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Major Medical Groups Back Sweeteners as Diet Aid
Date:7/9/2012

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 9 (HealthDay News) -- Non-nutritive sweeteners like Splenda, Equal and Sweet'N Low may have a role to play in maintaining or even losing weight, as long as people don't use them as an excuse to treat themselves later with high-calorie goodies.

That endorsement of six sugar substitutes as a dietary aid came in a scientific statement released Monday by two major health organizations, the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.

"There may be a benefit to people who use them smartly and who don't compensate later in the day and negate the benefit," said Christopher Gardner, lead author of the new scientific statement.

According to background information in the document, which is being published simultaneously in the journals Circulation and Diabetes Care, some 6,000 foods and beverages on the U.S. market contain at least one of the six available non-nutritive sweeteners.

Four of them -- sucralose (Splenda), acesuflame-K, neotame (made by NutraSweet) and saccharin (Sweet'N Low) -- are artificial sweeteners and are regulated as food additives by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Aspartame (Equal or NutraSweet) is composed of three amino acids and stevia is a plant derivative, so technically both are not considered "artificial," but they do have FDA approval, Gardner explained.

Regardless of where they come from, non-nutritive sweeteners have become increasingly popular. In 1965, only 3 percent of Americans used them in their diet; by 2004, 15 percent did.

That rise in popularity, however, has not been accompanied by a decrease in the consumption of added sugars, which contribute to obesity, diabetes and a host of other health woes, the scientific statement noted.

Overall, the scientific literature on non-nutritive sweeteners is scant, but there is some evidence that drinking a zero-calori
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