Questionable if artificial sweeteners are better

It is questionable whether artificial sweeteners and stevia extract are any better than natural sugar (Firms rework recipes as sweet drink sales slump; April 10).

In pure calorie terms, they are better.

But they still have fattening effects.

They are also not natural and are manufactured chemicals.

Although studies have concluded that some artificial sweeteners may be safe in small doses, the long-term effects they have on our health are still being researched.

They have been found to stimulate our appetites, leading to overeating and weight gain.

They also wreak havoc on our hormones and brain, keeping us addicted to sweet tastes and disrupting the body's ability to know when it is full.

Even those derived from natural sources may be potentially harmful.

Research suggests that stevia extract may cause low blood pressure as well as genetic mutations and cancer.

It may also interact with anti-fungals, anti-inflammatories, anti-microbials, anti-cancer drugs, anti-virals, appetite suppressants, calcium channel blockers, cholesterol-lowering drugs, drugs that increase urination, fertility agents and other medications.

People should discuss with their doctor before deciding to take stevia extract as a sugar substitute.

People tend to freely drink artificially sweetened drinks, thinking it is a good choice as they are not ingesting sugar.

This will not help us eradicate obesity or diabetes.

If there was a tax on sugary drinks, people might be more aware of what they are consuming.

This would also add money to public schemes like diabetes prevention programmes, saving a lot more money in the long run.

Cheng Choon Fei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2018, with the headline 'Questionable if artificial sweeteners are better'. Print Edition | Subscribe