We all eat too much sugar. Not only that, we all know we eat too much sugar. Statistically, each person in the world consumes, on average, about 53 pounds of sugar a year. In the US, it’s twice that. That’s a lot! But that sweetness just tastes so good it’s hard to resist. We eat a cookie and decide well, that was just a little cookie, so we can have another one. Or we have a delicious piece of pie and it was so yummy we ask for seconds.
Sugar is actually an important part of our diet, even a healthy part of our diet. It makes foods taste better and provides us with food energy. Sugar is precious fuel for all the cells in our bodies, the preferred source of the body’s fuel for brain power, muscle energy and every natural process that goes on in every functioning cell—when it's present at normal levels. But persistently high sugar levels behave like a slow-acting poison.
Actually, there are health risks involved in over-eating pretty much anything but sugar can be especially toxic. Some studies on the link between sugars and diabetes are inconclusive, but the extra calories from consuming large amounts of sugar can lead to obesity, which increases the risk of becoming diabetic. Other studies do show correlation between refined sugar consumption and the onset of diabetes. Another study found that sugar-sweetened beverages increase the risk of type 2 diabetes not only through obesity but also by increasing dietary glycemic load, leading to insulin resistance. High sugar levels slowly erode the ability of cells in the pancreas to make insulin.
Still other studies show that consuming a diet with a high glycemic load typical of the "junk food" diet, is strongly associated with an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease. A lot of us know that particular diet well: salted snack foods, gum, candy, sweet desserts, fried fast foods, and sugary carbonated beverages. We lead such fast-paced lifestyles that grabbing something on the run is easier than preparing a healthy meal. Then we wonder why we keel over from a heart attack.
High intake of sugary foods is also linked to Alzheimer’s disease. There are also links between sugar consumption and macular degeneration in older age. Then, of course, there’s tooth decay. We’ve been told about that from day one.
Corn Syrup vs. High-Fructose Corn Syrup
A lot of people wonder about corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup. Are they the same thing? No, they are not the same thing at all. Here’s a simple definition of each.
Corn Syrup: Corn syrup is extracted from corn starch and is made into glucose. Some recipes call for corn syrup as a sweetener and it is sold in grocery stores, often under the brand name Karo, but there are also generic or store brands. It comes in light or dark.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup: HFCS goes through additional processing. Three different types of enzymes are added, one after the other, to change the corn starch into first glucose and then into fructose. Additional glucose is then added to THAT to finally create high-fructose corn syrup.
HFCS has gotten a pretty bad rap, so the corn refining people want to confuse consumers even more by trying to get the FDA to approve the term “corn sugar” for food labeling. They’re already using the term, but the FDA has been trying to get them to stop. So don’t be misled. Corn sugar is just another term for HFCS.
So, why does HFCS have such a bad rap and is it really deserved?
Sucrose, or table sugar, is half glucose, half fructose. It is balanced. The glucose and fructose are also combined in a single molecule. HFCS, the kind that is used to sweeten soft drinks and other sugary foods, is 55% fructose, 45% glucose. That throws it out of balance. There is too much fructose, which can lead to overeating and therefore obesity. Also, fructose is metabolized only in the liver, so can put too much strain on that organ.
Of course, if you’re trying to lose weight, you want to limit your sugar intake period, whether it’s table sugar or HFCS. But the higher the fructose, the worse the sugar is. HFCS decreases metabolism and hinders the natural production of insulin and other appetite controllers.
So why do manufacturers use HFCS? Because corn is cheaper than sugar cane and fructose is sweeter than glucose, so it takes less of a sweeter (and cheaper) product to give us that sugar high we like. It all comes down to that bottom line, no matter what it does for the health of the consumer.
It can take up to four days for your body to fully digest high fructose corn syrup, as opposed to 24 hours to digest natural sugar.
So what can we say about high fructose corn syrup other than that it is a sweetener with really bad super powers.
However, after all is said and done, sugar is a source of empty calories and we all eat too much of it.
So what about artificial sweeteners? They don't have any calories. Aren't they okay to use?
For people who are looking for a way to cut calories so they can lose weight, or for some people who just think they could do with less sugar in their diets, artificial sweeteners seem like a good answer. They provide no calories and no carbohydrates to raise your blood sugar. Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes but may be derived from naturally occurring substances, including herbs or sugar itself, such as sucralose. Artificial sweeteners are also known as intense sweeteners because they are many times sweeter than regular sugar.
But artificial sweeteners may not be the answer. There are many pros and cons to the use of artificial sweeteners.
Aspartame is probably the most popular artificial sweetener. It is also the most controversial one.
Aspartame dissolves into solution and can therefore travel throughout the body and deposit within any tissue. The body digests aspartame.
Although many studies showed that Aspartame is perfectly safe, others studies have shown just the opposite. In fact, people who claim to have had health problems related to their consumption of this sweetener have pointed out that many of the studies were conducted by the Aspartame producers themselves. And of the ones that weren’t, a high percentage of those stated there were problems. In fact, of the 166 studies felt to have relevance for questions of human safety, 74 had Nutrasweet industry (those who make aspartame) related funding and 92 were independently funded. One hundred percent of the research performed by the company who makes aspartame confirmed aspartame's safety, whereas 92% of the independently funded research found problems with consuming aspartame. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
Aspartame products have been the cause of the majority of complaints to the FDA about food additives. Its users complained of headaches, fatigue, memory loss, numbness in the legs, cramps, fibromyalgia symptoms, joint pain, blurred vision, and multiple sclerosis, just to name a few, due to consumption of products containing aspartame. Some even felt it was aspartame that gave them cancer.
The side effects of aspartame consumption are not the same for everyone. Let’s just look at a few of these symptoms and studies that either confirm or deny the affect the use of aspartame had on these complaints. One study confirmed that individuals with self-reported headaches after the ingestion of aspartame were indeed susceptible to headaches due to aspartame. Three randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled studies with more than 200 adult migraine sufferers showed that headaches were more frequent and more severe in the aspartame-treated group.
In a study of the effect of aspartame on 40 patients with depression, the study was cut short due to the severity of reactions within the first 13 patients tested. The outcome showed that individuals with mood disorders were particularly sensitive to aspartame and recommended that it be avoided by them.
The good news is that a recent study indicates there is no association between low-calorie sweeteners and cancer. Whew!
A study done with 14 dieters found that substituting diet drinks for sucrose-sweetened ones did not reduce total calorie intake and may even have resulted in a higher intake on subsequent days. In another study of 42 males given aspartame in diet lemonade versus sucrose-sweetened lemonade, there was no increase in hunger ratings or food intake with the diet group. People lose weight by consuming fewer calories than the body needs. When you replace a regular beverage with a diet beverage, you are consuming fewer calories and should lose weight. For aspartame to increase weight, there would have to be something else going on. There is not enough research to determine if something does exist so the jury is still out on this one. At least it’s out on why people aren’t losing weight on artificial sweeteners.
There have been some studies, though, that definitely show that people aren’t losing weight using these products. The Nurses' Health Study in 1970 found weight gain over eight years in 31,940 women using saccharin. In the early '80s, the American Cancer Society's study of 78,694 women found that after one year 2.7% to 7.1% more regular artificial-sweetener users gained weight compared to nonusers. The San Antonio Heart Study followed 3,682 adults over eight years on the early '80s. Those who consumed more artificial sweeteners had higher BMIs, and the more that they consumed, the higher the BMI. Sounds to me like we don’t need to wait to find out why. The message seems to be loud and clear. If you want to lose weight, artificial sweeteners aren’t going to help.
Aspartame changes the ratio of amino acids in the blood, blocking or lowering the levels of serotonin, tyrosine, dopamine, norepinephrine, and adrenaline. This is not good.
Serotonin is popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness, and serotonin deficiency is connected to depression.
Tyrosine is used by the body to synthesize proteins. Lowered levels of dopamine can contribute to Parkinson’s disease or even schizophrenia.
Norepinephrine is the hormone and neurotransmitter most responsible for concentration and memory. Adrenaline has many functions in the body, regulating heart rate, blood vessel and air passage diameters, and metabolic shifts. Adrenaline is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands during high stress or exciting situations. This powerful hormone is part of the human body's acute stress response system, also called the "fight or flight" response. It has many functions in the body, regulating the heart rate, contracting blood vessels, and dilating air passages, all of which work to increase blood flow to the muscles and oxygen to the lungs.
All of these amino acids are important to the proper functioning of the body. Blocking or lowering the levels of these amino acids is not a good thing. So it’s best to avoid foods sweetened with Aspartame. Instead try Frē® or Vim® ,
Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than table sugar, which means you don’t need much to make something sweet. However, even though it is a non-caloric sweetener, a test done on two occasions preceded by consuming wither Sucralose (experimental condition) or water (control condition) showed that sucralose ingestion caused a greater incremental increase in blood glucose concentrations, a greater increase in insulin levels and a decrease in insulin clearance, an indication of decreased insulin sensitivity. In other words, sucralose has been found to have diabetes-promoting effects.
Sucralose may be a trigger for migraines, according to a study published in the August, 2006 issue of Headache: Journal of Head and Face Pain.
A study by Y.F. Sasaki published in the 2002 Journal of Mutation Research concluded that high doses of sucralose led to DNA damage in the gastrointestinal organs of mice.
The Sucralose Toxicity Information Center reports that: While it is unlikely that sucralose is as toxic as the poisoning people are experiencing from…aspartame, it is clear from the hazards seen in pre-approval research and from its chemical structure that years or decades of use may contribute to serious chronic immunological or neurological disorders.
A recent study also shows that sucralose significantly decreases beneficial gut flora. On the other hand, our prebiotic Frē® and Vim® products feed these good bacteria, aiding in optimum digestive health.
Saccharin: It was once thought that saccharin caused cancer and for a time warning labels placed on products using it. However, the FDA later changed its mind and now saccharin is widely used, although not as much as aspartame or sucralose as it tends to have a bitter aftertaste. Since we like the sweet, not the bitter, why would we even want a sweetener with a bitter aftertaste?
Saccharin was first produced in 1878 by a chemist working on coal tar derivatives at Johns Hopkins University. For some reason, he happened to lick his hand at the end of the day and discovered it was sweet. Eureka!! A new artificial sweetener was born from a coal tar derivative.
Today, saccharin is commonly manufactured by combining anthranilic acid (used among other things as a corrosive agent for metal) with nitrous acid, sulfur dioxide, chlorine, and ammonia. If one of the ingredients will corrode metal, what do you suppose it would do to your stomach?
Mr. Harvey Wiley, who worked for the USDA back in the early 1900s, felt saccharin should not be used in foods, as it was injurious to the health. And the government folks have been going back and forth on it ever since. In 1911, they stated that foods with saccharin were “adulterated,” then in 1912, said that saccharin wasn’t harmful. Throughout the 1960s, various studies suggested that saccharin might be an animal carcinogen. In 1977, Canada banned saccharin while the FDA also proposed a ban. But there were no other artificial sweeteners at the time and diabetics were against the ban, so the product was allowed, but all foods containing it had to display a warning label indicating that saccharin may be a carcinogen. The warning label was removed in 2000. And, in 2010, saccharin was removed from nearly every carcinogenic list, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program to the EPA’s list of hazardous products. So the government is saying it’s okay to use it, no problems.
Many studies have since been performed on saccharin, some showing a correlation between saccharin consumption and increased frequency of cancer (especially bladder cancer) and others finding no such correlation. The National Cancer Institute noted a 10 percent increase in the incidence of bladder cancer between 1973 and 1994. An analysis of nearly 1,900 cases found that heavy use of artificial sweeteners was associated with increased risk of bladder cancer. British and Canadian studies had similar results.So who do you believe? Is using such a product worth the risk?
The Lifescript: Healthy Living for Women website published some great information on artificial sweeteners. Here’s what they had to say about a study done with saccharin on rats. Now, before you go saying, “well, that’s rats,” you need to know that the reason scientists experiment with food products on rats and mice is they are genetically similarly to humans, so what is true for our rodent friends would
also be true for humans.
“In [a] rat study at Purdue University…, researchers found that rats given yogurt sweetened with saccharin ate more calories, and gained more weight and body fat than rats who ate yogurt sweetened with sugar. And the saccharin-swilling rats didn’t cut back on calories later. The researchers speculate that the artificial sweetener confuses the body’s normal way of registering sweet food and calories. Usually, when we start to eat, our metabolism gets in gear, linking sweetness to incoming calories. But when the food tastes sweet but ushers in no calories, that basic mechanism gets confused, perhaps registering all sweets as without calories or undermining the ability to know when we’re full. That, in turn, may lead to overeating and decrease the ability to burn off calories. Other artificial sweeteners are likely to have the same effect, the researchers surmise.”
Acesuflame potassium (Ace-K) may not be as well known as some of the others (it is sold under the brand names of Sunett® and Sweet One®), but is still a sweetener with dangers. One of the chemicals in this sweetener contains is the known carcinogen methylene chloride. This chemical can cause visual disturbances, headaches, depression, liver effects, nausea, mental confusion, kidney problems and cancers. Although the FDA has determined that the amount of methylene chloride in Ace-K is not sifficient for concern, scientists in the Journal of the Environmental Health Perspectives have called for additional studies to be done to properly evaluate its safety. Acd-K has undergone the least scientific scrutiny. of all the artificial sweeteners. Early studies showed a link to multiple cancer developments in lab animals.
Neotame is also a lesser known sweetener. Chemically related to Aspartame, but modified to supposedly remove some of the negatives associated with Aspartame, still, study participants suffered headaches, abdominal pains, and diarrhea. These participants did receive doses higher than the FDA approved amount, but why take the chance? Even the manufacturer’s own pre-approval studies of neotame revealed adverse reactions, and there were no independent studies that found neotame to be safe. However, since the product is 30 times sweeter than aspartame, so less of it is needed, proponents claim that its increased toxicity is irrelevant.
So what does all this tell us? Well, an occasional diet soft drink will likely not kill you, but why take the chance? It just might make you hungrier. Drink water when you’re thirsty (it’ll satisfy your thirst much more than a soda will, anyway), and when you want something to satisfy that sweet tooth, cut up a bit of fruit in some plain yogurt and mix in some Frē® or Vim®. You’ll get the sweet you want and do your digestive system some good while you’re at it. These products are two answers to controlling our sugar intake. The natural sugars used in these products will not increase a person’s dietary glycemic load, but will give us the sweet taste we desire. They also provide prebiotic benefits for digestive health.