We are what we eat - why be artificial?

Posted: Thursday, February 11, 2010

We refer to our spouses, children, mothers and friends as "sweetie," "honey" and "sugar" for a reason: sugar makes us feel good, and when used in moderation it offers the body a nice boost of energy. It can, however, have debilitating effects on the body when consumed in excess or by persons with sugar sensitivities.

Artificial sweeteners, originally created as a substitute sweetener for diabetics, were unveiled in the United States when Saccharin hit the market in 1884.

Nearly one hundred years later, in 1981, Aspartame began replacing the sugar in many of our sodas and snack foods. Two additional sweeteners have since been released, namely Acesulfame-K and the latest version, sucralose, commonly known as Splenda, released in 1998.

Even though diabetics constitute a generous portion of those consuming these products, artificial sweeteners have clearly entered the homes and mouths of diabetics and non-diabetics alike, having found a market for the calorie-conscious consumer.

Diabetics and their calorie-counting cohorts need to be especially careful of artificial sweeteners which claim zero caloric value. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration allows any product containing five calories or less to be listed as a zero calorie food. These packets are bulked up with maltodextrin and dextrose - forms of sugar - and carry just under five calories each. So, while one teaspoon of sugar contains 16 calories, one packet of artificial "zero-calorie sweetener" contains 4.9 calories. These calories certainly add up when we load our tea, coffee and cereal with countless packets. Just ten packets a day is the equivalent of almost fifty calories, or three teaspoons of pure sugar.

While it may not seem like much, no diabetic or health conscious mother is going to overlook this intake of sugar. The problem is many people are fooled into thinking that they can consume unlimited amounts of artificial sweetener.

In 2005, the University of Texas conducted a study which showed a link between weight gain and obesity in conjunction with the use of artificial sweeteners. A study of Saccahrin in the 1960s linked its use to bladder cancer and was banned in Canada and nearly banned in the US before being halted by Congress, requiring a warning label to be placed on the packaging (which was lifted again by Congress in 2001). Aspartmane (MonsantoCo.) has been of particular concern, with over 90 reported side effects including depression, blindness, anxiety, tachycardia, gastrointestinal issues, respitory problems and even death. Test subjects in a recent study of Splenda exhibited a reduction in the amount of good bacteria in the intestines by nearly 50 percent.

Do yourself a favor; try eating low glycemic index fruits, vegetables and whole grains in order to maintain a healthy body, a healthy mind and a healthy future for our food supply.

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