The hidden dangers of alternatives to sugar
The war on sugar has been well documented. Moves towards sugar taxes and similar legislation show that the demand to cut down on sugar has been growing. Many companies have answered this demand, and sought to avoid paying sugar taxes, by replacing the demonised sugar with far more publicly palatable sweeteners.
GlobalData food editor Callum Tyndall says: “Many sweeteners, such as aspartame, are artificial (something that doesn’t sit well with wellness-invested consumers) and there are still important questions to be asked around just how healthy these sugar alternatives really are.
“Earlier this year, we looked at whether sweeteners were actually healthy or safe and how they matched up to the claims made around them. The question now, as they continue to serve as the principal alternative to sugar and gain subsequent steam as the push against sugar continues, is just how do they fit into the wellness movement going forward and what else may be out there for the alternative market?
“The chances of sweeteners being harmful are low, studies into the field are yet to find indications of adverse health effects from using common sweeteners in normal amounts. This does not preclude further studies from finding such effects or placing more of a dent in the reputation of sweeteners (it is a field still relatively understudied), but consumers can at least feel fairly assured that their sweetener isn’t a hidden ill. They should, however, be asking themselves whether it is in fact an outright good.
“Many sugar replacements have been shown to actually be sweeter than sugar itself, without having the negative health effects (or have at least not yet been proven to have said effects).
“However, perhaps the greatest health concern when it comes to sweeteners, at least of the artificial kind, is that, due to their lack of nutrition, they may push consumers towards eating unhealthy items in some kind of recompense for the sugar they’ve avoided by using a sweetener. While consumers may be seeking to avoid the calorific dangers of sugar, they may, in fact, be placing themselves at a different kind of risk.
“Ultimately, while there is a strong chance that the sugar alternative market will continue to grow as consumer defect from table sugar, there is a good chance that the actual best choice from a health perspective is not to seek out an alternative, but simply to be mindful of consumption and employ regular portion control.”