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07

SUNDAY FEBRUARY 7

HEALTH DEBATE

THE DOCTOR DR CINDY PAN

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he main benefits of replacing sugar with non-sugar sweeteners are that non-sugar sweeteners are more tooth-friendly (they do not cause plaque formation) and waistline-friendly (they are free or virtually free of kilojoules). For diabetics, this can help to minimise the peaks and troughs in blood glucose levels that sugar consumption can cause. Of course, there is more to dental health and weight control than avoiding sugar. However, for those who consume sugar regularly, those daily teaspoons can add up and some find it difficult to cut down. While consuming small amounts of sugar as part of a balanced diet is fine for most people, if a person’s intake is excessive or

REPLACING SUGAR WITH NON-SUGAR SWEETENERS CAN BE BENEFICIAL needs to be curtailed for health reasons, such as weight problems, diabetes or blood glucose problems, replacing some sugar with a non-sugar sweetener can be beneficial. There are several non-sugar sweeteners available, both natural and synthetic. Most people are familiar with the synthetic ones such as aspartame (Equal and Nutrasweet), sucralose (Splenda) and saccharin (Sugarine), but may be less aware of natural ones such as the steviol glycoside-based Purevia, which is derived from the stevia plant, and xylitol and erythritol (natural sugar alcohols). Those who are concerned about the potential (albeit largely unproven) adverse effects of artificial sweeteners may prefer the natural variety. Some (but not all) non-sugar sweeteners may cause a laxative effect if used to excess, so moderation is advised.

■ Dr Cindy Pan has had over 10 years of clinical practice experience. Her books include Pandora’s Box: Lifting The Lid On Life’s Little Nasties (HarperCollins) and Playing Hard To Get (HarperCollins). She appears on television, lectures and speaks about all aspects of health, relationships and wellbeing.

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oo much sugar in any form is not a good thing. Our society seems to have an insatiable need to maintain and increase sweet flavours in our diets. Gone are the days when a sweet was a treat. Now we consider sweet flavours at all our meals, regardless of the time of day. Replacing sugar with natural nonsugar sweeteners such as stevia may be beneficial. But if you’re replacing it with artificial substances, you may not realise the impact you are having on your health. Artificial sweeteners are synthetic molecules that produce a sweet sensation on the tongue. They are added to foods, drinks, medicines, vitamins and even toothpaste. If you want to avoid artificial sweeteners you need to know what to look for. Their presence must be declared on food labels,

THE NATUROPATH LEAH HECHTMAN but may be identified by a food additive number, so you need to read the ingredients list closely. If there is a number between 950 and 957 it is probably a common artificial sweetener. Many people feel that the scientific evidence of the safety of artificial sweeteners is inconclusive. Much of the research has been conducted, or paid for, by the companies that produce the substances. It is also a concern that some of the research is old and incomplete and that studies are usually conducted on animals rather than humans. It is also important to realise that both sugar and non-sugar sweeteners will perpetuate your need for sweet flavours, and both have negative health effects.

■ Leah Hechtman is a naturopath and fertility specialist. She is a lecturer, author, researcher and industry consultant and has her own clinical practice in Sydney, NSW. She specialises in fertility, reproductive and psychological health. For more information visit www.naturalhealthfertility.com

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Replacing sugar with non-sugar alternatives