SEAT Anyone working to cut calories with a zero-calorie drink or snack may want to rethink that choice, according to a new study showing artificial sweeteners can damage your DNA.
The North Carolina State University study specifically found the culprit to be sucralose, a zero-calorie sweetener created by altering real sugar.
With so many kids eating out at school, KOMO News has begun polling local districts to find out if they use artificial sweeteners.
Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and the Everett School District (ESD) told KOMO News that they don’t use artificial sweeteners when cooking from scratch, and both try not to buy foods with artificial sweeteners.
Adam Pazderm shared his student welfare policy that doesn’t allow artificial sweeteners in beverages.
These standards do not, however, extend to the food and drink provided at after-school functions.
The Bellevue School District (BSD) also told KOMO News that it offers milk, 100% fruit juice, sparkling water, and sparkling juices. However, some high school vending machines may contain other products.
KOMO News spoke to nutritionist Morgan Chojnacki about the new study.
We really need to cut back on all sugary products,” Chojnacki said. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, sugar-free sweets, now they’re saying don’t do that. Maybe we should go back to sugar.” But really what they’re saying is we need to reduce all of these things.”
He emphasized that this latest study collected data from rats, not humans. Still, he said it’s worth considering.
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We don’t know what it’s doing in a human body,” Chojnacki said. Rats metabolize things very differently from humans, and we know they are not directly applicable from a rat study to human study. However, it is very significant. We don’t know exactly what it’s doing in the human body, and it could be doing the same thing.”
The city of Seattle began levying a tax on sugary drinks in 2018, citing research showing they can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and weight gain that can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 20 ounces can contain more than 15 teaspoons of added sugar and 250 calories or more.
The tax alone may have prompted many to switch to artificially sweetened beverages, which could be just as harmful.
Sucralose is about 600 times sweeter than regular sugar and often triggers the same reaction in the body that sugar, honey, agave, or other natural sugars do.
Sugar is just sugar,” Chojnacki said. It’s doing the same thing in your body regardless of the form of the sugar. It raises blood sugar levels and adds calories that don’t actually add much substance to your diet. Now, to be fair, it energizes you. Sugar is a great, easy, simple form of energy that your brain prefers.
Plus, she said, sugar is known to increase inflammation in the body.
Do artificial sweeteners trigger the same reactions?
They don’t necessarily impact blood sugar,” Chojnacki said. Plus, they don’t increase your calorie intake.
But Chojnacki said artificial sweeteners increase inflammation in the body. And, in the long run, he said people who use non-sugar sweeteners don’t see any changes in their weight unless they’re also making several other significant changes.
So, what’s her advice for parents who are concerned about the new study and their children’s DNA? Also, what do they eat outside the home, like at school?
I would tell parents to get involved, ask questions,” Chojnacki said. Ask what they are served. What do schools buy from food they don’t make from scratch? If there are schools that add sweeteners, ask them why. Why should sugar or sweetener be added to sauces, instead of just a regular form?”
Naturally, Chojnacki encourages everyone to read labels, looking for things like added sugars, sucralose, acesulfame potassium and aspartame and all these additional sweeteners.
Just be mindful of what you’re serving your kids, she added.
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