Artificial Sweeteners Create ProblemsBy: James Brunton
We’re told time and again to cut down refined sugar in our diets to avoid obesity, diabetes, cholesterol and the rest. What do we do? Head straight for the “sugar-free” drinks and foods to satisfy our sweet tooths (should that be sweet teeth?).
You know the line…“I’ll have a bar of chocolate, oh, and a diet coke, because I’m slimming.” And, a lot of us switch to using artificial sweeteners in our cappuccinos and lattes.
But, have a quick look at the ingredient labels on the food, and you might be in for a shock. There are vast numbers of foods and drinks that contain sugar and sweeteners.
Part of the appeal is that sweet foods make us feel like consuming some more. One bit of chocolate is never enough. “May as well finish it - it’s only a small bar.” One biscuit leads to another, and so on – a great benefit for the manufacturers. No so good for a population rapidly gaining weight.
“So what?” I hear you shout. (At least I shouted it at the computer.) “If there is less sugar in my food, I must be lowering my risk of developing diabetes. And those artificial sweeteners have no calories, therefore no unsightly fat.”
True. Most sweeteners are calorie-free, or almost so, but they are still chemicals – food additives that could cause side effects. Here’s a brief rundown of the common sweeteners: -
Saccharin – discovered over 100 years ago – no calories – the first widely used artificial sweetener – still used today –safe – leaves a nasty aftertaste with some people (namely, me!).
Cyclamate – discovered in 1937 – no calories – 30 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar) – the least sweet of the “intense sweeteners” – used in combination with saccharin – banned in the USA in 1970 after safety concerns – still used in other countries – research says it’s safe.
Acesulfame-K – discovered in 1967 – 200 times sweeter than sucrose – calorie-free – no aftertaste – no documented adverse effects – currently used in many countries.
Aspartame (NutraSweet) – approved by the USA in 1981 – 200 times sweeter than sucrose – widely used but many reports of side effects – claimed to be safe, except for people with phenylketonuria (an inherited disease) – but it increases appetite and cravings for sweets – gets into the brain - causes headaches, dizziness, memory loss, slurred speech, ringing in the ears, drowsiness, insomnia, aggression, skin problems, weight gain and more – symptoms sometimes called “aspartame disease” – demands for its removal from the market, but it is still there.
Sucralose (Splenda) –1998 – calorie-free – 600 times sweeter than sucrose – made from sugar – claimed to be safe – many studies but no toxic effects –is added to many products - but reports of symptoms such as sleep disruption, damage to the immune system and nerve damage – it is a chlorinated molecule similar to some pesticides and may have similar effects, such as building up in body fat over time – nothing has been proved, yet.
Neotame –not available in the UK yet – approved in the US – 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sucrose – chemically related to aspartame - you only need a trace of it to make something sweet – too early to say whether it is good or bad.
Alitame (Aclaim) – another derivative of aspartame – 2,000 times sweeter than sucrose – no aftertaste – not yet approved in the USA, but used in Australia, New Zealand and China – no reports of problems, so far.
Stevia – comes from a small plant - a natural sugar substitute – 300 times sweeter than sucrose – used world-wide for many years with no reports of toxicity –approved in the USA only as a supplement and herb.
Polyols – are a group of sugar-free carbohydrates– fewer calories than sugar – do not affect blood sugar levels – do not cause tooth decay – names such as isomalt, maltitol, lactitol and xylitol.
My worry is that the food giants are creating sweeteners that should really be treated more like drugs. When you think of it, just by indulging your weakness for a particular food or soft drink, you could be consuming, over the years, a significant quantity of chemical that might affect your health, and we need to know the side effects. More products now use mixtures of sweeteners to capture the “real taste” of sugar, and who’s tested that?
I try to avoid sweeteners, although it is not easy. Checking the labels of even “healthy options” reveals just how often the sweetener card is played.
About the Author:
James Brunton has vast experience as a pharmacist. Claim your free booklet on vitamins and supplements when you sign up for his newsletter and discover the world of integrated health at http://healthexplored.com