Traditionally, in Greece the most common sweets were ‘spoon sweets’, made by using naturally sweet fruits and vegetables – and adding a little sugar. The other category of sweets, which were usually the most festive recipes, were those that used honey, sugar, cinnamon, and other spices. Almost all used olive oil – and very few were made with fresh butter.
They were rarely consumed, mainly during special occasions – holidays and celebrations that gave them their ‘proper place’ on the table. Artificial sweeteners and fatty desserts had no place on the traditional table.
The modern table can be found with items made with artificial sweeteners – but new research reveals that these substances (acesulfame K, aspartame, avantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia and its derivatives) are not as innocent as they seem. Long-term use creates health problems.
Based on research by the World Health Organization, as well as the guidelines of the European Commission, consumers should reduce the use of such sweeteners, as this will help not only to promote health but also to prevent disease.
Their use does not really help to reduce body fat, and their consumption may have negative effects such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mortality.
In contrast, epidemiological studies do not seem to link heavy use of sweeteners such as aspartame with cancer, but certain sweeteners such as erythriol are directly linked to blood clots and cardiovascular events.
There are also many new sweeteners that haven’t been researched yet. In addition, while ailments such as neurological diseases, depression, and behavioral and cognitive problems were not directly associated with the use of sweeteners, the same research suggests that they may increase the chance of developing these diseases. In other words, although their limited use is safe, their excessive consumption also burdens health.
So this is the paradox of how sweeteners work: they do perform the function for which they were invented – they add sweetness to foods and desserts we crave – but even though they don’t have as many calories as sugar and other naturally sweet substances, ultimately, they don’t help reduce body fat. Indeed, they cause health problems associated with increased body fat, so we end up with the same result.
Why use them?
* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.
Evropi-Sofia Dalampira holds a PhD in Agricultural Economics and an MSc in Botany-Biology.