Sugar Guilt?

By Elizabeth Jarrard, Dietetics Student, Sargent College

Perhaps you’ve seen a new ad going around. The tagline is  “Sprinkle your coffee with something better than guilt,” suggesting that you should swap out sugar in your coffee every morning with Truvia, a sugar substitute refined from the stevia plant. This stevia extract, marketed as Truvia (Coca-Cola) and PureVia (PepsiCo), has been garnering a lot of buzz lately as a zero calorie sugar substitute that is more “natural” than products such as Splenda,  Equal, or Sweet n’ Low. But is this product better than sugar? And why should we be feeling guilty about a little sugar in our coffee anyway?

Registered Dietitian and Director of the Sargent Choice Nutrition Center, Stacey Zawacki has this to say about the Stevia extract:

All substances added to food are categorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as either “Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for their intended use” or “Food Additives.” For a substance to have GRAS status, there needs to be enough widely-known data (usually published) about the substance that qualified experts outside the government (eg experts hired by private companies) can make the determination that it is safe for its intended use.  If a substance is considered a food additive, the onus falls on the FDA to examine the data and make the safety determination.
In December, 2008, the FDA agreed (by issuing a no objection letter) that the extract from stevia could be considered GRAS.  As with many scientific conclusions, experts often disagree.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest warns that safety testing to date has fallen short of FDA guidelines.  They caution people to avoid this sweetener until safety testing is complete and conclusive.

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This type of inconclusive data may lead us to hesitate before pouring packets of this non-nutritive sweetener in our coffee.  And should you really feel GUILT about making your sugar sweet? 1 packet of sugar has about 15 calories. Pouring 8 packets into 1 Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks latte is not the best thing for your health, and added sugars do add up, as RD Joan Salge Blake clearly shows in this video. But you can’t call all foods either bad or good. You just need to make the best informed decisions based on your individual lifestyle. Maybe you need the extra calories and quick energy from sugar before a workout, or if you’re trying to lose weight, maybe it’s time to try to train your taste-buds to like less sweet things.
Weigh in: Do you think Sugar is bad? Should you feel guilty about having a sweet tooth?


One Comment

Sargent Choice Nutrition Center posted on January 11, 2012 at 6:25 pm

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