Expert Advice

Are Sugar Substitutes Safe?

Sugar substitutes can help ease the transition from a sugar-laden diet to a sugar-free one as long as they aren't chemically derived.

Are Sugar Substitutes Safe?
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Sugar substitutes can help ease the transition from a sugar-laden diet to a sugar-free one, says Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., author of Beat Sugar Addiction Now!, as long as they aren't chemically derived. One of the best natural sweeteners is stevia, which comes from the stevia plant-an herb in the Chrysanthemum family. "It's safe and has no calories," says Teitelbaum. "You can use it in baked goods, and it's even good for diabetics." Sugar alcohols like maltitol, erythrotol and inositol are also safe. Avoid chemical sweeteners like saccharin, sucralose and aspartame. Not only are they toxic, they confuse an already addicted brain. "Chemicals affect our brain's messaging system, which in turn affects insulin regulation in the body," says Ashley Koff, R.D., founder of The HealthXchange nutrition counseling services in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, Calif. "This messes with our ability to tell whether or not we're full." In fact, research published in the International Journal of Obesity found that rats were hungrier after they ingested an artificially-sweetened drink than they were after drinking water.