rates of obesity and excess added sugars are being blamed for contributing to the problem.

So when I get questions from parents (and grandparents) about whether their children should have chocolate milk or plain milk with their school lunch, drink lemonade or lemon seltzer at the family picnic, or order a soda or glass of water at a pizza party, I recommend drinks that replace sugar with low-calorie sweeteners, like SPLENDA® Sweetener Products, for a simple solution.

As fellow Registered Dietitian Hope Warshaw explained in her blog, “American Academy of Pediatrics Weighs In on Added Sugar and Sugar Substitutes,” the Academy recognizes the safety of low-calorie sweeteners for children and their use as a tool to reduce the added sugars and calories in a child’s diet. The important point here is that they are a tool, and when used as part of a balanced diet, low-calorie sweeteners can help children enjoy a wide variety of foods and beverages they might not be willing to eat without a little sweetness.

 Lead By Example

The best way to introduce children and teens to drinks with less added sugar is to let them see you choosing and drinking them. They should feel good about the choice, not stigmatized for having something labeled “sugar free.” It also helps if you serve just one beverage option for everyone in the family instead of segregating the sugar-free version for only some members. And it makes life easier when you only have to find room for just one pitcher of sugar-free iced tea on the picnic table!

Another important behavior to model for children is moderation. Serving sizes of no-calorie and low-calorie beverages should be age appropriate along with their frequency of use. And they should never replace recommended servings of low-fat milk and 100% fruit juices that provide essential nutrients.

Special occasions like birthday parties and youth sporting events provide a perfect opportunity to offer drinks with less added sugar to a child since plenty of high-calorie foods are typically being eaten, including many that contain added sugars. These occasions also provide a very effective “teachable moment” for a child when they realize they can have the frosted cupcake or goody bag of candy and the drink with less added sugar, but must give up the treats if they have the sugar-sweetened drink.

Let Children Help

Allowing children to help prepare family meals is a valuable way to teach them about good nutrition. A good place to start is by making smoothies together. This Strawberry Orange Smash Smoothie contains strawberries, calcium fortified orange juice, non-fat yogurt and SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener to make a delicious and nutritious drink for kids of any age.

Since most children love watermelon and it doesn’t require a sharp knife to chop up once cut open, you can let your little ones help make this Watermelon Lemonade. Just make sure they wear their swim goggles while squeezing the lemons!

And if you have teenagers looking for something more “sophisticated” to drink, let them try this Homemade Chai. It’s full of flavor from the fresh ginger and dried spices with just enough sweetness from SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, to keep them smiling as they sip.

You can find many more beverage recipes with less added sugar on Splenda.com and more good advice on dealing with childhood weight gain and obesity in the blog “Small Changes Can Help Children and Teens Manage Weight” by my colleague Sue Taylor.
I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Use low caloire sweeteners to reduce added sugars in the diet

Hitting the Sweet Spot in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Savor the Flavor for National Nutrition Month

National Nutrition Month Savor the Flavor

Use National Nutrition Month to make progress towards meeting the goals of the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans by reducing the added sugars in your diet

If you’re a numbers person you’re going to love the news in the latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Guidelines) about the amount of added sugars we can include in our diets. If you don’t like mathematics or tracking everything you eat, the news is dreadful.

The Guidelines say we should limit our added sugars to no more than 10 percent of our total calories as part of a healthy eating pattern. To figure that out we need to record the calories in everything we eat and drink all day so we can find the total calories we consume, and then take 10 percent of that to know how many calories we can devote to added sugars. Once we have that number we must divide it by 4 to determine the number of grams our added sugars can weigh, or we can divide the sugar calories by 16 to calculate the number of teaspoons we can have.

Now all we have to do is keep track of those grams and/or teaspoons of sugar, along with all the calories, to be sure we don’t exceed our daily allowance. And don’t forget to reserve some of your “sugar allotment” if you have a special occasion coming up that might include a decadent dessert. You need to budget for that.

What’s Missing from the Sugar Reduction Strategy?

A thorough reading of the 300+ pages of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released in early 2016, did reveal a few shortcuts to these calculations, but the results won’t be as accurate. The “strategies” offered to help us reduce added sugars from our beverages are to simply omit the sugar, choose unsweetened drinks or ones containing less sugar, have sweetened drinks less often or have them in smaller portions.

The only strategies on how to reduce added sugars from grain-based desserts (cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, doughnuts, sweet rolls, and pastries) or dairy desserts (ice cream, frozen yogurt, pudding, and custard) are equally imprecise. The Guidelines suggest “limiting or decreasing portion size” or choosing the unsweetened or no-sugar added versions.

Given these options you’ll be out of luck if your menu tonight includes a garden salad with French dressing, grilled chicken with barbecue sauce and a side of baked beans, a tall glass of fresh squeezed lemonade and some homemade blueberry crisp for dessert. You’d be getting more than 25 teaspoons of added sugars in that meal, even with modest portions, and that’s more than double the amount most of us can include in our daily diets.

That just doesn’t seem right and it doesn’t hold true to another key message in the Guidelines that states, “Any eating pattern can be tailored to the individual’s socio-cultural and personal preferences.”

What’s missing from these “strategies” are ways to use high-intensity sweeteners (also known as sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners), or products made with them, to replace some of the added sugars in our food and beverages so we can retain the sweet taste that is such an integral part of our eating experience.
What the Guidelines do say on the subject is:

“High-intensity sweeteners that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), and sucralose. Based on the available scientific evidence, these high-intensity sweeteners have been determined to be safe for the general population.”

Why not recommend high-intensity sweeteners as a guaranteed way to reduce added sugars in the diet? Every time they are used in a food or beverage they can reduce our total added sugars consumption while providing the sweet taste we want. Instead, we are being asked to give up or use less honey in our tea, syrup on our pancakes and jelly with our peanut butter.

Replacing some of the added sugars in our diets with high-intensity sweeteners is a “strategy” that can produce big results without doing all that math. Substituting one can of diet soda for a can of regular soda automatically eliminates 10 teaspoons of added sugars from our day no matter what other changes we may make. Using a yellow sugar substitute packet instead of sugar in three cups of coffee a day removes six teaspoons of sugar from our tally. Preparing blueberry crisp with a sugar substitute deletes a cup of sugar from the recipe.

There are many other food and beverage choices we must also make to meet the goals in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Having the chance to enjoy a little sweetness in our meals will make them easier.

About the author: Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and cultural anthropologist with over 35 years of experience specializing in food, nutrition and health communications. She is a consultant to several food and beverage companies, including the Calorie Control Council and Heartland Food Products Group. She is author of the blog “The Everyday RD” and tweets as @EverydayRD.

This blog was originally written for FoodConsumer.org. You can read the original post here.

Taxing soda can't fix a poor diet

Can We Tax Our Way to Better Diets?

If your kids aren’t doing well in school, do you tell them they just have to give up video games and they’ll do better? Of course not! Even if they never played another video game for the rest of their lives, they’d still have to read books, complete assignments, and pass tests to attain those better grades.

The same is true for improving the quality of our diets or losing weight. It can’t be done by asking people to give up foods and beverages they enjoy, like soda. That’s simply not sustainable. A healthy and balanced diet requires eating the right foods in the right amounts and in the right frequency to get the desired results, with or without soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks.

The amazing thing about a well-planned diet, matched by regular exercise, is that you can actually have the occasional soft drink without “ruining” your health or gaining weight! It’s all about eating the foods that supply the nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy since nothing we remove from the diet can replace them.

While no food or beverage can cancel out the nutritional benefits of the other foods we eat, we can gain weight if we eat too many calories, including those found in the most nutritious foods. That means eating a strawberry-banana smoothie every day that is full of vitamin C, potassium, protein, and calcium can supply more calories than we need and result in weight gain over time. Those excess pounds can lead to obesity, and obesity can increase the risk for hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer no matter how many nutrients came with the calories.

So when you hear people blaming sugar-sweetened drinks for obesity or other health problems and propose to tax them or implement warning labels to improve our diets, remind them that’s not how good nutrition works – just like banning video games at home won’t make kids get better grades in school.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.