The Effects of Artificial Sweeteners
Americans are increasingly consuming artificial sweeteners often thinking that it is the perfect solution to their sweet tooth with little to no caloric aftermath. Yet this country continues to pack on the pounds and much as 75% of the country is overweight.
Basically, artificial sweeteners confuse your brain. The enzymes in your mouth begin a cascade that primes your cell receptors for an insulin surge, and when it doesn’t arrive your brain feels cheated. That’s why most diet sodas are loaded with caffeine — so you’ll still feel a jolt. But even if your brain is distracted momentarily, soon enough it wants the energy boost you promised it — and you find yourself craving carbohydrates. In one study, people who used artificial sweeteners ate up to three times the amount of calories as the control group. But again, this is individual. It all comes down to the brain’s perception of calories, which can get thrown off whenever artificial ingredients are substituted for whole food.
Two Recent studies on the effect of artificial sweeteners: the first from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and published in Behavioral Neuroscience, doctors compared two groups of rats: One consuming yogurt sweetened with glucose and the other with artificial sweetener. The rats consuming the artificial sweetener were unable to regulate their intake, leading to greater weight gain and more body fat as they had a greater overall consumption of calories. It appears that by avoiding sugar and using the fake stuff, the body is not able to regulate hunger and appetite, which leads to increased consumption. In Circulation, July 2007, a second study was published that observed soft drink consumption and the risk for the markers of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is currently the most worrisome lifestyle malady. It is defined by having at least three of the following: elevated triglycerides, abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, elevated blood pressure or low HDL. Metabolic syndrome makes you 3-4 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease. The study showed that drinking one or more sodas a day increased the risk of obesity by 31 percent and the risk of metabolic syndrome by 44 percent! There was no difference in risk between diet and regular pop.
Artificial sweeteners are considered nonnutritive sweeteners because they provide no calories when consumed. There are many forms of artificial sweeteners, including Splenda (sucralose), Sweet’N Low (saccharin), Equal and Nutrasweet (aspartame), acesulfame K and neotame. Natural alternative -Stevia Sorbitol, and a new one Tagatose
The five FDA-approved nonnutritive sweeteners are saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, and neotame. Each of these is regulated as a food additive. These sweeteners are evaluated based on their safety, sensory qualities (for example, clean sweet taste, no bitterness, odorless), and stability in various food environments. They are often combined with other nutritive and/or nonnutritive sweeteners to provide volume that they lack on their own and a desired flavor. An Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for each additive has been established. The ADI is the amount of food additive that can be consumed daily over a lifetime without appreciable health risk to a person on the basis of all the known facts at the time of the evaluation.
Aspartame is one of the most controversial nonnutritive sweeteners. There are numerous Web sites, books, and articles stating various reasons why aspartame should not be consumed. Some site studies to support their theories while others base their claims on industry-related conspiracies. The following is a summary of the opposing views on aspartame: Now to be called Amino Sweet
Industry conspiracies: Conflicts of interest in the studies performed on aspartame and the way in which its approval was obtained is an ongoing controversy. Dr. Robert Walton surveyed the studies of aspartame in the peer-reviewed medical literature. He states that “of the 166 studies felt to have relevance for questions of human safety, 74 had Nutrasweet industry related funding and 92 were independently funded. One hundred percent of the industry-funded research attested to aspartame’s safety, whereas 92% of the independently funded research identified a problem.” Other reports of federal employees working for the companies responsible for the testing and distribution of aspartame are cited on all of the sites and books opposing the use of aspartame.
Aspartame disease: H.J. Roberts, MD, coined the term “aspartame disease” in a book filled with over 1,000 pages of information about the negative health consequences of ingesting aspartame. Dr. Roberts reports that by 1998, aspartame products were the cause of 80% of complaints to the FDA about food additives. Some of these symptoms include headache, dizziness, change in mood, vomiting or nausea, abdominal pain and cramps, change in vision, diarrhea, seizures/convulsions, memory loss, and fatigue. Along with these symptoms, links to aspartame are made for fibromyalgia symptoms, spasms, shooting pains, numbness in your legs, cramps, tinnitus, joint pain, unexplainable depression, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, blurred vision, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, and various cancers. Aspartame should be avoided by most women, but particularly in those with neuropsychiatric concerns. Recent studies in Europe show that aspartame use can result in an accumulation of formaldehyde in the brain, which can damage your central nervous system and immune system and cause genetic trauma. While the FDA has assured us that the research does not show any adverse health complications from aspartame, there has been some evidence to suggest that some of these symptoms can be related to aspartame:
Headaches: One study confirmed that individuals with self-reported headaches after the ingestion of aspartame were in deed susceptible to headaches due to aspartame. Three randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled studies with more than 200 adult migraine sufferers showed that headaches were more frequent and more severe in the aspartame-treated group.
Depression: In a study of the effect of aspartame on 40 patients with depression, the study was cut short due to the severity of reactions within the first 13 patients tested. The outcome showed that individuals with mood disorders were particularly sensitive to aspartame and recommended that it be avoided by them.
Cancer: In an initial study, 12 rats out of 320 developed malignant brain tumors after receiving aspartame in an FDA trial. There have been other studies to both support and contradict this finding. A recent study, conducted by Italian and French researchers indicates there is no association between low-calorie sweeteners and cancer. The researchers evaluated a variety of studies between the years of 1991 and 2004. These studies assessed the relationship between low-calorie sweeteners and many cancers, including oral and pharynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, larynx, breast, ovary, prostate and renal cell carcinomas. The researchers examined the eating habits of more than 7,000 men and women in their middle ages (mainly 55 years and over). Based on the data evaluated, there was no evidence that saccharin or other sweeteners (mainly aspartame) increase the risk of cancer at several common sites in humans. The debate continues while more research is conducted.
Increased hunger: A study done with 14 dieters comparing the effects of aspartame-sweetened and sucrose-sweetened soft drinks on food intake and appetite ratings found that substituting diet drinks for sucrose-sweetened ones did not reduce total calorie intake and may even have resulted in a higher intake on subsequent days. In another study of 42 males given aspartame in diet lemonade versus sucrose-sweetened lemonade, there was no increase in hunger ratings or food intake with the diet group. Weight loss results from consuming fewer calories than your body needs. When you replace a caloric beverage with a noncaloric beverage, you will be saving calories and could lose weight if it is enough calories to put you in a negative balance.
Sucralose is the newest nonnutritive sweetener on the market. It is most well known for its claim to be made from sugar. It is as sold as Splenda and is 600 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). It provides essentially no calories and is not fully absorbed. In 1998, it was approved for limited use, and in 1999, it was given approval for use as a general-purpose sweetener. It is currently found in over 4,500 products, including foods that are cooked or baked.
The FDA reviewed studies in human beings and animals and determined that sucralose did not pose carcinogenic, reproductive, or neurological risk to human beings. The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for sucralose was set at 5 mg/kg of body weight/day. To determine your ADI, divide your weight in pound by 2.2 and then multiply it by 50. For example, if you weighted 200 lbs., your weight in kg would be 91 (200 divided by 2.2) and your ADI for sucralose would be 455 mg (91 x 5).
A lot of the controversy surrounding sucralose stems from the fact that it was discovered while trying to create a new insecticide. The claim that it is made from sugar is a misconception about the final product. According to the book Sweet Deception, sucralose is made when sugar is treated with trityl chloride, acetic anhydride, hydrogen chlorine, thionyl chloride, and methanol in the presence of dimethylformamide, 4-methylmorpholine, toluene, methyl isobutyl ketone, acetic acid, benzyltriethlyammonium chloride, and sodium methoxide, making it unlike anything found in nature. The Splenda Web site even states that “although sucralose has a structure like sugar and a sugar-like taste, it is not natural.” The product Splenda is also not actually calorie-free. Sucralose does have calories, but because it is 600 times sweeter than sugar, very small amounts are needed to achieve the desired sweetness. The first two ingredients in Splenda are dextrose and maltodextrin, which are used to increase bulk and are carbohydrates that are not free of calories. One cup of Splenda contains 96 calories and 32 grams of carbohydrates, which is substantial for people with diabetes but unnoticed due to the label claiming that it’s a no calorie sweetener.
The name sucralose is another misleading factor. The suffix –ose is used to name sugars, not additives. Sucralose sounds very close to sucrose, table sugar, and can be confusing for consumers. A more accurate name for the structure of sucralose was purposed. The name would have been trichlorogalactosucrose, but the FDA did not believe that it was necessary to use this so sucralose was allowed.
The presence of chlorine is thought to be the most dangerous component of sucralose. Chlorine is considered a carcinogen and has been used in poisonous gas, disinfectants, pesticides, and plastics. The digestion and absorption of sucralose is not clear due to a lack of long-term studies on humans. The majority of studies were done on animals for short lengths of time. The alleged symptoms associated with sucralose are gastrointestinal problems (bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea), skin irritations (rash
, hives, redness, itching, swelling), wheezing, cough, runny nose, chest pains, palpitations, anxiety, anger, moods swings, depression, and itchy eyes. The only way to be sure of the safety of sucralose is to have long-term studies on humans done
Acesulfame K has been an approved sweetener since 1988, and yet most people are not even aware that this is a nonnutritive sweetener being used in their food and beverages. It is listed in the ingredients on the food label as acesulfame K, acesulfame potassium, Ace-K, or Sunett. It is 200 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar) and is often used as a flavor-enhancer or to preserve the sweetness of sweet foods. The FDA has set an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of up to 15 mg/kg of body weight/day.
The problems surrounding acesulfame K are based on the improper testing and lack of long-term studies. Acesulfame K does contain 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. There has been a great deal of opposition to the use of acesulfame K without further testing, but at this time, the FDA has not required that these tests be done.
NeotanIn In 2002, the FDA approved a new version of aspartame called Neotame. Neotame is chemically related to aspartame without the phenylalanine dangers for individuals with PKU. It is much sweeter than aspartame with a potency of approximately 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). The FDA has set an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) at 18 mg/kg of body weight/day.
Neotame entered the market much more discreetly than the other nonnutritive sweeteners. While the Web site for neotame claims that there are over 100 scientific studies to support its safety, they are not readily available to the public. Opponents of neotame claim that the studies that have been done do not address the long-term health implications of using this sweetener. Without scientifically sound studies, done by independent labs, the opponents of neotame will continue to refute its use.
Stevia and sorbitol — natural alternatives to artificial sweeteners
Other countries and diabetics have both taught us a lot about controlling insulin naturally. For many years, diabetics have used products sweetened with polyalcohol sugars like sorbitol, xylitol, malitol, and mannitol. These are natural sweeteners that do not trigger an insulin reaction. (Xylitol can be derived from birch tree pulp.) They have half the calories of sugar and are not digested by the small intestine.
While most polyalcohol sugars have no side effects, sorbitol is a natural laxative and can cause diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating and flatulence.
For this reason, we recommend the herb stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) over sorbitol as a natural sweetener to our patients. Known in South America as the “sweet herb,” stevia has been used for over 400 years without ill effect. Stevia has been enormously popular in Japan, where it has been in use for more than 20 years, now rivaling Equal and Sweet’N Low. It’s 200–300 times sweeter than sugar, so just a small portion of stevia will sweeten even a strong cup of tea. We’ve known about stevia in the US since 1918, but pressure from the sugar import trade blocked its use as a commodity. Today stevia is slowly gaining steam as a sugar substitute, despite similar hurdles. The FDA has approved its use as a food supplement, but not as a food additive due to a lack of studies. Stevia can be used for anything you might use sugar in, including baking. It is naturally low in carbohydrates. You can buy stevia at most health food stores and over the web. There will always be those who have a sensitivity to a substance, but based on reports from other countries it appears to have little to no side effects. For women who want to move through their cravings for sugar without artificial chemicals, stevia is a great option.
Effects of Artificial Sweeteners’
Health Effects of Artificial Sweeteners’