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Artificial Sweeteners vs Sugar – The Effects on Heart Health

Sugar jar spills out sweetener, but is sugar or artificial sweeteners the better option for heart health? Huntington Heart Center gives their take on artificial sweeteners and heart health.

When artificial sweeteners were first introduced, they represented a potentially revolutionary change in how we eat and drink. As our diets have worsened, one of the biggest culprits is increased sugar intake. Today men and women alike consume far more sugar than we should each day and this has led to a rise in obesity rates to epidemic proportions. Along with obesity comes a host of follow-on cardiovascular disorders including type two diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and more. Any of these issues can cause long-term heart damage up to and including a higher risk of heart attack and stroke and even long-term heart failure.

The lowdown on artificial sweeteners.

As artificial sweeteners and 0 cal alternatives have flooded the market, we have learned a lot more about their effects and, quite frankly, many do not show a significant benefit over regular sugar – some may even be detrimental.

Studies have shown that while the calorie count may be significantly lower, the effect of sweet taste on the brain leads us to crave more. As such, artificial sweeteners may make us want even more sugar than its natural counterpart. This is further reinforced by the fact that we tend to use far too much artificial sweetener. It is important to remember that artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than sugar and should be used sparingly. For example, a full packet of the yellow, blue, or pink stuff would be the equivalent of lots more sugar. As such, our bodies crave more and more sweet.

This explosion of sweetness also numbs our taste buds to healthy, wholesome food. Because regular food now tastes bland, we may need to add sugar or salt to make it palatable. Or we may avoid healthy food altogether and jump straight to the processed stuff because that’s the only thing that tastes good. The result, of course, is poor eating, weight gain, increases in cholesterol and high blood pressure and ultimately, you guessed it, cardiovascular disease.

So what’s the answer?

The answer is simple to say but hard to stick to – that is moderation. Moderation is key to the health of every part of our body and most certainly our hearts. If we ate like our parents or grandparents, the obesity levels in the United States and around the world would certainly be far lower than they are. Unfortunately, we have become used to large portions with fatty, high sugar, processed foods. We also don’t work in the same way as previous generations. Today, most of us sit in the office all day long and rarely get a chance to exercise vigorously. This has led to a significant rise in cardiovascular disease which offsets some of the amazing progress we have made in treating heart problems. As part of a renewed diet and exercise program, try to avoid artificial sweeteners as well.

If you have any questions about diet and nutrition and how they relate to your heart health, we encourage you to discuss these with your cardiologist at your next appointment. We also encourage our patients to speak to nutrition and dietary professionals to ensure that their dietary habits are balanced and promote good health.

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