HOW SWEET IT ISN’T: THE SCOOP ON SWEETENERS
Natural sweeteners like sugar, honey and maple syrup are extracts of real foods,
and are commonly referred to as refined carbohydrates. All sugars contain 4
calories per gram, or 18 calories per teaspoonful. We live at a time when sugary foods are everywhere, and many of us consume much, much more than our ancestors did. Natural sugars are quickly absorbed and assimilated, and when consumed in excess, overwork the pancreas and adrenal glands, as well as contributing to dental cavities.
In view of all the bad press sugar has received, many people have turned to
artificial sweeteners to provide that sweet taste without the calorie kicker. Is this
really a healthful step? Decide for yourself:
Cyclamate was banned in the US in 1969, because it was clearly carcinogenic
(cancer-causing) in lab studies. A modified version is still available in Canada, sold as Sweet ‘N Low. The package disclaimer states to only use cyclamates under the
advice of a physician (and if your physician has read all the current studies, he
or she would never recommend it for you!)
Saccharin has been around since the early 1900’s, but was not widely used until
Cyclamate was banned. Canada banned Saccharin in 1977, when it was
discovered to increase the risk of bladder cancer in men and to have potential
toxicity in pregnancy.
Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) has the longest list of complaints the FDA (The US Food and Drug Administration) has ever received against an approved food additive. Symptoms associated with Aspartame range from rashes, visual disturbance, migraine, and depression to increased seizures in epileptics and a possible association with brain tumors! As well, the body’s metabolism of Aspartame leads to the production of methanol, a known toxin, in the intestinal tract. Many doctors advise pregnant women to avoid aspartame. Do you need any more reasons to banish Aspartame from your healthy diet?
Sucralose (Splenda) was declared safe by the FDA in 1990. However, researchers report decreased immunity and enlarged livers and kidneys in lab rats fed on Sucralose, which may indicate it’s not so good for people either.
Sugar alcohols such as Xylitol, Mannitol… or any sweetener whose name ends with “tol” are touted as being more natural. However, these sugar - alcohols cannot be digested in the small intestine, so they pass into the colon, where they can trigger gas, flatulence or diarrhea.
Most folks use artificial sweeteners to control their blood sugar or help shed
excess pounds. However, not one study has ever demonstrated these effects.
In fact, there is some evidence that artificial sweeteners stimulate the appetite
and interfere with blood sugar regulation. The brain tastes the sweetness, but does not receive the calories from it, making us seek even more sweet in order to feel satisfied. During the last few decades, after widespread use of these products, North Americans have become heavier than ever and the rate of adult-onset diabetes has soared.
What can an informed consumer do? Your best bet is to reduce your sweet habit
overall. Start by cutting out diet drinks, which have absolutely nothing to offer you nutritionally. Learn to appreciate the naturally sweet flavors of whole
natural foods. And if you do yearn for something sweet, turn to honey, maple
syrup or a pinch of raw sugar instead. Or why not try Monkfruit or Stevia? These
are natural sweeteners from plant sources that are safe and not disruptive to blood sugar levels.