Research on regular users of low-calorie sweeteners has found they have better diets than nonusers. If that isn’t incentive to use them, I don’t know what is! Of course, adding a low-calorie sweetener to your coffee isn’t all it takes to become healthy and thin, but studies show it can be part of a healthy lifestyle for many people and helps them reach their goals. And that’s exactly what the latest study by researchers Adam Drewnowski and Colin Rehm at the University of Washington found.

Since other research has reported an association between low-calorie sweeteners and obesity by simply looking at who was using them and their weight classification, Drewnowski and Rehm wanted to answer the question, “What came first, the weight gain or the use of low-calorie sweeteners?”

In their study, they went back 10 years to see peoples’ weight histories and their intent, or motivation, to lose weight during that time. What they found is the use of low-calorie sweeteners was common among people who were experiencing weight fluctuations and who were trying to return to a lower weight. In fact, nearly one-third of adults trying to lose or maintain weight used low-calorie sweetened products.

As anyone who has lost weight knows, it is easy to regain. When that starts to happen, there is a tendency to resume the weight loss strategies that helped in the past, like using low-calorie sweeteners. Even people experiencing weight gain for the first time and those with the early warning signs of diabetes may decide to use low-calorie sweeteners as a first step to reduce their caloric intake or added sugars in their diet. In both these examples, the low-calorie sweetener was selected after the problem of weight gain or prediabetes was identified, not the other way around.

Asking the Right Questions

Here’s how the study was done.

Information was collected from more than 22,000 adults about their use of low-calorie sweeteners in the past 24 hours, their intent to lose or maintain weight over the past 12 months and their 10-year weight history. Height and weight records were used to classify the participants as normal weight, overweight or obese during the period under investigation and a questionnaire was completed to determine if they had been diagnosed with diabetes.

Drawing the Right Conclusions

What the researchers found was the use of low-calorie sweeteners was associated with self-reported intention to lose weight during the previous 12 months, indicating it was a strategy being selected to help with weight loss.   They also found those who reported they were trying to lose or maintain weight during the past 12 months were much more likely to use low-calorie sweeteners, and  this was true for participants at any weight, not just those who were overweight or obese. This finding provides the strongest evidence yet that low-calorie sweeteners do not cause weight gain, but are chosen to help prevent it.

They also found those who reported they were trying to lose or maintain weight during the past 12 months were much more likely to use low-calorie sweeteners.

A final conclusion drawn from this research, based on the analysis of the 10-year weight change data, is that obese individuals may have switched to diet beverages made with low-calorie sweeteners after they gained weight.  This supports the possibility that use of low-calorie sweeteners may be a useful “marker” to identify people have experienced weight gain and are trying to reduce it.

What Does This Mean For You?

We now have better evidence than ever that low-calorie sweeteners are deliberately chosen by individuals as a weight management strategy and do not contribute to weight gain. Using low-calorie sweeteners in place of sugar is a simple step anyone can take to help reduce their caloric intake as part of a healthy lifestyle.

 

Robyn FlipseRobyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

According to the WHO, currently 422 million people in the world have diabetes. What’s more staggering is that the WHO projects that number is likely to double in the next 20 years. In 2012, official numbers from a WHO report suggested that 1.5 million deaths were directly related to diabetes.

Diabetes: The Basics

Diabetes is a disease that impairs the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates (or carbs).  Those who are currently living with this diagnosis can manage their condition with medication, diet and exercise. The diet for someone with diabetes involves focusing on managing carbs; choosing healthy, nutritious carbs in appropriate amounts.

Carbohydrates 101              

Carbs are starches, sugar, and fiber found in many of the foods we eat. You will commonly find carbs in food like grains (pasta, rice, and bread), beans, legumes, starchy vegetables, dairy and sweetened foods.  When you are managing diabetes your doctor or dietitian will usually recommend you limit your carbohydrates to a certain amount based on your calorie needs. To best manage your blood sugar you will want to fill those slots with the most nutritious carbs available.  Here are some healthy options:

Whole Grains

Grains are the starchy foods you may have in your diet like rice, pasta, bread, cereals and crackers. To get the most nutrients out of your grains always go with the whole grain variety. Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber, phytoestrogen and minerals. The benefits of choosing a high fiber food is that fiber slows the breakdown of starch into glucose to create a steady blood sugar level (whereas with processed starches you may experience more spikes in blood sugar). To make sure that you are getting whole grains, read the ingredient list and make sure the word “whole” prefaces the word grain.

Beans, Legumes and Starchy Vegetables

Beans and legumes are rich in fiber, minerals, vitamins and protein. Starchy vegetables like corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas and pumpkin are similarly a good source of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Fruit

Fruit is an important part of a healthy diet. Eating a variety of fruit can provide you with numerous vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber.

Dairy

Dairy products like milk, cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt are a good source of vitamin D, calcium and protein. Make sure you opt for low-fat dairy products to keep calories low.

Where Does Stevia Fit into Diabetes Management?

Sugar is probably the trickiest carbohydrate for those trying to manage their blood sugar. Sugar is found naturally in many healthy foods, but added sugars can add up quickly and have an  impact on blood sugar levels. People with diabetes have limited space in their diets for carbohydrates as it is; and when they opt for carbs, they should be filled with good nutritional value. But there are times where we need to indulge in a bit of sweetness. This is where stevia can fit into your diet and be a useful tool in controlling sugar levels. Leaving sweets out completely can make people with diabetes feel deprived; which can lead to making it harder to follow a moderate-carb lifestyle.

Stevia is a natural, no-calorie sweetener that has zero impact on blood glucose or insulin, making it safe and useful for diabetics.  For example, you save some carbohydrates for a healthy breakfast by replacing sugar in your coffee with stevia drops. Or, you can use stevia while baking to cut sugar and carbs in a homemade dessert.  Want more ideas for reduced sugar foods? Check out the recipe section to learn how to integrate stevia into your diet.

Carolyn ReynaudCarolyn Reynaud, MS, RD, LD is a licensed registered dietitian and a paid contributor to SteviaBenefits.org. She received her BS in nutrition from Michigan State University and her Masters and Certificate in Public Health from Georgia State University. She has experience working in several avenues of health care including corporate wellness, clinical disease management, research, and health promotion. She has been working as a health coach specialist for close to 6 years, where she counsels patients on preventative healthcare and helps them meet their health goals. Follow her on Twitter @ReynaudCari.

I have a lot of passion for nutrition, but one area I am especially fervent about is food safety. Anyone who has eaten with me might even venture to say I’m borderline obsessive about the issue (wink, wink.) I have lived dangerously; eaten pizza that was left out all night; allowed chicken to defrost on the counter. I’ve even played with fire by eating potato salad that had been out room temperature all day. (Note: At the time, I didn’t know the risk I was taking, flirting with the most miserable 24-48 hours one could spend – not to mention potentially ruining a craving for a food forever.)

While food poisoning is certainly no fun, for more vulnerable populations like the elderly, immune-compromised and pregnant women it can be very serious, possibly fatal. The good news is that there are steps you can take to keep your food safe and reduce your risk of getting food poisoning. Let’s run through these quick steps below.

Four Simple Steps

Foodsafety.gov recommends 4 easy steps to follow to keep your food safe; clean, separate, cook, and chill.

Keep It Clean

  • Cleanliness is the first important step in preparing your food. Be sure to wash your hands before handling food and also in between if handling raw meat or eggs. You should wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap under warm running water.
  • Rinse all fruits and vegetables, even if you plan to peel them. Fruits and vegetables can carry illness bearing bacteria which can also spread to the insides when cut.
  • All surfaces that come in contact with your food also have the potential to transfer bacteria. Wash all utensils, cutting surfaces and counter tops with each use.
  • You should skip washing your meats, as this can actually propagate the spread of bacteria.

Keep It Separate

  • Use separate cutting boards and plates for meats/poultry/seafood/eggs; as well as for ready-to-eat foods like fruits and vegetables. This step will help you to avoid cross contamination.
  • The same principle goes for in your fridge or grocery cart. Ask your grocer for a plastic bag to cover raw meat. Juice may leak from raw meat packages onto foods that are ready to eat.

Cook

  • A very important aspect to preventing food-borne illness is to cook foods at the right temperature. Making sure you are cooking your meal at the right temperature for the right amount of time assures you will kill food-borne bacteria.
  • Not only is it important to cook food at the right temperature, but it must be kept at least 140 degrees after cooking to maintain a safe temperature. You can keep foods warm for serving using products like chafing dishes, slow cookers and warmers.
  • As food begins to cool, bacteria start to grow. The danger zone is between 40-140 degrees. (Personally, I am a big fan of using food thermometers to assure my meals are cooked to and kept at the right temperature.)

Chill

  • Bacteria starts growing in perishable foods within two hours, so it is important to either refrigerate food within two hours or keep cold foods between 32-40 degrees for serving.

One final note about serving food – I would like to highlight, once again, that if you are serving food for an extended period of time, hot food should be kept at 140 degrees or more and cold foods should be kept between 32-40 degrees; or it should all be refrigerated within two hours. Not meeting these guidelines is the most common food safety mistake that I see in my work as a dietician.

Ready to practice your new-found food safety skills? Try this Teriyaki Chicken Wing with Hot Mango Dipping Sauce recipe made with stevia!

 

Carolyn ReynaudCarolyn Reynaud, MS, RD, LD is a licensed registered dietitian. She received her BS in nutrition from Michigan State University and her Masters and Certificate in Public Health from Georgia State University. She has experience working in several avenues of health care including corporate wellness, clinical disease management, research, and health promotion. She has been working as a health coach specialist for close to 6 years, where she counsels patients on preventative healthcare and helps them meet their health goals. Follow her on Twitter @ReynaudCari.