Artificial sugar substitutes are both unnecessary and definitely dangerous. The use of chemical substances to substitute natural sugar has been around since 1879, when Saccharin was discovered at Johns Hopkins University. It was the only sugar substitute for 70 years until the now US banned cancer causing Cyclamate made its appearance in 1951.
If we know for a fact that artificial substances can wreak havoc on our system, and that there is a superabundance of natural sugars all over the place. Why do we need artificial sweeteners at all?
Artificial sweeteners are used mainly for weight loss and diabetes, but even here there are many reasons to believe they are not only unnecessary, but even more dangerous to the purpose than natural sugars can ever be.
The sweetness response
Considering the fact that the only “logical” reasons to engage in the use and abuse of laboratory made synthetic sweeteners is weight loss and/or diabetes, we present here proof on how far off from reality these reasons are. Numerous animal studies have proven once and once again that a sweet taste induces an insulin response similar to that of natural sugar anyway. Even when the model findings to humans is somewhat unclear, the release of insulin causes blood sugar to be stored in tissues (including fat).
In the case of a response to artificial sweeteners, because blood sugar does not increase there can be increased hypoglycemia or hyperinsulinemia and increased food intake the next time there is a meal. Rats given sweeteners have steadily increased calorie intake, increased body weight, and increased adiposity (fatness). Furthermore, the natural responses to eating sugary foods (eating less at the next meal and using some of the extra calories to warm the body after the sugary meal) are gradually lost.
As if this was not enough, artificial sweeteners, like most synthetic substances create an unnatural response in our organism. And this response can have fatal consequences and a whole range of terrible side effects, though not of all of them noticeable in the short run.
“Natural” sugar substitutes
There are several kinds of sugar substitutes. Those from natural sources like grape juice concentrate, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar and molasses have about the same effect in the body as other natural sugars. Agave nectar can contain too much fructose though, and consumption of large amounts of fructose can be deleterious and can trigger fructose malabsorption, metabolic syndrome, hypertriglyceridemia, decreased glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, and accelerated uric acid formation. And this is the same that happens when we drink too much fruit juice. Soft drinks contain high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is even worse than unprocesed fructose.
Sugar alcohols are lower in calories than natural sugars but not sweeter, and even though they occur naturally in some fruits and vegetables, they are manufactured for commercial purposes. Despite their name they don't contain alcohol and can't be called totally natural either. Overconsumption of sugar alcohols can lead to bloating, diarrhea and flatulence because they are not absorbed in the small intestine. Example of sugar alcohols are: arabitol, erythritol, maltitol, sorbitol and xylitol.
Artificial sugar substitutes
Dangerous substance like artificial sugar substitutes are much sweeter than natural occurring sugars, and have virtually no calories. Hence their popularity. But all of them are dangerous.
Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet'N Low) is known to produce cancer and it is a potent allergen; Cyclamate (Non-US Sweet'N Low and Sugar Twin) is a strong carcinogen. Sucralose (Splenda) creates all sorts of complications like irritations, allergies, mood swings and nausea; Neotame has a chemical similarity to aspartame so it causes some of the same serious problems and Acesulfame K (Sunett, Sweet One) contains the carcinogen methylene chloride. Long-term exposure to methylene chloride can cause headaches, depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver effects, kidney effects, visual disturbances, and cancer in humans.
Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) leads the list for its adverse reactions accounting to close to 75% of all food additives complaints to the FDA. At least 100 symptoms have been reported. Aspartame is composed of Aspartic acid (40%), Phenylalanine (50%) and methanol (10%). Methanol or wood alcohol is a known poison. Aspartic acid and Phenylalanine are naturally occurring amino acids involved in brain function. Too much of them kills neurons and reduce levels of serotonin.
Side effects of aspartame consumption include brain cancer, diabetes, seizures, birth defects and several mental disorders.
- Artificial Sweeteners; MedicineNet.
- Fructose, insulin resistance, and metabolic dyslipidemia; Basciano H, Federico L, Adeli K.
- Drink More Diet Soda, Gain More Weight; Daniel J. DeNoon (WebMD Health News).
- New Salvo in Splenda Skirmish; Lynnley Browning.
- Food: The chemistry of its components. Cambridge, UK: The Royal Society of chemistry; Coultate, T.
- Gut-expressed gustducin and taste receptors regulate secretion of glucagon-like peptide-1; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
- A role for sweet taste: calorie predictive relations in energy regulation by rats; Swithers SE, Davidson TL
Useful Web Links
- Nutrition (8)
- Fitness (5)
- Health (5)
- Natural (4)