Get Well

Q&A with Ruth Sullivan, Dietician for SU Food Services

In our newest series, Alicia Smith will be talking to resident health experts to answer all those health questions you were too afraid to ask. Got a question? Leave it in the comments, or submit it through our Contact page!

This week’s topic: Artificial Sweeteners

by Alicia Smith, blogger

The topic of artificial sweeteners has always been a little mysterious to me. A calorie-free way to sweeten my coffee and bran flakes? Score! On the other hand, didn’t I read somewhere that it causes cancer? I sat down the Ruth Sullivan to get the facts.

A: There has been a lot about talk about how excessive sugar and high fructose corn syrup are bad for you. Are artificial sweeteners a good alternative?

R: They can be for weight loss or those with diabetes. As long as you are only having one or two diet sodas per day, it’s fine. Sometimes people tend to drink a lot of them. There’s a theory that if you are drinking a non-sweetened beverage or artificially sweetened beverages, hormones are kicking in like your insulin so it is making you possibly crave even sweeter foods, but that’s a theory.

A: Why do you think that there is such a fear of real sugar and high fructose corn syrup? Can they actually lead to weight gain?

R: It is the amounts. It is all about the amounts that we are eating and drinking, regardless of what it is.

A: Why do you think some people are so adamantly against artificial sugar? I’ve heard that it can cause cancer and is just plain bad for you.

R: Any artificial sweeteners that the FDA has approved, there is no information out there saying that they can cause cancer or anything else. Why are they afraid? There are some scare tactics out there on the Internet that they can cause multiple sclerosis and things like that, but it has never been proven.

A: Are there any proven side effects of using too much artificial sweetener?

R: Not really, the amount the FDA says is safe is so high that for you to get even above that amount you would have to drinking a lot of diet soda or something else with the artificial sweetener in it, so there really are no side effects.

A: There are several different brands, for example Sweet N’ Low, Splenda, and Truvia. Are there differences between them or advantages to using one over another?

R: It’s all about personal taste. Sweet ‘N Low is saccharin, Equal is aspartame, Splenda is sucralose, and Truvia is made of Stevia, which just was approved but only as an artificial sweetener and not as a supplement. Some people don’t like the after taste of the saccharin.

A: I’m a Splenda girl myself.

R: Me too.