The vast amounts of artificial sweeteners going into our everyday food are staggering, and there are some artificial sweeteners that can have a devastating effect on your health. Artificial sweeteners are used almost ubiquitously now in our society as a way of replacing sugar and reducing the caloric content of food.Artificial-sweetener

Despite the initial annoyances one may experience with having to check all food items prior to consumption, the extra few seconds of reading may truly prove to be beneficial.

Below is a guide to the more common sugar substitutes and how they can affect the body:

Sucralose is a very common noncaloric sweetener that is 600 times sweeter than sugar. Because it is noncaloric, products containing it can tout “low” or “no calorie” from consuming the product. To make sucralose, Sucrose or sugar is used with Chlorine in a multi-step chemical process producing something unlike anything found in nature. The body doesn’t recognize it and sees it as a toxin and tries to rid the body of it. Chlorine is, however, bonded to products found in nature; consider Chlorine is combined with sodium, forming an “ionic bond” to yield table salt. Salt is totally natural and occurs in nature, and Sucralose does not. Sucralose producers (i.e. Splenda®) often highlight these irrelevant facts to defend its safety. The creators of Sucralose were trying to create a new insecticide knowing the chemistry behind their creation was deadly, but accidentally tasted the Sucralose and found out it was sweet. So they decided to sell it as a sweetener instead. Can you believe that, something that was intended to be a insecticide is now widely used in thousands of food products. Sucralose is not recognized by the body and therefore is not digested. It is consider a toxin and store in the fat tissues of the body. Think of the buildup of toxicity to your body after storing years of this poison. Although approved by the FDA (read on, you’ll learn this doesn’t mean much)more human studies are needed.

How to avoid Sucralose: avoid Splenda and products with the ingredient “sucralose.”

Aspartame is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar and has little to no calories also allowing claims that it’s a “low calorie” ingestible product. It is composed of 40% aspartic acid, 50% phenylalanine and 10% methanol. Although Aspartame is FDA-approved is has a lengthy list of varied negative side effects. First and foremost, people suffering from the disease phenylketonuria should not consume aspartame, as their body cannot break down the phenylalanine. Even for a person without phenylketonuria, ingesting tiny amounts of phenylalanine can be a mental health risk; phenylalanine can concentrate in the brain and excessive levels of it in the brain disrupts serotonin levels, leading to emotional disorders.

Since its discovery in 1965, controversy has raged over the health risks associated with Aspartame, the sugar substitute. From laboratory testing of the chemical on rats, researchers have discovered that the drug induces brain tumors. On Sept 30, 1980 the Board of Inquiry of the FDA concurred and denied the petition for approval.

In 1981, the newly appointed FDA Commissioner, Arthur Hull Hayes, ignored the negative ruling and approved aspartame for dry goods. As recorded in the Congressional Record of 1985, then CEO of Searle Laboratories (the manufacturer of Aspartame) Donald Rumsfeld said that he would “call in his markers” to get aspartame approved. Rumsfeld was on President Reagan’s transition team and a day after taking office appointed Hayes. No FDA Commissioner in the previous sixteen years had allowed aspartame on the market.

How to avoid aspartame: avoid eating foods (and chewing gums) with aspartame in the ingredient list and avoid artificial sweeteners by the names of NutraSweet, Equal, Sugar Twin, Spoonful and Equal-Measure.

Saccharin is about 300 times sweeter than sugar and is very low in calories. It is the oldest of the artificial sweeteners, having been created in the end of the 19th century. Saccharin is a sulfonamide, which means it may cause allergic reactions to those who are allergic to sulfa drugs.  The substance was evaluated by the FDA in 1908, during which the regulator proposed a ban on saccharin. This ban was later reversed and Saccharin has continued to be legal and used in the U.S. as an artificial sweetener. In the 1970s, tests done on lab rats found that those administered saccharin had higher rates of bladder cancer than those who were not. Saccharin was proposed to be made unavailable to American consumers, but ended up being labeled for consumers as potentially dangerous and for causing cancer in lab rats. Despite this knowledge of cancer occurrences, in 2000, the FDA repealed the warning label requirement for saccharin and in 2001 the FDA reversed their decision on saccharin, declaring it safe for consumption. Finally, in 2010, this substance was removed from the EPA’s list of hazardous materials.

How to avoid saccharin: avoid Sweet N’ Low and food products which contain the ingredient “saccharin.”

Neotame is 13,000 times sweeter than sugar and is non-caloric. It is composed of aspartame and dimethylbutyl. It is said that through the use of dimethylbutyl, phenylalanine production is blocked. The lengthy list of negative health effects attributed to aspartame were discussed earlier, but what are the health effects of dimehtylbutyl, if any? When tested on lab rats, repeated intake of higher amounts of dimethylbutyl led to an array of health issues, such as liver degeneration, hypothermia, and diarrhea.  However, when administered in lesser amounts, no significiant health effects on the rats were noted. No safety tests have been conducted on neotame, though it was approved as safe by NutraSweet, and, because of this, approved by the FDA. While this may seem unproblematic to some individuals, one has to consider that neotame has a higher level of toxicity than aspartame. Some people are concerned by neotame’s potential health effects such as neurotoxic and immunotoxic damage.

How to avoid neotame: avoid the artificial sweetener Sweetos and NutraSweet and products with the ingredient “neotame” or “neohexyl-aspartame.”

High fructose corn syrup is in nearly everything. This may be due to the fact that the U.S. government subsidizes corn, while making cane sugar unaffordable. Food companies have a few main options: they can choose to reduce the sizes of products that they sell, they can choose to increase the prices of the products that they sell, or they can decide to switch their ingredients from sugar to high fructose corn syrup.

High-fructose corn syrup is a corn syrup that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert some of its glucose into fructose to produce a desired level of sweetness. But because of its processing, some brands of HFCS may contain mercury, a known neurotoxin.

Moreover, many studies have indicated that it suppresses the sensation of being full, causing people to eat more of it. Rats fed HFCS developed fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes, while those on a fructose-free diet did not. And when they were given a high-fat diet, they gained more weight than those who had been on a fructose-free diet. Other studies suggest that HFCS directly causes obesity. HFCS also causes cardiovascular disease, even in children and adolescents as well.

Fructose is commonly thought of as “fruit sugar,” but fruit also contains glucose and fiber, sometimes a great deal of it, not to mention other nutrients. But studies indicate that fructose, processed and stripped of its co-factors, causes metabolic syndrome in animals. The metabolic processes involved in the breakdown of fructose can lead to a buildup of uric acid, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Fructose can raise blood triglyceride levels, which can trigger atherosclerosis, increases fat deposits around the viscera, and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight people. As Dr. David G. Williams writes in his Alternatives newsletter, “Cancer cells thrive on sugars”.

How do you avoid high fructose corn syrup? Well, that’s a tough one to answer, seeing that it is in rougly 52,000 food items. However, you can be sure that high fructose corn syrup is not in any “certified organic” products, although it can be part of the ingredient list on products labeled “natural.”  Your best bet is to take a look at the ingredient list on the container of whichever food you wish to be purchasing. High fructose corn syrup can even be found in seemingly healthy consumer items, such as a container of almonds.

Corn syrup is to be differentiated from the modern creation high fructose corn syrup. It is created through the process of adding enzymes to cornstarch to create syrup, which consequently breaks down into glucose. The glucose content can be anywhere between 20% and 98% of this syrup. Although corn syrup may not be inherently dangerous to the human body (although it is difficult to determine as there is little on non-high-fructose corn syrup), the unknown glucose levels and of potentially such high amounts, may be of concern. With perpetually above-normal levels of body glucose content, an individual is said to be pre-diabetic or diabetic.

How to avoid corn syrup: avoid products containing the ingredient and also products that list “corn sweetener” or “corn syrup solids” as an ingredient.

Lastly, my recommendation for a natural sweetener is Stevia, an herb that is much sweeter than sugar with no known side effects.  Stevia is a non-caloric herb native to Paraguay that has been used as a sweetener for over 1,500 years in South America, without harmful effects. The herb, related to the lettuce family, has also been used in Japan since the early 1970s to sweeten pickles and other foods.

Stevia has many helpful properties. It has:

* No sugar and no calories.
* Anti-inflammatory effects.
* Is 100 percent naturally derived.
* 250 to 300 times the sweetness of sugar.
* Heat stability to 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit).
* No fermentation properties.
* Flavor-enhancing qualities.
* Plaque-retardant and Anti-caries properties to help prevent cavities.
* Been recommended for diabetics because it does not spike insulin.
* Anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.
* Been shown to lower blood pressure in those with hypertension.

Over 100 phytochemicals have been discovered in Stevia, and it is rich in terpenes and flavonoids. Besides having been in use for hundreds of years, extensive testing in animals has demonstrated no harmful effects. Its main sweet chemical, stevioside, has been found to be nontoxic in acute toxicity studies with rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and birds. It also has been shown that it does not cause cellular changes nor affect fertility. The natural stevia leaf also has been found to be nontoxic and has no mutagenic activity.

Stevia can be used in cooking and as a tabletop sweetener. It is available from most grocery stores, in liquid form, powder and even in the convenient small packets. Since it is so powerful, one of the new Stevia cookbooks would probably be a good purchase for those who want to use it in recipes. Only a very small amount is recommended and that is all that is necessary to obtain the same amount of sweetening as sugar.

Stevia has become popular in spite of the FDA. In 1997 it was reported by 60 Minutes that manufacturers of aspartame paid off the FDA to keep Stevia from being approved. Yet aspartame is a sweetener with dangerous side effects.

Sources for information in article:
– Elizabeth Lyden, article in Science section of Policymic
-Cathy Sherman, a freelance writer with a major interest in natural health
-Natural News Staff Writer
-News With Views Staff Writer

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