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Techly Explains: Is sugar or sugar substitute worse to consume?

Sugar isn’t as sweet as it appears.

In a 2011-12 study untaken by the ABS, it was found that Australians consume a whopping 60 grams of sugar on average per day. That’s the equivalent of 14 tablespoons! The response to this has been a rise in ‘sugar substitutes’, which are often marketed as the healthier option: but are they really the better choice?

Sugar is actually a catch-all term for sweet, soluble carbohydrates which come in varying states. Simple sugars include glucose (or dextrose), fructose, galactose and sucrose. These sugars are found naturally in most plant matter, but are extracted from sugar cane and sugar beet (a root veggie) for your morning coffee.

Artificial sweeteners come in just as many varieties, under different brand names. You’re most probably used to using Stevia (which is extracted from the leaves of the plant species Stevia rebundiana) in your coffee or cooking, but you’ve probably encountered other intense sweeteners such as Aspartame, Xylitol, Saccharin and plenty of others in that category.

People looking to improve their health by cutting their sugar intake resort to using sugar substitutes or products that use sugar substitutes because they’re non-nutritive – basically, they have no calories. As opposed to natural sugars which contain about 4 calories per gram. They’re also an option for diabetics because artificial or sugar substitutes aren’t carbohydrates like regular sugar, so they’re unlikely to raise your blood sugar.

But let’s get real here – we’re talking about whether sugar or fake sugar is better for you. Studies have shown that daily consumption of diet drinks (diet or “zero” drinks) was associated with a 36% greater increase of a metabolic syndrome and a 67% greater risk of Type-2 diabetes.

Diets with too much sugar in them have been associated with heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, obesity in adults and children, Type-2 diabetes, several cancers, and a shit-tonne of other horrible things that’ll land you in an early grave.

In fact, there have been global movements to introduce ‘sugar taxes’. Techly even chatted to one of the biggest spokespeople behind the sugar tax movement in Australia, Damien Gameau.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy sugary snacks as much as the next uncontrolled toddler in the body of a 26-year-old, but I understand the concept of moderation. Enjoying a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet (vegetables, grains, seeds, as well as meat and fish if you’re so inclined) means you’ll be able to enjoy that bowl of double choc chip mint ice-cream without having the guilt later.

About the author

Adelaide has been writing about video games and tech for 5 years. She calls herself a “quasi-professional nerd” due to the immense amount of nerdy stuff that fills her house, including a life-size CL4P-TP

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