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Health check: five sweeteners and what they mean for you

People have been eating sweet foods for eons. Fruit (fructose), milk (lactose), cane (sucrose), and honey (fructose and glucose) provide us with energy for growth and development. But in these days, we…

It’s the quantity of sugar we consume that’s bad for us. Carol Green

People have been eating sweet foods for eons. Fruit (fructose), milk (lactose), cane (sucrose), and honey (fructose and glucose) provide us with energy for growth and development.

But in these days, we have much more energy than we need.

The United Nations estimates that we have 13,630 kilojoules available per person, per day; government bodies recommend we limit our intake to 8,700KJ per day.

There’s been a lot of debate over the role sugar and its substitutes play in our diet. So let’s take a look at what’s on the market and what it all means for health.

Sucrose

Sucrose is the most common form of sugar in Australia. It’s derived from sugar cane stalks, which are juiced, dried, and processed to become raw sugar. And then it’s refined to produce white sugar.

White sugar doesn’t contain the molasses present in raw sugar, which explains its light colour. Brown sugar is, for the most part, white sugar with some molasses mixed back in. This makes it a little stickier.

Raw sugar is the least processed of the three. But nutritionally, it’s pretty much the same as white or brown sugar.

There’s been a lot of debate over the role sugar and its substitutes play in our diet. Shutterstock

We call sugar an “empty-kilojoule” food because it’s energy dense but contains very few other nutrients.

Unless you’re eating lots of food anyway, there’s no evidence that eating sugar by itself will increase your weight. But regardless of your size, eating too much sugar can be unhealthy if you use it to replace foods or drinks that have more nutrients.

There’s also a strong link between sugar consumption and tooth decay, and between obesity and sugary-drink intake.

Fructose

Fructose is central to the sugar debate, with some suggesting it has a stronger influence in obesity than other sweeteners.

Flickr/Moya_Brenn

This is not true; fructose is like any other sugar.

In Australia, we mostly use sucrose rather than high-fructose corn syrup, which dominates in the US food supply. So the fructose from fruit, honey, and refined fructose isn’t a significant player in our weight issues.

This natural sugar should be eaten in it’s original form (fruit, for example), and not in concentrated forms like juice and dried fruit if you’re watching your weight.

Fructose is lower in glycaemic index (GI) than other sugars, which means it’s absorbed by your body more slowly. It’s the major source of sweetness in low GI products.

Honey and syrups

Honey contains both fructose and glucose, another simple sugar that is easily absorbed by the body. In honey, the sugars remain separate, which is why it’s sweeter than table sugar (sucrose).

Flickr/mynameisharsha
This means that you need to add less honey than you would sugar to achieve the desired level of sweetness when cooking food. It also means that fewer kilojoules consumed. But if you replace a teaspoon of sugar with a teaspoon of honey, you’ll actually be adding about 25% extra kilojoules.

Honey and some other syrups such as agave (from a succulent plant) contain more micronutrients than sugar. But others, like rice bran syrup, have more kilojoules and a higher GI than table sugar.

Although syrups contain nutrients that sugar does not, this doesn’t necessarily make them healthy - you can get these nutrients from other whole foods.

Stevia

Steviol glucosides are intensely sweet compounds found in a little green leaf from a shrub originating in Paraguay. After purification, the resulting powder or liquid is about 200 times sweeter than sucrose.

Stevia’s main benefit is its low kilojoule content. In most stevia-based sweeteners, a teaspoon contains about four kilojoules, where the same amount of sugar has 67 kilojoules.

Like all low-kilojoule sweeteners, teeth and blood sugar levels aren’t greatly negatively affected by its consumption.

Aspartame

Aspartame is a key ingredient in sweeteners such as Equal. Flickr/Bukowsky18

Aspartame is a non-sugar sweetener that has the ability to bind to our sweet-taste receptors. It has 200 times the sweetness of sugar, which is why we can use so little in foods or drinks to get a sweet taste.

In rat studies, excess aspartame intake has been shown to cause lymphomas and leukemias. But despite scares from a series of hoaxes, consumption of the sweetener has shown to be safe for humans.

Earlier this year, the European Food Safety Authority released the draft results of a comprehensive study showing that aspartame and its metabolites pose no toxicity concern for consumers at current levels of exposure, except in people who suffer from a genetic condition called phenylketonuria.

Logically, if aspartame contains negligible kilojoules, people who substitute it for sugar or other non-sugar sweeteners would lose weight. Unfortunately, this isn’t true.

Studies show people who consume sweeteners such as aspartame have increased appetites and tend to favour sweet foods, increasing their overall kilojoule consumption.

The consumption of sweeteners such as aspartame has also been linked to metabolic syndrome and diabetes, for reasons yet to be determined.

Making educated choices

No sugar, in itself, is bad for health, but eating too much of it, like any other food, can cause problems.

It’s important to not fall into the trap of eating much higher kilojoules by replacing sugar with other macronutrients such as protein or fat. You should also be wary of increasing portion sizes as a result of consuming “sugar-free” foods.

Even if food packaging says “sugar free”, its overall kilojoule content may be the same if table sugar has been replaced with another kind of sugar or carbohydrate, such as syrup.

A good diet centres around unprocessed foods that includes the occasional planned, discretionary treat. Instead of blindly following the latest fad, stick to sound, smart eating.

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67 Comments sorted by

  1. Colin MacGillivray

    Architect, retired, Sarawak

    Excellent inforamative article.
    It's amazing that sucrose still exists. Stevia and aspartame must be cheaper per sweetness unit (is there one?) for those who eat cakes and have sweetened tea and coffee. Fructose comes in delicious natural packages- fruit with super skins too.
    So ban sucrose for human consumption, turn all the cane into biofuel. And eat another apple.

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    1. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Colin MacGillivray

      heheheheh ... I like your "ban sucrose ... eat another apple" proposal yet I fear that sucrose is here to stay because of its intrinsically stable chemical structure.

      Sucrose is the molecule used in plants to move energy around. Sucrose in the human diet is a poison that can adversely influence the hormonal system, as other hopefully will describe better than myself.

      The US sugar industry was exposed in the early 20th century as a producer of poison in "Pure White & Deadly" and responded with an intense disinformation campaign. Later authors have independently discovered the same data only to be ignored by most MSM.

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    2. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      I think the message is getting through now, Jack, but it is mainly through the power of the individual's voice multiplier that is available today through modern media. Works both ways of course, information and misinformation, but when it comes to vested interests their misinformation is countered by individual voices, now getting traction in mainstream media.
      The author here avoids demonising fructose, which when consumed as fruit is perfectly normal.
      However it's not what's happening today for most of us.
      Robert Lustig's now famous video lecture on Utube and latest follow up has rewritten the debate.

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    3. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Colin MacGillivray

      Silly!

      We do not need all these sweeteners at all.

      It is only because we are brought up eating heavily sweetened foods that food without 'added sugar' tastes unattractive.

      Try going off them for a while and you'll wonder why you ever liked them -- all you can taste is 'sugar' instead of the natural sweetness of good food.

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Karl Mohan

      The way the body treats fructose is not an issue within a balanced diet, as Prof Diversi outlines.

      Fresh fruit is known to be part of a healthy diet, providing fibre and many vitamins and micronutrients.

      It is the concentration of fructose in either HFCS, or excess consumption of juices and other concentrated sources that is the issue.

      Prof Diversi presents a rational and evidence-based article about balance, but some people seem to prefer simple messages and extremes.

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    2. Mary Mitchell

      Psychologist

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Since sucrose is broken down into fructose and glucose, high sucrose diets are also high in fructose, without the benefit of fruit. It appears that there is good evidence that fructose is not metabolised like other sugars as stated in this article, and that it presents unique health risks, such as fatty liver and increased risk of diabetes. I understand that this research is still controversial but am disappointed that it is completely ignored in an article about sugars.

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    3. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Dr Sue says: "It is the concentration of fructose in either HFCS, or excess consumption of juices and other concentrated sources that is the issue."

      No, Dr Sue. The fact that standard table sugar - sucrose - is 50% fructose/50% glucose - and that millions are getting fat and sick from eating unhealthy amounts of added sugar/fructose is the issue. That is, to a disturbing extent, our manufactured/processed food supply is inconsistent with the needs of public health.

      The problem is that modern…

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    4. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to rory robertson

      Thank you Rory for succinctly identifying the health problems of sugar consumption and how inadequate research by the medical fraternity can have unexpected (and pecuniary) benefits for the uninformed.

      Check out David Gillespie, "Sweet Poison why sugar makes us fat", Penguin (2008) for further information.

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    5. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Mary Mitchell

      There is no doubt that a high intake of fructose is problematic. That does not mean that a small intake is a problem. Professor Luc Tappy (Department of Physiology, and Service of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Faculty of Biology and Medicine, University of Lausanne, Switzerland) is a leading expert researcher on fructose and its effects. He emphasises the problems with excess intake and it's worth reading his excellent summary (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3357317/)

      Exercise is also involved in any discussion on fructose. Tappy's group has also shown that exercise prevents insulin resistance and the rise in triglycerides that can occur with fructose intake (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23674606).

      Like everything, problems with fructose, are due to the quantity consumed. Limiting sugary drinks and foods (as advised in our Dietary Guidelines) makes good sense.

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    6. Thomas Duff

      Postdoctoral Fellow, Forest and Ecosystem Science at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Mary Mitchell

      I'd like to see the evidence that "fructose is like any other sugar", since the the only reference cited in the fructose section questions this. It's metabolism is clearly different to other monomer sugars (accounting for its lower GI)

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    7. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Thomas Duff

      I agree, Thomas. The fact that fructose is super-low GI=19 is the fatal/fundamental flaw of the low-GI approach to nutrition, when it involves stamping processed sugary treats as Healthy: (scroll down) http://www.gisymbol.com/cmsAdmin/uploads/Glycemic-Index-Foundation-Healthy-Choices-Brochure.pdf

      As many readers are aware, there is a growing nucleus of scientists globally who think the "sweet poison" half of added sugar - fructose - is perhaps the main dietary evil, because of the large amounts…

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    8. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to rory robertson

      Although some born-again carbohydrate metabolism followers feel they have discovered something new, the metabolic pathways and enzymes for the various sugars have been understood for many years. Much of the lab work on the enzymes and pathways for fructose was done in the 1960's and before.

      Fructose has been a natural part of the human diet - through foods like fruit and honey - for as long as recorded history.

      Fructose hasn't suddenly become toxic - it is one of many nutrients that is now…

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    9. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Look around Dr Sue. Two-thirds of Australians are overweight/obese. Of course added sugar/fructose in our food supply is a serious menace to public health. So too is the University of Sydney's nutrition area, misleading the public debate with obviously false information. As you know, Dr Sue, there is not "an inverse relationship" between sugar consumption and obesity: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/Uni&SugarAustraliaPRsugar.pdf

      Nor is it reasonable to claim that Australian kids are already…

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    10. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Hugh Dickson

      I have indeed, Hugh. He is a champion for Australian public health. I also have heard of the National Health and Medical Research Council's Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of
      Research. In particular, according to the NHMRC, “research misconduct” includes, amongst other things:

      (i) “recklessness or gross and persistent negligence”;
      (ii) “serious consequences, such as false information on the public record”; and
      (iii) “failure to declare and manage serious conflicts of interest…

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    11. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Dr Sue,

      You march up and down TheConversation correcting those who you consider to be unknowing. I was always surprised you could never see - even when their charts were laid out in front of you - that senior scientists at your University of Sydney had simply mistaken up and down in their faulty self-published paper. Of course, if it were just another a nobody involved, you probably would have taken a strong view that falsified data have no place in "peer reviewed" science. And you would have been right.

      But alas, it is awkward for you to admit that some public-health experts are much less competent than widely assumed. And public health is suffering. Thank goodness Catalyst has shaken things up so much in recent months: http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3821440.htm

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    12. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to rory robertson

      Mr Robertson, please keep me out of your obsession.

      My graduation from an institution thirty years ago hardly makes it mine, not makes me responsible for the output of every academic in every faculty forever after.

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    13. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Dr Sue,

      If I have an "obsession" in this area, it involves the interaction of incompetent "science" and damage to public health. The generation of public-health experts that has overseen the disastrous trends towards obesity and type 2 diabetes over the past thirty years in this country should have paid a bit more attention to the competence of the science underpinning nutrition advice. Imagine encouraging everyday people to stop eating eggs, butter, cow's milk, cheese and fresh meat, and to replace them with sugary breakfast cereals, low-fat milk, margarine, pasta, etc. Based on nothing solid or convincing. What a disaster: http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3876219.htm

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    14. Shane Barrett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to rory robertson

      Hi Rory,

      Who encourages people to eat sugary breakfast cereals? I thought the recommendation was to limit added sugars and that was pretty universal. Personally, I eat porridge with fresh fruit and unsalted mixed nuts for breakfast. I think most people would approve. Right?

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    15. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Not just sugary breakfast cereal, Shane: (scroll down) http://www.gisymbol.com/products-2/

      Of course, businesspeople should promote whatever products they like, to the extent that they are legal. It's when they put on their scientist hats and self-publish business-supportive nonsense in "peer reviewed" journals that I get annoyed. I'm surprised no-one else is interested: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/quickquizresearch.pdf

      And then - separately - there's this: 16/20 for coco pops http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:P3CJnS6FmJYJ:foodwatch.com.au/reviews/item/product-review-coco-pops-liquid-breakfast.html+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=au

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    16. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to rory robertson

      Rory

      If you check the Australian Dietary Guidelines (which are the official guidelines given to students in schools as well as nurses, doctors and others), you will find that they have never said to 'stop' eating anything (it's always 'limit' or 'avoid consuming too much') and they have always included eggs, milk, cheese and fresh meat in the five food groups. It is simply untrue to claim otherwise.

      It's correct that Guidelines have recommended fat-reduced milk. It is a way to get nutrients…

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    17. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to rory robertson

      Rory

      Many of us appreciate Dr Ieraci's contributions to The Conversation and the fact that she takes the time to share her medical/scientific knowledge and explain things simply and factually.

      Maybe you should come along to a scientific meeting some time and note the debates that go on between scientists. They are often quite robust.

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    18. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      Rosemary,

      You suggest: "Maybe you [RR] should come along to a scientific meeting some time and note the debates that go on between scientists. They are often quite robust". I might just do that. When is the next one scheduled? In the meantime, what I have noted - and will continue to note - is that the scientific record is polluted with false information and neither you nor Dr Sue are inclined to do anything about it. That is one of the few things that has shocked me here over the past year. That is, influential professionals full of beans about sharing "medical/scientific knowledge and explain[ing] things simply and factually", but who then show zero interest in maintaining the integrity of the scientific record, no matter how obvious the need for remedial action: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/quickquizresearch.pdf

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    19. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      Rosemary,

      After two years, I am reasonably familiar with the ADG. I think I have agreed with you on much of that previously, and indeed I have praised your indefatigable efforts on the ADG several times, including online here two weekends ago if my memory serves. In particular, I recall you explaining that - unlike official advice in other countries - the ADG did not ever encourage Australians to stop eating eggs, a superfood.

      In fact, I had the unreliable-yet-influential Heart Foundation…

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    20. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Yeah! And it came in Honey and fruit. Not as a chemical obtained through treating maize starch and added to other non-nutritious foods.

      We only evolved a taste for sweet foods as we need the vitamin C usually asociated with sweet fruits.

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    21. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      Rosemary, I think that the BIG problem is relying on ordinary people to understand the guidelines and NOT be mislead by the marketer'; claims as to healthy.

      If you live at St Ives (or similar suburb) you might be mislead into thinking that people basically have healthy diets. But go out to the lower sico-economidc areas, and look at what mothers are putting in their supermarket trolleys to feed their kids.

      As to doctors, they are not always as cluey as they'd have you believe :-( Certainly one doctor told me to stop eating eggs because my cholesterol was high -- and it went even higher when I gave up egg -- not to mention my increased weight.

      Doctors are after all no more than ordinary mortals and are as swayed by 'good marketing; every bit as much as anyone else :-(

      (And I'm still left wondering what's so healthy about a breakfast of cereal -- even low sugar cereals. Just the whole milk I think -- IF you use whole milk that is :-)

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    22. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to rory robertson

      To one of the most widely-admired, rational, evidence-based nutrition experts, the comment ''I think you do Australian public health a disservice.''

      The hubris is astounding.

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    23. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Public health is going to hell, Dr Sue. The trends towards obesity and type 2 diabetes have occurred despite Rosemary's best efforts, in part because - for three decades - low-fat/high-carb nonsense has taken over the western world's meal plans: http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/heartofthematter/default.htm

      Dr Sue, you and Rosemary are leaders in your field. You have been shown - any number of times - an extraordinarily faulty "peer reviewed" paper that should be corrected or retracted; a notorious…

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    24. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to rory robertson

      ''But please do not get snippy when I rightly point out that you have no commitment to scientific integrity when it matters''

      Snippy?

      Mr Robertson, if you continue your defamatory comments, ''snippy'' might be far from adequate to describe the consequences.

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    25. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Dr Sue,

      You are a leader in public health in Australia. I have been surprised that you, Rosemary and others heavily involved in the public debate have shown little interest in correcting the obvious Australian Paradox misinformation promoted by other leaders in public health in Australia: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/quickquizresearch.pdf

      No. Not surprised. Shocked. I have been shocked because extraordinarily faulty "peer reviewed" papers being corrected or retracted is very common…

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    26. Shane Barrett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to rory robertson

      Hi Rory.

      The author of the 2nd link you posted this at the top of her review.

      [EDIT: Just for clarification, this drink is reviewed in the genre/category of flavoured milks and scored accordingly. I do NOT consider a liquid breakfast drink to be a healthy breakfast for a child and do NOT endorse or recommend it. It is NOT as good as a bowl of wholegrain cereal with milk or an egg on toast as some readers appear to believe. No fee was received for writing this Review.]

      The author was reviewing coco pop flavoured milk, not coco pops. The author notes that it was reviewed in the category of flavoured milks. I think she means that a score of 20/20 would not mean it is necessarily healthily, rather its the healthiest flavoured milk.

      But i do agree that it can be misleading to market sugary foods as healthy. Here in Canada, I remember seeing an ad for Nutella and I think the slogan was something like "Nutella, a healthy breakfast for kids"

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    27. Shane Barrett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to rory robertson

      Rory,

      I can see that you are frustrated but I don't think you should have said that Rosemary Stanton was doing a disservice to public health. I think she gives very sensible recommendations that are based on evidence and is very patient with people who disagree with her. In fact, I only read the comment sections of these article because of her and Dr Sue Ieraci.

      Now, i am not sure what you are expecting to happen about this sugar consumption paper from Sydney Uni. I thought Rosemary had already…

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    28. Shane Barrett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Rory,

      You seem to think that Australia's problem with obesity and T2D are due to low fat diets. Is this right? Do you have any evidence that suggests that Australians have reduced their fat intake in the past 30 years?

      If so, you should write a paper about it! I can suggest a title for you. "The Australian Paradox.
      How reducing fat caused obesity" :)

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    29. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      I think the problem here is that in "lay speak" 'fats' mean animals fats, and "oils" mean vergetable oils.

      We are encouraged to supplement our diets with purified vegeatble oils, even to the extent of having margarine recommended over biutter. Bottled extracted vegtable oils tend to come with most of the nutrients natural to the oil itself destrouyed and the other nutrients from the grain or nut extracted.

      But margarine is a concoction of chemicals includng colouring, flavouring and vitamis…

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    30. Mary Mitchell

      Psychologist

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Hi Shane,
      There is in fact evidence that suggests that Australians have in fact lowered their fat intake over the past 30 years.

      I don't have the time to search for articles at the moment, but do have this one on hand, which looks at children's diets and weight. The results suggest that the only thing that made a difference was consumption of sugary drinks.
      http://journals.cambridge.org/download.php?file=%2FPHN%2FPHN10_02%2FS1368980007246634a.pdf&code=0a53841ca538be0d8a9e7b504bdd5319

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    31. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to rory robertson

      I have no desire to further engage with Mr Robertson, but I want to put this discussion into context for other readers.

      Practice in any professional area does not swing on the results of a single publication, but on the totality of evidence in an area of expertise.

      The vast majority of research that is published in imperfect - perfection exists in few places in human life. The purpose of publication (or presentation of a paper at a meeting) is to expose a piece of work to the scrutiny of an…

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    32. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Shane,

      In my opinion, neither Coco Pops - the breakfast drink - nor Nutella should be available in Australian school tuckshops: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/Sugary-Drinks-Ban.pdf

      Indeed, the NHMRC advises - partly because of Rosemary's indefatigable efforts with the ADGs - that "[Unflavoured] Milk and water are the [only] recommended drinks for children": http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/talktoyear3boys.pdf

      Shane, I think you know that a nutrition score of 16/20 for a sugary…

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    33. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      I don't understand, Dr Sue, why you have a strong opinion that faulty self-published "peer reviewed" papers should not be corrected or retracted. In my opinion, it seems paradoxical for you to be devoted to public health yet not care about faulty papers misinforming the debate on the origins of obesity and type 2 diabetes, the biggest public-health challenge of our times: http://www.australianparadox.com/

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    34. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Shane,

      That article has already been written, featuring the dietary-advice disaster that has been global, via the US: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/07/magazine/what-if-it-s-all-been-a-big-fat-lie.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm ; http://garytaubes.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/WWGF-Readers-Digest-feature-Feb-2011.pdf

      And here's our best chance of a path out of that global mess: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/why-we-get-fat.pdf

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    35. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Shane,

      My only gripe with Rosemary and Dr Sue is that they have no interest in the correction or retraction of an influential yet extraordinarily faulty self-published "peer reviewed" paper: http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/research-causes-stir-over-sugars-role-in-obesity-20120330-1w3e5.html

      Shane, if you think it is fine for shonky "peer reviewed" papers to be deposited on the scientific record by industry-friendly scientists, then I think you too are mistaken.

      In any case, I am…

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    36. Robert Tony Brklje
      Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Before anything calorific intake can be genuinely challenged, first and foremost the accurate measure of human digestible calorific intake needs to be investigated.
      The junk food industry is hiding behind calories as measured in a Calorimeter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calorimeter. Now if you think calories as digested by the human body have anything to do with food being burned in a calorimeter and the energy output being measured, well, you are just plain gullible.
      This is where the true problem…

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    37. Gary Cassidy

      Monash University

      In reply to Robert Tony Brklje

      Hi Robert,

      In my opinion the whole concept of food calories is flawed. According to the maths, if you consume something like 25 (a few bites of an apple) additional calories a day you'll be obese in 10 years, morbidly obese in 20. Nobody can consciously control their diet to such precision by counting calories. Luckily for us our bodies unconsciously look after the energy equation pretty well. Unluckily for us, our modern food supply thwarts these unconscious abilities.

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  2. Gary Cassidy

    Monash University

    An informative article, although there is scant mention of the edible stuffs that contain these sweeteners? These ubiquitous edible stuffs that are damaging to human health. Unhealthy junk stuffs that are only edible because of these sweeteners. No added sweeteners -> big reduction in junk food -> A good diet that centres around unprocessed foods.

    RE: "...there’s no evidence that eating sugar by itself will increase your weight...
    ... a strong link between sugar consumption ..., and between obesity and sugary-drink intake" (sugar+water)
    Confused????

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Gary, if I understand the author correctly, she is saying what the experts in this area always say - it's not the ingredient itself, it's the overall diet.

      I thought the author had outlined the sources of the various sugars and sweeteners - sucrose mainly from cane sugar, fructose from fruits and honey, steviol extracted and purified from the leaves of a Paraguayan plant, aspartame from the aspartame factory.

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    2. Gary Cassidy

      Monash University

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Hi Sue,

      Now that I think about it, it was just yesterday that I walked past somebody snacking on a stick of cane sugar, and then sat on a park bench next to somebody munching leaves of Paraguayan ;-)

      Although this is one of the better articles I've read regarding sugar/sweeteners (particularly with the inclusion of the last section) it still has little relevance to many lay people. To say that a small amount of sugar is o.k. has zero relevance to many people eating a diet high in sugar via…

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    3. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Gary - have you indeed never walked past a sugar-cane-juice stall? Maybe you don't get around enough.

      Seriously, though, were you really asking what foods contain which sweeteners? I suspect that might have busted the word limit, but easy to look up, no?

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    4. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      I think that all too commonly people are eating highly sweetened 'healthy foods' somehow thinking that if it is a slice of pineapple, then it is healthy despinte the facts that it is 'crystallised' -- aka loaded with sugar and then dried :-(

      It is this desire for foods that are unnaturally sweet that is the big problem really.

      And this starts with weaning -- with all the sweetened baby foods provided for busy Mums to stuff into their kids before they dump them at the Child Minding Centre and rush of to work to earn the money to pay for the Child Minding Centre, the car and petrol, work clothes, and all that high sugar and starch laced convenience foods because they have no time to shop properly or prepared a proper meal.

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  3. Aaily c

    logged in via email @opayq.com

    There's also Xylitol that is a sugar alcohol, as sweet as sucrose but with one third of all calories and also shown to improve dental health by enamel protection and prevents ear and upper respiratory infections.

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    1. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Aaily c

      And is highly toxic to dogs.

      We really do NOT need lots of sweetness -- natural or otherwise.

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    2. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Aaily c

      Checked that.

      Generally, the dental benefits of xylitol are determined by a comparison with sucrose. It is supposedly non-fementable (aka bacteria don't like it!) so doesn't nurture mouth bacteria that cause caries.

      It says that xylitol is found naturally in the body but I couldn't see whether it was active or just one of the metabolic breakdowns of other stuff.

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    3. Aaily c

      logged in via email @opayq.com

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      Xylitol benefits teeth by remineralizing teeth by binding to Calcium ions preventing caries- it's used as addition to dental products for that reason.

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  4. Shane Barrett

    logged in via Facebook

    Nice article!
    I have a question that has been nagging me for some time. I have always thought that the caloric sweeteners would equally affect weight gain. However, I recently attended a nutrition lecture by professor Joe Schwarcz of McGill University and he said that fructose would result in more weight gain than the same amount of calories of glucose. He said even though a calorie is a calorie, fructose has more 'effective calories'. Is this true? Even if it is, I assume, like most foodstuffs, it is dependent of quantity and context and how much exercise you do.

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    1. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      As I have read the problem with the non-calorific sweeteners is that they still stimulate the digestive tract to secrete insulin. With no actual sugar present then this results in a drop in blood sugar which then causes increased hunger. So after an artificially sweetened soft drink, the person is likely to eat more than they would otherwise have done.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130529190728.htm
      Artificial Sweeteners May Do More Than Sweeten: It Can Affect How the Body Reacts to Glucose

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130710122000.htm
      The Dark Side of Artificial Sweeteners: Expert Reviews Negative Impact

      http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/261179.php
      Artificial Sweeteners Affect Metabolism And Insulin Levels

      (Which all makes me wonder why Tara Divers wrote what she did.)

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    2. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Shane - there has been some work done on the effect of artificially sweetened drinks - it seems that the problem is they cause a sweetness habituation (rather than a physiological ''addiction''), which leads to the consumption of more sweet foods. (I've seen some research on this - can't find the reference at the moment).

      The normal pancreas (via beta cells) secretes Insulin in response to the blood glucose level. There is some speculation that other substances might also have an effect on insulin…

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    3. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      "I guess that's why some people are drawn to simplistic answers". And simplistic approaches - like correcting and retracting extraordinarily faulty papers with obviously false conclusions, so that the public debate is not misled by misinformation promoted by Charles Perkins Centre scientists with notable links to the sugar industry: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/quickquizresearch.pdf

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    4. Gary Cassidy

      Monash University

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      RE "...it seems that the problem is they [artificial sweeteners] cause a sweetness habituation (rather than a physiological ''addiction''), which leads to the consumption of more sweet foods"
      Similar to the most ubiquitous sweetener (sugar) perhaps?

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    5. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      No, Gary, there's a distinction.

      Most adults are aware that they should limit their intake of sugar-sweetened drinks - hence the popularity of ''diet'' drinks.

      The ''calorie free'' attraction of the diet drinks leads to excessive consumption of sweet-tasting drinks. Paradoxically, this encourages more sweet food intake due to the habituation of sweetness.

      Conversely, there tends to be more restraint around the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks.

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    6. Gary Cassidy

      Monash University

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Yes, Sue, there is a distinction as you point out. Although there is also a similarity - SSB's are still very popular and over-consumed, same with sugar sweetened edible stuff.
      Many articles and debates around sugar focus only on the known metabolic effects of sugar or even more narrowly on fructose. There is very little discussed about the effects of added sugars on diet composition or overeating.
      Similarly salt habituation may lead to a preference of processed foods.

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    7. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      I dunno about that!

      If you go out socially and do not wish to drink alcoholic beverages, you are always offered sickly-sweet soft drinks :-(

      Where events are held at venues that stipulate 'no alcohol' it is always sweet soft drinks that are provided/sold :-(

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    8. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Gary

      It seems likely that some ingredients added to foods encourage over-consumption.

      For example, how many high fat desserts, ice creams, confectionery, cakes, biscuits and pastries would be consumed if they didn't have added sugar to sweeten the fattiness? With savoury fatty foods, salt is one of the factors that encourages consumption in foods such as fast foods, potato crisps and similar crunchy snack foods or products like bacon and salami (where the salt is part of the processing…

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    9. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Shane - this will depend on the quantity of fructose being consumed and a number of other factors related to the individual, including physical activity. The Luc Tappy paper I recommended in an earlier post sets out the physiological and biochemical reactions to fructose. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3357317/).

      To my knowledge though, so far no study has shown that 'calories don't count'. Professor Marion Nestle's (NY University) book on this topic Why Calories Count is worth a read.

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