Focusing on the safety of sweeteners, the reporter interviewed Xu Yajun, deputy dean of the School of Public Health of Peking University and professor of the Department of Nutrition and Food Hygiene. She suggested that no matter what kind of sweetener, the intake should be controlled in daily life to avoid increasing unnecessary health risks.
Reporter: What does “substances that may be carcinogenic to humans” mean? What are the precautions for consuming aspartame in daily life?
Xu Yajun: The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies aspartame as category 2B, which means that aspartame may be carcinogenic to humans. At the same time, the Joint Expert Committee also gave the allowable daily intake of aspartame as 40mg/Kg of body weight.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer roughly divides carcinogens into the following categories: Category 1 (confirmed to be carcinogenic), Category 2A (probably carcinogenic), Category 2B (possibly carcinogenic), and Category 3 (unconfirmed to be carcinogenic). , Category 4 (basically no carcinogenic effects). Among them, aspartame is classified as Category 2B, which is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” This type of carcinogen has limited evidence of carcinogenicity to humans and insufficient evidence of carcinogenicity to experimental animals; or insufficient evidence of carcinogenicity to humans. There is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. Also belonging to this category are many substances or environmental factors that we are familiar with, such as mobile phone radiation, aloe vera whole leaf extract, traditional pickles, asphalt on asphalt roads, car engine exhaust, etc.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer points out that classification reflects the strength of scientific evidence that certain substances may cause cancer in humans, but does not indicate the degree of risk of cancer at a given level or route of exposure. The health-damaging effects of any chemical substance must be linked to the “intake”. It is inappropriate to talk about health damage without dosage. According to the current amount of aspartame added to food and beverages on the market, a can of beverage containing 200 or 300 mg of aspartame would require an adult weighing 70 kg to consume more than 9 to 14 cans per day to exceed the acceptable daily limit. Daily intake, even for women with a lighter weight, based on an average of 50kg, they would have to drink 7 to 10 cans a day to exceed it.
Therefore, we should make reasonable choices based on our actual situation and needs, pay attention to controlling intake and frequency, and reduce potential risks. Of course, it is more recommended to eat natural foods and consume less food and beverages with added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Reporter: Why does sweetness have such great appeal to people?
Xu Yajun: Most people have a natural preference for sweetness. Because sweetness transmits signals to the central nervous system through taste bud receptors, on the one hand it can stimulate the brain to release excitatory neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, enkephalins, etc., making people feel pleasure and satisfaction. The effect of this feedback mechanism remains in people’s memory, making people more accepting and eager for sweets. On the other hand, carbohydrate-based sweets can increase blood sugar in a short period of time and quickly relieve the anxiety caused by hunger. It is precisely because of this spiritually pleasurable experience that desserts are given the meaning of “happiness”, which in turn will further increase people’s love for sweetness.
However, whether it is added sugar represented by sucrose, artificial sweeteners represented by sucralose, cyclamate, aspartame, or even the more common natural sweetener represented by erythritol in recent years, It is not advisable to consume too much. Excessive sugar intake is associated with increased risk of dental caries, obesity, cancer, and other chronic diseases. Although sweeteners can reduce sugar intake to a certain extent, research shows that consuming large amounts of sweeteners will destroy the body’s perception of fullness, making people more likely to overeat and affect weight control; in addition, It may affect the body’s metabolism and hormone levels, such as affecting the secretion of insulin and changing the structure of intestinal flora.
Reporter: Are sweeteners really useful for weight control?
Xu Yajun: As mentioned earlier, excessive sugar intake will increase the risk of obesity and many chronic metabolic diseases. The use of sweeteners was first thought to reduce sugar intake and have positive significance for weight control. Some studies have shown that the use of sweeteners can reduce sugar intake in the short term, but other studies have not found similar results. Therefore, the absolute positive significance of sweeteners for weight control remains to be discussed and is related to many variables such as sweetener type, intake, intake time and frequency.
Many people believe that natural sweeteners are safer than artificial sweeteners, but some studies have shown that even natural sweeteners such as stevia glycosides may cause intestinal flora imbalance. , coupled with its very high sweetness (equivalent to 200 to 300 times that of sucrose), long-term consumption may increase the body’s threshold for sweetness and increase the body’s dependence on sweetness. In addition, some other health hazards cannot be ignored. For example, excessive intake of erythritol (also a natural sweetener) may be related to an increased risk of blood clots.
Reporter: How should different groups of people consider the suitability when choosing sweeteners?
Xu Yajun: There is currently no sufficient and specific clinical evidence to show the absolute suitability of a certain sweetener for a certain group of people. But there are still some principles you can refer to:
Sugar alcohol sweeteners are derivatives of sugar. Different products have been developed including sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, lactitol, xylitol, etc., and their sweetness is 25% to 100% of sucrose. Sugar alcohol sweeteners provide less energy than sugar, do not cause significant blood sugar reactions, and can significantly reduce the risk of tooth decay. But it should be noted that sugar alcohols can participate in metabolism and are not 0 energy. Compared with sweeteners such as cyclamate and sucralose that do not participate in metabolism, sugar alcohols can be metabolized to produce a certain amount of energy.
Steviol glycosides and mogrosides are natural sweeteners with low calories and high safety, and can be consumed by patients with diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
Aspartame is a dipeptide sweetener that can be broken down into aspartic acid and phenylalanine in the human body. People with the rare genetic disorder phenylketonuria are unable to metabolize phenylalanine, so foods and drinks containing aspartame are not suitable for people with phenylketonuria.
Neotame is a derivative of aspartame. It does not break down phenylalanine after ingestion by the human body, so it can be consumed by patients with phenylketonuria.
Reporter: What do you think of the “sugar-free” drinks currently on the market? What should consumers pay attention to when purchasing “sugar-free” drinks?
Xu Yajun: “Sugar-free” does not mean there is no sugar. There are indeed some foods on the market labeled “sugar-free”, but the ingredient list contains maltodextrin, corn syrup, etc. Although the name is not “sucrose” or “white sugar”, it is actually still a carbohydrate-added food with a large amount of glucose and fructose polymers. This is misleading to consumers. These foods are harmful to the condition of diabetic patients but not beneficial. Moreover, some sweeteners still have energy, such as sugar alcohol sweeteners (xylitol, etc.). Not all sweetener drinks are zero energy drinks.
Consumers must keep their eyes peeled when choosing, to see if there is really no sugar, and whether glucose, sucrose, etc. have been changed to “nicknames” to appear in the ingredient list; secondly, do not blindly believe in “use sweeteners instead of sweeteners”. “Sucrose has no energy and is good for weight loss or weight control”; third, it is important to understand that sweetener foods need to be consumed in moderation, as excessive consumption may cause many health problems.