Artificial Sweeteners. Not So Sweet to your Health

Artificial sweeteners are products that are not found in nature and are used to replace natural sweeteners like sugar and honey. Below are two of the most commonly used sweeteners by the food industry and some information on their potential health problems.

High Fructose Corn Syrup is an engineered  combination of fructose and glucose that acts differently  in the body than does fructose (fruit sugar) or sucrose (table sugar). HFCS  is the most   common sweetener used today and can be found not only in sodas but also in products that you might not expect it such as;

  • Breads and cereals (including some “healthy” brands),
  • Hamburgers and luncheon meats
  • Canned salmon
  • Medications

The fructose in HFCS is converted to fat more readily than any other type of sugar and is known to increase triglyceride levels. Unlike glucose, fructose does not raise blood insulin levels. This means that overconsumption of HFCS can lead to the body not receiving  important regulatory messages as to food intake and can lead to eating too many calories.

Aspartame (Nutrasweet or Equal)

This sweetener is found in many products including gums and many “no” or “low-calorie” drinks. It is completely metabolized by the body and many of its by-products, including methanol (wood alcohol) can cause complications.

Warnings about the toxicity of aspartame were issued in 1991 by the National Institute of Health which found 167 potential adverse effects. Again in 1994 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services detailed 88 documented symptoms of aspartame toxicity including headaches, memory loss, slurred speech and vision problems.

Ralph Walton, chairman of the Center for Behavioral Medicine at Northeastern Ohio   University  College of Medicine, performed a comparative survey of the conflicting    studies as to the dangers of aspartame and found that 83 separate experiments over two decades found significant adverse effects from the use of aspartame. Interestingly, many of the studies that  do not show adverse effects from aspartame are funded by the food  industry.

An American Cancer Association study tracking 8000 women for six years concluded, “amongst women who gained weight, artificial sweetener users gained more than those who did not use the products.” Researchers theorized that the synthetic chemicals affect hormone levels and may slow  metabolism and/or increase appetite.

Splenda (Sucralose)

One interesting and rather scary fact about Sucralose has to do with it’s discovery. Sucralose was discovered by accident in 1975 when a graduate student in a chemistry lab licked his finger while working to create new  insecticides!

Splenda is marketed as a natural product, yet it’s structure (three chlorine molecules added to a sugar molecule) is one that is never found in nature.

At least 15% of Splenda is not immediately excreted from your body in a timely manner. Some scientists are unsure of the exact long-term effects this may pose to the body.  According to Dr. James Bowen, a physician and    biochemist, any cholorocarbons (like those found in sucralose) that are not excreted from the body intact can cause immense damage to the process of human metabolism and even our internal organs including the liver.

In addition to Splenda, other artificial sweeteners to avoid include saccharin, cyclamate, acesulfame-K, and neotame. You can find these names by simply reading the ingredient lists of foods. A simple rule to follow is to avoid all products labeled as “no-sugar”, “zero-calorie”, or “no-calorie”  because these items will almost always contain artificial sweeteners. If you chew gum regularly, you should also check labels because the majority of gums on the market use artificial sweeteners, and many use a combination of a few different ones.

Some healthier alternatives include raw honey and Stevia, which is a sweetener that comes from the Stevia plant and has been used for years in Japan as a sweetener and until very recently was only allowed to be sold here as a “nutritional supplement”.

For more information on artificial sweeteners read Sweet Deception by Dr. Joseph Mercola and Dr. Kendra Degen Pearsall or just do a quick search on the internet regarding these sweeteners and you will be amazed and should be a little concerned if you do use them, especially if you consume them every day.