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Comparing Sugar Alternatives

Americans have a giant sweet tooth, consuming about 156 pounds each of sugar a year.

Now, more than one third of all adults are considered obese.

But it's possible to, in a sense, have our cake and eat it too, with lo- and no-cal sweeteners, as CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton explained to "Early Show" co-anchor Hary Smith, offeirng a guide on sugar substitutes.

Although it tastes great, processed sugar adds calories and zero nutrients to food. High sugar intake can lead to health problems like obesity and diabetes.

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So, how do we cut back? And is there still taste involved?

According to Ashton, people should try not to drink their calories, which come in everything from coffee loaded with sweeteners, milk, cream, juices to soda.

Soda is the worst culprit when it comes to sugar, but there are other options.

"If you reduce your beverage intake in the source of sugar, you can cut 650 calories a day by drinking lower calorie drinks, and drink water," she added.

What are sugar substitutes exactly?

There is a no calorie kind of classification of sugar substitutes, which includes:

•Sucralose - also known as Splenda, is 600 times sweeter than sugar so you use less of it.

It has no calories and is not considered a carbohydrate and has no effect on blood sugar levels. Sucralose was approved for use in this country in 1998, so it is relatively new. People like it because they say it tastes like sugar and it may be useful for diabetics because, unlike some other sugar substitutes, it doesn't affect blood sugar.

•Stevia is the latest addition to the sugar substitute options. It is an herb marketed as a food supplement so it has not gone through the FDA approval process. It's been used in South America for centuries. It's often found in the herbal section of health food stores, and is used in teas, and in powder form.

There is also a low calorie kind of classification of sugar substitutes, which includes:

•Aspertime, which has 400 calories, is in Nutrasweet. Aspartame is a low-cal sweetener, there's about 4 calories per gram. When metabolized by the body, aspartame is broken down into two common amino acids and a third substance, methanol. These three substances are available in similar or greater amounts from eating common foods.

Aspartame is not ideal for baking because when exposed to high temperatures, it can lose sweetness.

•Saccharin, which can be found in Sweet'N Low -- is about 300 times sweeter than sugar. One packet of saccharin is equal to about two teaspoons of sugar and with VERY few calories. It's one of the oldest sugar substitutes out there.

Are they safe?

"This is not an easy question to answer. In the past there were studies that suggested saccharin had been linked to bladder cancer in animals. It's not a clear association in humans," she explained.

Other Tips to Curb the Sugar:

•Choose water, diet, or low-calorie beverages instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.
•For a quick, easy, and inexpensive thirst-quencher, carry a water bottle and refill it throughout the day.
•Don't "stock the fridge" with sugar-sweetened beverages. Instead, keep a jug or bottles of cold water in the fridge.
•Serve water with meals.
•Make water more exciting by adding slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, or watermelon, or drink sparkling water.
•Add a splash of 100% juice to plain sparkling water for a refreshing, low-calorie drink.
•When you do opt for a sugar-sweetened beverage, go for the small size. Some companies are now selling 8-oz. cans and bottles of soda, which contain about 100 calories.
•Be a role model for your friends and family by choosing healthy, low-calorie beverages.

"For more on the pros and cons of sugar substitutes, go to our partner in health,, and search "artificial sweeteners.""