Ahhhh, the question that arises everywhere…are artificial sweeteners safe? You may put artificial sweeteners in your coffee, drink them in your diet soda and use them to limit sugar intake and cut calories.
So what’s the deal with artificial sweeteners and diabetes? As diabetics, they are forced down our throats as being a “safe alternative” to sugar and “diabetic friendly” but are they really all that safe, and could they actually be more hazardous to your health? Are you aware of the dangers of artificial sweeteners? Lets take a closer look at the 4 most common types of artificial sweeteners!
What Are Artificial Sweeteners?
Per the national institute of health, artificial sweeteners are classified as substances that are used in place of sweeteners with sugar (sucrose) or sugar alcohols. They may also be called sugar substitutes, non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS), or noncaloric sweeteners. This question is critical since the average American consumes 24 pounds of artificial sweeteners each year. Soda is the most common place they’re found, but did you know that sugar substitutes are also added to nearly 8,000 other products sold in the US, including baby foods, frozen foods and even yogurt and flavored water.
They state that using artificial sweeteners in place of sugar can help prevent dental decay and aid in blood sugar control, but are they really that safe for you to consume and why are the names of artificial sweeteners changing? Interesting to say the least, but I’m not a fan on any level and here’s why.
Artificial Sweeteners, Aspartame:
More formerly know as Equal and recently renamed “NutraSweet”
What’s in it?
- aspartic acid
Reported side effects: Headaches, fibromyalgia, anxiety, memory loss, arthritis, abdominal pain, nausea, depression, heart palpitations, irritable bowel syndrome, seizures, neurological disorders, vision problems, brain tumors and weight gain.
Concerns: Phenylalanine and aspartic acid directly impact brain and central nervous system functions; evidence shows they play a role in mood disorders, memory problems and other neurological illnesses, here is a great study by the NIH that you can check out.
Methanol is converted into formaldehyde when metabolized. Makers of aspartame say methanol and its byproducts are quickly excreted. But research has found measurable amounts of formaldehyde in the livers, kidneys and brains of test subjects after ingestion of aspartame.
At high temperatures, phenylalnine breaks down into diketopiperazine (DPK), a known carcinogen. Phenylalnine is especially dangerous for people with the hereditary disease, phenylketonuria.
More formally know as Sunett or Sweet One.
What’s in it?
- Potassium salt containing methylene chloride, a known carcinogen.
Reported side effects: Long term exposure to methylene chloride can cause nausea, headaches, mood problems, impairment of the liver and kidneys, problems with eyesight and possibly cancer. Acesulfame-K may contribute to hypoglycemia. Another reason why artificial sweeteners are not on my good list.
Concerns: Of all artificial sweeteners, acesulfame-K has undergone the least scientific scrutiny. Early studies showed a potential link between the sweetener and development of multiple cancers in laboratory animals.
Artificial Sweeteners, Sucralose:
More formally known as Splenda.
What’s in it:
- As an artificial sweetener, Sucralose is a synthetic additive created by chlorinating sugar. Manufacturers say the chlorine in sucralose is no different from that in table salt. Fact: the chemical structure of the chlorine in sucralose is almost the same as that in the now-banned pesticide DDT.
Reported side effects: Head and muscle aches, stomach cramps and diarrhea, bladder issues, skin irritation, dizziness and inflammation.
Concerns: Research has shown sucralose can cause shrinking of the thymus gland, an important immune system regulator, and liver and kidney dysfunction. A recent study by Duke University found sucralose reduces healthy intestinal bacteria, which are needed for proper digestion and is vitally important for our immune system to keep us from getting sick and contracting illnesses.
Artificial Sweeteners, Saccharin:
More formally known as Sweet ‘N Low, Sweet Twin or NectaSweet.
What’s in it:
- Saccharin is a sulfa-based sweetener; its primary ingredient is benzoic sulfimide.
Concerns: Early safety studies of saccharin showed the sweetener caused bladder cancer in rats. The FDA recently lifted the requirement that saccharin be labeled as a probable carcinogen on food packaging.
The link between saccharin and bladder cancer has contributed to saccharin being the most investigated of all artificial sweeteners. To date, no connection between saccharin and bladder cancer in humans has been proven.
Research on artificial sweeteners shows that they affect the same parts of the brain that deal with addiction. Artificial sweeteners are substances some people feel they can’t live without, a sign of an addiction. Second, artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than natural sugars (up to 700 times sweeter in the case of saccharin and 600 times with sucralose) such as those found in whole grains, fruits and skim milk, and can actually reset your taste buds.
This is an issue as the body then builds up a tolerance, which can cause overuse, another sign of addiction. There is even a study out with animals that suggest artificial sweeteners may be addictive. In studies of rats who were exposed to cocaine, then given a choice between intravenous cocaine or oral saccharine, most chose saccharin.
I honestly don’t recommend that you use artificial sweeteners at all, but ultimately the choice is up to you. You may want to check out organic liquid stevia, raw honey, coconut sugar or monk fruit as alternatives. Yes a small bolus will be required in some cases, but I believe they are much healthier alternatives.
I mean lets face it, even if our pancreas was working correctly and we had fully functioning beta cells our bodies would automatically be giving us a small dose of insulin for these healthy alternatives.
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