All foods and drugs need to be eaten in the right amount to be beneficial

It’s the Dose that Matters

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

There are many things in life that are safe, fun or even good for us when we follow the rules. Observing the speed limit while driving is certainly one of these rules.  How about enjoying an occasional ice cream cone or reading the dosage information on a bottle of cough syrup before giving it to a child?  Learning where the line is that separates “enough” from “too much” is what makes a happy, healthy life possible.

As someone who has been providing food and nutrition advice for over 40 years, I know everything we eat involves a sensible balance of the risks versus the benefits since no food or beverage can be deemed completely safe. We must always consider how much is consumed, how often it is consumed and what else is in the usual diet.

That is why dietary guidance is based on recommended servings per day of the foods in each food group and suggested portion sizes are provided for each food. There is no category for “eat all you want” of this. Even water has daily intake guidelines! The same is true for dietary supplements, like vitamins and minerals, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications we use. These products are approved and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Taking them in the recommended dose at the recommended frequency is based on the best scientific evidence available to get the desired benefit. Taking more or less may not be as beneficial and may even be harmful.

What is the Acceptable Daily Intake?

No- and low-calorie sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin, are classified as food additives, and they are also approved and regulated by the FDA.  An Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) has been established for each one, and it represents the amount of that additive a person can safely consume every day over a lifetime without risk. It is measured in milligrams (mg) of substance per kilogram (kg) body weight (BW) per day, but that does not mean when this level is reached it could be harmful. The calculations used to determine ADIs are very conservative estimates that include a hundred-fold safety margin, which means when the additive was tested in the lab, even an amount 100 times the ADI produced no observable toxic effects.

For example, the ADI for aspartame is 50mg/kg BW. A 150 pound person weighs 68 kg, so when their weight in kg is multiplied by the ADI of 50mg/kg, you get 3400mg/day as the ADI for that person. The amount of aspartame in a single “blue” packet is about 34mg, which means a 150 pound person would need to consume 100 packets to reach their ADI.  And there are about 16mg of aspartame per ounce in a diet beverage, so a 150 pound person would need to drink 213 ounces, or 26 ½ cups of a diet soda, to reach their ADI.

It’s hard to imagine anyone consuming that many sweetener packets or diet soft drinks in one day let alone every day over a lifetime! But if you’re wondering how much aspartame or any other FDA approved no- and low-calorie sweetener Americans could consume, there is a value for that, too.

What is the Estimated Daily Intake? 

The Estimated Daily Intake (EDI) is determined by calculating how much of a single sweetener a person might consume if they used it as an exclusive replacement for sugar and other nonnutritive sweeteners based on typical food consumption patterns in the United States. It is also expressed in mg/kg BW, so can easily be compared to the ADI.

For aspartame the EDI is 0.2 – 4.1mg/kg BW, which is well below the ADI for aspartame of 50mg/kg BW. This means if someone replaced all sugar and other nonnutritive sweeteners with aspartame every day, they would be consuming less than 8 per cent of the ADI for aspartame. This is due, in part to the fact aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar, therefore only very minute amounts are needed to replace its sweetening power in foods and drinks.

Like all additives, no- and low-calorie sweeteners remain under continuous evaluation while in the food supply and are reassessed to keep up with changing conditions of use and new scientific methodologies that can measure their impact on our health. Since the EDI for no- and low-calorie sweeteners is very low compared to the ADI for each, as shown in the chart below, I think it’s fair to say we have more to worry about when it comes to limiting the amount of added sugars we consume than any of these safe and effective calorie sweeteners.

ADI.2

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.

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.

 

Sucralose and sugar alcohols are not the same

What are Sugar Alcohols and How are They Different from Sucralose?

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

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, 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.

Imagine seeing a listing for a “jumbo shrimp cocktail” on a menu for the first time. You might think it’s a huge drink made from shrimp based on the definition of each word. But anyone who has ever enjoyed this special appetizer of chilled shrimp and a horseradish-based sauce knows it’s not!

Similar confusion arises when people see the term “sugar alcohol” for the first time. Some think it’s a sweet alcoholic beverage but in fact it’s another sugar substitute.

Explaining the difference between two types of sugar substitutes – sugar alcohols and sucralose (the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA® Sweeteners) – is what this blog is all about.

What is a Sugar Alcohol?

The best way to define a “sugar alcohol” is to tell you what it is not.

A sugar alcohol is not a sugar like sucrose or glucose and it is not alcohol like the type found in beer, wine and whiskey. Sugar alcohols include erythritol, lactitol, maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol, isomalt, and mannitol, and they are carbohydrates with a structure that partially resembles sugar and partially resembles alcohol. They are also known as polyols and occur naturally in many foods, including apples, watermelon and mushrooms.

Sugar alcohols, or polyols, taste sweet, but are not as sweet as sugar. They also have fewer calories per gram than sugar and are used in a variety of reduced-calorie and sugar-free foods. One of the best qualities of sugar alcohols is that they do not contribute to the formation of cavities so they are used in place of sugars in products like chewing gum, toothpaste and mouthwash.

How are Sugar Alcohols Different from Sucralose?

If you compare sugar alcohols to sucralose (SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener), you will find that there are many differences even though they are both classified as sugar substitutes. One difference between sucralose and sugar alcohols is that sucralose alone has no impact on blood glucose and insulin levels. Like other no-calorie tabletop sweeteners, the sucralose-based sweeteners you buy at the store contain small amounts of carbohydrate (less than 1 gram per serving) that provide needed volume and texture. These common food ingredients, which include maltodextrin and/or dextrose, add minimal carbohydrate and sugar per serving.

In contrast, sugar alcohols are considered a type of carbohydrate and sufficient intake could have an impact on blood glucose levels. Sugar alcohols also should be considered in carbohydrate counting. You can get good advice on sugar alcohols and how to factor them into the total carbohydrate content listed on food labels by reviewing Hope Warshaw’s blog Reading Nutrition Labels for Total Carbohydrate.

Another important distinction to note when comparing sucralose to sugar alcohols has to do with gastrointestinal disturbances. Research shows that sucralose has no side effects. Sugar alcohols are different. They have the potential to cause a laxative effect when consumed in excess and can be an unsuspected cause of cramps and gas for anyone consuming large amounts of products like sugar-free gum, candies or desserts made with polyols. That can be especially troublesome for children and people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

To see the differences between sugar alcohols and SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener (sucralose), just use the handy chart below.

table_comparing_sucralose_to_sugar_alcohols

*Note: Other ingredients with which they are combined may have an effect.

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.

Are there side effects from artificial sweeteners?

Are There Artificial Sweeteners Side Effects?

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

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, 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.

Many things in our lives are now easier thanks to the Internet. We can book our own flights for a vacation, check what the weather will be when we arrive and order new clothes before we leave. But finding good health advice online is not an easy task.

If you’ve ever tried to get an answer to a health question you’ve probably ended up more confused – or even frightened – about your condition, after scanning all of the possibilities. That is especially true when it comes to alleged (or suspected) side effects of artificial sweeteners (commonly known as “sugar substitutes” or what I call “low-calorie sweeteners”).

I have written about the myths associated with sucralose (the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA® Sweeteners) and other sugar substitutes before in individual blogs. For this blog, I thought it would be useful to pull together the most commonly asked questions so you have the answers you are seeking all in one place.

Dispelling the Myths about Artificial Sweeteners Side Effects

Q: Do artificial sweeteners, like SPLENDA® Sweeteners, cause weight gain?

A: No. Artificial sweeteners can help decrease caloric intake when they are used in place of sugar, so they can help you lose weight when part of an energy-balanced diet with regular physical activity.

Learn more about misinformation regarding weight gain and low-calorie sweeteners. Also, read about how low calorie sweeteners can support yourweight loss efforts.

Q: Will using SPLENDA® Sweetener Products or other sugar substitutes make me crave sweets?

A: No. Research shows food cravings are not the same for everyone and not triggered by the same foods. Since sucralose, the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA® Sweeteners, is 600 times sweeter than sugar, some people believe it will trigger cravings for them if they like sweets. But studies on people who are regular users of SPLENDA® Products and other artificial sweeteners show that these products can be an aid to weight management. Read more in my blog about sweet cravings and satisfying our desire for sweet taste with fewer calories.

Q: Can no- and low-calorie sweeteners like SPLENDA® Sweeteners make me have an increased appetite?

A: No. It is normal to want more of a food that tastes good to us, but if we pay attention to our hunger and satiety signals we can avoid overeating. Low calorie sweeteners have been shown to be a useful tool in weight management by helping people feel more satisfied with their food and beverage choices.

Learn more from my blog about the appetite myth, and about signs of hunger vs. appetite.

Q: Do artificial sweeteners, like sucralose, cause digestive problems?

A: No. Data from over 100 studies show sucralose has no side effects. Changes in our stomach sounds and bowel habits can be triggered by many healthy foods we eat and are a sign of normal digestion at work.

Read more about sucralose and digestive health.

Q: Can sugar substitutes cause diabetes?

A: No. People who have diabetes are advised to reduce their sugar and carbohydrate intake by using sugar substitutes (such as SPLENDA® Sweetener Products). Sucralose is not a carbohydrate so it does not affect our blood glucose levels or insulin requirements.

Learn more of the “sweet truth” about artificial sweeteners and diabetes.

Now that you have all the answers to your questions about side effects and artificial sweeteners you can get back to planning your next vacation via the Internet!

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 all taste sweet, but are not the same

Are Some Sugar Substitutes Better than Others?

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

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, 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.

Most people know that carrots are a healthier choice than candy, but what about carrots versus kale? If you compare the nutrient content of each you will find a half cup portion of cooked carrots provides more vitamin A than an equal portion of cooked kale, but the kale has more vitamin C.

Since we need both vitamin A and vitamin C for good health, the best choice might be to eat both carrots and kale!

A harder question to answer, but one I’m asked all the time is, “What is the best sugar substitute?” Since so many people do not understand the unique features of the available no-calorie sweeteners, I like to refer them to my blog, “Sucralose, Stevia, Aspartame, What’s the Difference?” to find the information needed to compare them.

Maybe you’ve heard stevia is a healthier sugar substitute than sucralose, the sweetener in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products, because it is a “natural” sweetener compared to sucralose. This is, however, really a myth. I also covered that question in a previous blog, “What Does Natural Mean?”

There is also no official definition for the term “natural” for ingredients used in prepared foods. If you really want to compare stevia vs sucralose, here are the facts you need to see how they stack up.

Stevia vs Sucralose

sucralose chart

Finding the healthiest foods is not easy since we need so many different nutrients for good health and no one food can provide them all. Deciding which sugar substitute is best for you is much easier – just choose the one that tastes best to you!

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.

Reference: Global Stevia Institute http://globalsteviainstitute.com/stevia-facts/

For more information about sugar substitutes, visit the Sugar Substitutes section of this blog.

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