Whenever things say ‘diet’ or ‘sugar-free’ there is a pretty good chance there are artificial sweeteners added instead of sugar. Personally, I would rather eat something that has real sugar, just less of it, than products with chemicals added to make things taste sweet. Here’s a breakdown of two popular sweeteners and why I choose to avoid them.
Aspartame (found in Nutra-Sweet® and Equal®) is made of three components – aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. The body breaks methanol down into formaldehyde (aka embalming fluid, and also a carcinogen), formic acid, and DKP (diketopiperazine) – a compound that causes brain tumors. In high amounts, these products can produce blindness or other eye damage, and neurological damage. Aspartame may also be linked to cancer. There are other side effects that go along with aspartame and there may even be a whole set of symptoms known as aspartame disease. Symptoms can include: headaches, confusion, depression, dizziness, convulsions, nausea, fatigue, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and diarrhea.
Another artificial sweetener is sucralose (Splenda®). Sucralose is made by turning sugar into a chlorocarbon in a five-step process. Animal studies with sucralose have shown shrunken thymus glands, enlarged liver and kidneys, reduced growth rate, decrease in red blood cells, and decreased fetal weights. There have been no long term studies of sucralose in humans. There is some information to suggest that sucralose forms trace amounts of a mutagenic agent so may be linked to cancer. Side effects reported with sucralose include anxiety, depression, migraines, bloating, abdominal pain, gas, heart palpitations, and joint pain.
Drinking diet sodas has not even been shown to help with weight loss. In fact, artificial sweeteners may contribute to weight gain! This is because the sweet taste (hundreds of times as sweet as sugar) does not have the associated calories with it that our brain expects which may throw off our bodies capabilities to regulate energy balance. This may cause us to crave more calories.
Even some sugar free gums contain artificial sweeteners which is dangerous because they are absorbed right into your mucous membranes of your mouth directly into your blood stream. Many things on the market (yogurt, candy, supplements, etc.) contain these dangerous ingredients, so please read labels carefully!
I recommend limiting sugar but real sugar in small amounts is healthier than artificial sweeteners. Some other natural sweeteners that are most likely safe are stevia, chicory root, and Lo Han. Xylitol is considered safe at this time, but due to the lack of long term studies, I cannot give it a complete endorsement yet. Honey, molasses, and maple syrup are also great alternatives.
By: Dr. Christine Arseneau http://www.tinaspharm.com/
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