UBCO experts share advice about sugar and artificial sweeteners

Tips for healthy Halloween

Experts at UBC Okanagan are weighing in on the best treats during Halloween and how to avoid a sugar overload. 

Although sugar doesn’t cause diabetes, eat mindfully says Jonathan Little, associate professor in the Faculty of Health and Social Development's School of Health and Exercise Sciences.

"Sugar intake alone won’t do this; the major risk factors for Type 2 diabetes are age, genetics and obesity. You obviously can’t do much about the first two but your lifestyle can influence your weight status."

"Excess calories from any source, combined with physical inactivity, can promote weight gain, which in turn, increases the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

Monitor sugar and carbohydrate intake are key for those who have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. 

"During holidays and festivities rather than reaching for sugary treats, look for those with higher protein and flavour, such as nuts, homemade granola or trail mix, or cheese. Not only will this most likely be healthier, but they will also provide more sustained energy," he adds. 

Sugar has many disguises such as glucose, fructose, lactose, dextrose—anything with the ‘-ose’ ending explains Wesley Zandberg, assistant professor of chemistry in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science. 

"Although chemically different, the body sees them as the same, whether from a candy bar or in concentrated fruit juices. And all are very, very high sources of calories."

"Smuggled-in sugars could be listed as carbohydrates, fruit juice concentrate, corn, malt or maple syrup. When searching for sugar-free treats, don’t let the labels fool you and learn the sugar synonyms.”

Although artificial sweeteners seem like a good idea, there has been controversy around how healthy and safe these additives actually are, says Deanna Gibson, an associate professor of biology in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science.

"One of their side-effects is that they are toxic to the healthy bacteria in our guts, which are necessary for many bodily functions, including digestion and immunity."

"In fact, the consumption of these sweeteners has been associated with altering the gut bacteria, throwing off the immune and metabolic balance."

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