To Be or Not to Be Sugar-Free: The Facts About Artificial Sweeteners

Originally created for people unable to consume regular sugars, alternative and artificial sweeteners have become extremely popular in Novi in all kinds of different products. From chewing gum to diet soda, Dr. Shah & Dr. Velilla want you to know which of these options are best for your dental and general health, so here are the facts about a few of the most common sweeteners. If you have any questions, please feel free to call us Shah & Velilla D.D.S. 

The Big Five Sugar Substitutes

The benefits of artificial sweeteners were first recognized as a safe option for diabetics, but have since exploded in popularity because food, beverage, candy, and snack companies have discovered that it is easier to sell fewer calories. In addition, Novi residents with a sweet tooth know that artificial sweeteners are notorious for their ability to ruin your portion control. The substances listed below are considered sugar-free and inhibit tooth decay because bacteria cannot ferment them into enamel-destroying acids. Despite ongoing controversy about health concerns of sugar substitutes, the FDA considers the following substances to be safe for regular consumption:

  1. Aspartame is a calorie-free artificial sweetener roughly 200 times sweeter than table sugar and is common in sodas, candy, and gum. It is the main ingredient in NutraSweet, Equal, and Sugar Twin brand sweetener packets. Although the FDA considers it to be safe, health advocates claim that it causes headaches and general malaise. University of Liverpool researchers also found that when combined with a common food coloring agent, aspartame can become toxic to brain cells. It is also linked to weight gain and appetite control problems.
  2. Saccharin is the sugar-free stuff in the tiny pink Sweet’n Low packets Novi residents have been seeing for years. This substance is the oldest artificial sweetener and is 200-700 times sweeter than sugar. It is non-caloric and can be found in a wide variety of different products. Although saccharin doesn’t have quite as bad a reputation as aspartame, the American Cancer Society found in one study that saccharin is linked to weight gain.
  3. Sucralose (Splenda) is an artificial, non-caloric sweetener derived from sucrose (table sugar) in a patented process that replaces several hydroxyl molecules with chlorine atoms. Health concerns with sucralose are mainly related to the body’s inability to detoxify certain substances, specifically organochlorine compounds like sucralose. Health advocates claim that not enough long-term studies have been performed to determine its safety, but the FDA has approved it. Environmentalists worry that sucralose may subtly affect the Earth’s ecosystem because it is commonly found downstream from waste-treatment plants.
  4. Stevia (Truvia) is classified as a novel sweetener (a sweetener made up of a combination of sweeteners) and is derived from the leaves of the stevia plant. Although it is new to western society, it has been used for hundreds of years by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay. It is non-caloric and poses no known health risks, although it is still undergoing testing by various international food safety agencies, the FDA has awarded it GRAS (generally regarded as safe) status. The largest complaint against stevia is its distinctive aftertaste. Stevia is up to 300 times sweeter than standard sugar, and as with all calorie-free sugar substitutes, it may cause weight gain because it does not provide the ‘full’ feeling we are used to from sugar.
  5. Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol, or polyol, that is derived from vegetable fibers such as corn husks or tree bark. Sugar alcohols are common components in candy, gum, and chocolate and do not actually contain any alcohol. Xylitol is the only sweetener that has been proven to provide active resistance to dental caries (cavities). Consuming between 3 and 10g of xylitol (in chewing gum, lozenges, etc.) per day is an effective method of fighting tooth decay.

However, Dr. Shah & Dr. Velilla want every Novi resident to know that most gums at your local supermarket checkout counter do not contain enough xylitol to have any effect on cavity prevention. Specialty gums that do fight tooth decay are available in pharmacies, specialty stores, and online. Look for gums that list xylitol as the first or second ingredient. Also, be aware that xylitol gums – while very healthy for your teeth – can be deadly to dogs.

If you would like to discuss the healthiest way to sweeten your coffee or want to visit Shah & Velilla D.D.S. for a consultation, please give us a call!


Sources

http://www.umass.edu/nibble/infofile/artsweet.html
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/12/04/saccharin-aspartame-dangers.aspx
http://www.sugar.org/other-sweeteners/artificial-sweeteners/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3038976
http://www.rodalenews.com/sweeteners
http://www.downtoearth.org/health/vitamins-supplements/sucralose-dangerous-sugar-substitute

“I love dentistry – it allows me to combine art and science to help people look and feel better. There are so many options available to restore a patient’s teeth and give them a healthy, long-lasting smile. At our office, we listen to our patients’ goals and desires and find a way to make them a reality. “It makes me feel good that so many people love coming to see me. We always create a welcoming, relaxed environment, an experience people always appreciate. It is not uncommon to hear people say that I make their dental visits enjoyable and they have never had such a good time going to the dentist! “I see only one patient at a time and each is given individual attention and ample time to address all their concerns. Our office is very different, and I welcome everyone to come and discover how enjoyable your dental visits can be.” DDS: University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Ann Arbor, MI
BS: Biology/Chemistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Alumnus: Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies, Nash Institute for Dental Learning, Dawson Center for Advanced Dental Study
Member: American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, Academy of Comprehensive Esthetics, Academy of General Dentistry, American Dental Association, International Congress of Oral Implantology, Michigan Dental Association, Oakland County Dental Society Dr. Shah grew up in a family of physicians and knew from an early age he wanted to go into the medical field. He loves the hands-on, artistic aspects of dentistry, and in his spare time he enjoys spending time with his wife and two young sons. - Dr. Sanjiv Shah “I’m intrigued by all aspects of dentistry – I love helping my patients achieve healthy, beautiful smiles and a lifetime of oral health.” “I feel it is very important to earn my patients’ trust. I encourage them to ask plenty of questions, and I spend a lot of time during the consultation process to make sure they are comfortable with the treatment plan, prior to starting the work.” Dr. Velilla’s parents were both physicians who encouraged him to pursue a career in dentistry. His interest in the field was piqued at age 13, and today he enjoys creating beautiful, healthy smiles and making a difference in people’s lives. In his spare time, he enjoys golf and traveling. - Dr. Morris Velilla

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