Sugar Substitutes: Friend or Foe?
by Pat Barone, CPCC, MCC
“America’s Weight Loss Catalyst”
In the quest for weight loss, America has engaged in a love affair with sugar substitutes. Unfortunately, it’s been a one sided, abusive relationship, with the American consumer the victim.
Not only has long-term research shown each sugar substitute to be a health risk, it has also proven that consumers who use sugar substitutes GAIN weight instead of losing it.
Here are some of the types of sugar substitutes currently on the market:
Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal)
Aspartame, marketed as such brands as Nutrasweet, Equal, Spoonful and Equal-Measure, first appeared in the U.S. in 1981, when the U.S. obesity rate was 46%. Today, the rate is 63%. Clearly, aspartame has not been effective in helping to reduce the overall weight of U.S. citizens. Most experts now believe it has negative impact on weight loss.
Along with the rising obesity rates, mounting questions about its effectiveness and its safety continue to plague the food additive. Some of the unwanted side effects include:
1. increased hunger and cravings
2. lowered serotonin which causes depression and/or mood swings
3. the release of insulin in proportions to the sweetness of the food eaten, usually more than needed by the body
4. with overproduction of insulin, fat cells grow faster
5. increased thirst because aspartame dehydrates the body
6. impaired sleep
Artificial sweeteners can also change your perception of what is sweet and alter the amounts of sugar it takes to satisfy you. Studies have proven that people who use artificial sweeteners consume MORE sugar than those who do not.
In addition to the damage cravings can cause (both emotionally and physically), dehydration is a major cause of weight gain. With greater thirst, many people just consume more soda laden with more chemicals.
It is also easy to confuse thirst and hunger and many people eat when they are actually thirsty. Do you crave something cold and sweet, like ice cream? It’s probably not hunger – it’s thirst talking to you.
Widespread Use/Widespread Adverse Reactions
According to a 1998 survey by the Calorie Control Counsel, 144 million American adults regularly consume sugar-free, artificially sweetened foods every day.
If 1% of aspartame users have adverse reactions, that is over 1 million problems. The FDA has admitted that 3/4 of all its non-drug complaints are for the unwanted ill effects from aspartame use.
Some of the complaints include the following:
- Anxiety attacks
- Bloating and fluid retention
- Brain tumors
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Chest pains and/or heart palpitations
- Equilibrium Problems
- Exacerbated diabetes and/or hypoglycemia
- Headaches and/or migraines
- Inability to concentrate
- Joint Pain
- Memory Loss
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Rashes, hives and skin problems
- Vision Impairment
- Weight Gain
The chemical breakdown for aspartame is 40% aspartate, 50% phenylalanine and 10% methanol, a deadly poison (wood alcohol). The Environmental Protection Agency defines safe consumption as no more than 7.8 milligrams per day of this dangerous substance. A one-liter beverage, sweetened with aspartame, contains about 56 milligrams of wood alcohol, or eight times the EPA limit!
In addition, aspartame is metabolized by the body into carcinogins or cancer-causing agents and kills brain cells every time it is ingested.
Aspartame stayed on the market for many years despite widely varying research results:
In 74 studies sponsored by aspartame manufacturers, all 74 (100%) claimed that no problems were found with aspartame.
83 out of 84 independent reports found problems.
The aspartame industry-sponsored studies are usually the ones the American public sees cited in news and television reports.
The Hasty, Desperate Leap to Sucralose (Splenda)
Today, lawsuits are proliferating against the manufacturers of aspartame and, as a result, food and beverage manufacturers are making a hasty leap to a new product, sucralose, also known as Splenda.
Sucralose is made from bonding sugar (sucrose) to chlorine.
That statement of fact should be all it takes to throw anything containing splenda out the window!
- Yes, the same chemical used in bleach!
- The same chemical you’ve been warned against ingesting for 50 or 60 years!
- The same chemical that is classified as a PESTICIDE!
- The same chemical many municipalities are banning from swimming pools!
- The same chemical linked to breast cancer in women (who does 90% of the cleaning, often using cleansers containing chlorine?).
Canada is making moves to ban it, even for household cleaning use, but the FDA backed the ingestion of it for over 20 years.
Isn’t it odd that big money makers like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, although they are still claiming aspartame is safe, switched to Splenda for their products in such an amazingly swift time?
As of 2005, only six human trials have been conducted on Splenda and only two of the trials were completed and published before the FDA approved sucralose for human consumption. The two published trials had a grand total of 36 total human subjects.
36 people sure doesn’t sound like a large study, but wait — it gets worse — only 23 total were actually given Splenda for testing and the longest use lasted only four days and looked at Splenda in relation to tooth decay, not human tolerance. Is that conclusive enough to be putting it in your body?
McNeil Nutritionals, manufacturer of Splenda, has claimed Splenda has endured some of the most rigorous testing to date for any food additive. They claim that over 100 studies have been conducted on Splenda. What they don’t say is that most of the studies are on animals.
Did you know that Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, when served from a fountain at a restaurant, don’t contain aspartame or splenda?
They contain saccharin. After research indicated saccharin caused cancer, the FDA considered banning saccharin in 1977 but decided to allow its use with a printed warning instead. Did your server at Chili’s give you that warning when she served you?
There have been no long-term human toxicity studies published until after the FDA approved Splenda for human consumption. Following FDA approval, a human toxicity trial was conducted, but lasted only three months, hardly the length of time most Splenda users plan to consume sucralose. No studies have ever been done on children or pregnant women.
No matter what, the sparse human studies show that 15% of Splenda is not excreted by the body. Where is that chemical compound going in the body and what is the body doing with it? Considering that Splenda bears more chemical similarity to DDT than it does to sugar, are you willing to bet your health on this data? Remember that fat soluble substances, such as DDT, can remain in your fat for decades and devastate your health.
Because Splenda is a food additive, not a drug, the number of studies required to receive FDA approval is substantially less than a drug. And that means the American public’s health is less important than money in the pockets of big corporations.
In addition, Splenda is supposed to work because it can’t be digested by the body. Which means it can’t give you energy. What does your body do when it eats something sweet, which it knows should give you energy (at least momentarily), and it doesn’t get that jolt of fuel?
It keeps you hungry!
Other early reports of panic attacks, paranoia, limb numbness, gastrointestinal distress and “fake” heart attacks don’t bode well for the newest sugar substitute.
There is now serious concern that some people do absorb Splenda just like sugar and even further concern that people using it will adjust to it, allowing absorption. That means you’re basically ingesting sugar. This is especially bad news for diabetics who count on it not affecting their blood sugar levels.
The first lawsuits are for false advertising, because the slogan “good for you because it’s made from real sugar” is deceptive to the public. Stay tuned. Further lawsuits are imminent.
This is a new derivative of the same ingredients in aspartame, reformulated in an attempt to make the product harder to break down by the body. It’s rare in the market.
Examples: Sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, maltitol, lactitol, isomalt, erythritol
These are made by bonding hydrogen to sugars. Some are supposedly calorie-free (erythritol which is not supposed to be absorbed by the body) and some have 3/4 the calories of sugar (no big help if you’re a calorie-counter).
These compounds are, however, laxatives. They can seriously affect digestion, causing bloating, cramping, diarrhea, flatulence, and intestinal distress.
Marketed as naturlose, tagatose is manufactured from lactose (milk sugar) and has the same laxative reactions as sugar alcohols noted above.
The body can’t metabolize the synthetic chemical acesulfame, but no definitive studies exist (one study was suspended because the rats involved were so drastically sick), which should indicate that it should not be on the market at all. Acesulfame is found in non-sugar ice creams, gum and many protein mixes for high-protein shakes (yes, the ones touted for weight loss!).
Stevia is a natural substance, extracted from a shrub grown in South America, that is not absorbable by the body.
Many nutritionists and naturapathic doctors swear by Stevia. The FDA, which has bent over backwards to include chemical sweeteners, mysteriously lagged in its acceptance of Stevia. It was approved for use in food only recently, in 2009, and therefore there are few reports about reactions to it. Some people have reported an increase in acidity and acid reflux when using it.
No doubt this story will develop in the next few years.
Is Losing Weight Without Artificial Sweeteners Possible?
In a cruel and ironic twist, aspartame actually caused weight gain. Phenylalanine and aspartate, found in aspartame, stimulate the release of insulin. Rapid, strong spikes in insulin remove all glucose from the blood-stream and store it as fat. This can result in hypoglycemia and sugar cravings.
83 (out of 84) independent reports found:
Research shows Aspartame actually stimulates appetite and brings on a craving for carbohydrates and sugary foods. In 1986, The American Cancer Society documented the fact that persons using artificial sweeteners gain more weight than those who avoid them.
When a diet drink is ingested with a meal, aspartame causes the brain to cease production of serotonin, therefore the feeling of fullness is greatly delayed and the body continues to give out hunger signals.
In a recent study, a control group switching to an aspartame-free diet resulted in an average weight loss of 19 pounds in one year!
The only thing better than losing that much weight is the fact that most people who cut aspartame from their diets report a huge lift in their spirits. In my own practice, ALL of my clients who give up aspartame report relief from a low-level depression they did not even recognize was present in their lives.
Feel better! Guard your health! There is nothing more important than your health and well-being and aspartame may not be enhancing your health.
Tips for Eliminating Artificial Sweeteners
1. Cut back slowly. If you add it to food and drinks, cut your portions in half, then cut back to one quarter of your normal serving. If you drink 3 sodas a day, cut back to two for a week, then go to one for a week, then one-half.
2. Pay attention to your sense of sweet. It may change drastically. When you crave something sweet, allow yourself to eat a very small portion of whatever you are craving (provided it has no Nutrasweet in it) paying absolute attention to what you are eating. Eat slowly and savor it.
3. Read food labels. Aspartame is “hidden” in many foods, especially yogurt, low calorie jams, salad dressings, candy, breath mints, cereals, sugar-free chewing gum, cocoa mixes, coffee beverages, instant breakfasts, frozen desserts and shake mixes.
4. Recognize that it may take 60 days to rid your body of the effects of artificial sweeteners. Some users of Splenda have reported it took a year to feel normal again!
Never give your children artificial sweeteners. Children do not have the same blood brain barrier development as adults and toxic substances can have negative effects on their nervous systems. Aspartame may be a factor in ADD, hyperactivity, mental retardation and various other neurological problems in children and is an ingredient in many children’s medicines!
More importantly, never use aspartame if you are pregnant or nursing.
ASPARTAME (NUTRASWEET): IS IT SAFE?; by Dr. H.J. Roberts; Philadelphia, PA; 1989; Charles Press.
SWEETNER DEAREST: BITTERSWEET VIGNETTES ABOUT ASPARTAME (NUTRASWEET); by Dr. H.J. Roberts; West Palm Beach, FL; 1992; Sunshine Sentinel Press.
EXCITOTOXINS: THE TASTE THAT KILLS; by Russell L. Blaylock; Sante Fe, NM; 1994; Health Press.
DEADLY DECEPTION – THE STORY OF ASPARTAME; edited by Mary Nash Stoddard; 1987; the Aspartame Consumer Safety Network.
SWEET NOTHINGS – NOT ALL SWEETENERS ARE EQUAL; by David Schardt, Nutrition Action, The Center for Science in the Public Interest, May 2004.