The Sour Side of Artificial Sweeteners
June 11th, 2014 by Holly Cornish
Despite the lure of an easy way to cut calories and lower blood sugar, scientific studies suggest artificial sweeteners are dangerous.
Sugar substitutes can affect your appetite and even make you do more of the very thing you’re trying to prevent—crave and eat sugar-sweetened foods that are packed with calories and fat. Here’s the story. . .
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In 2008, Dr. Susan Swithers, professor of behavioral neuroscience at Purdue University, discovered that laboratory animals that ate foods sweetened with sugar substitutes ended up eating more calories, which caused them to pack on more body fat than did rodents that ate food sweetened with regular sugar.
According to Dr. Swithers, “Animals, including humans, normally finish a meal long before they have digested all the nutrients.” In other words, “they use cues to predict how much they have actually eaten and when to stop.”
Researchers believe that artificial sweeteners interfere with the biological signals that tell you to stop eating.
You’d probably agree that this sounds like a HUGE PROBLEM for folks trying to cut calories and prevent weight gain!
But at least they help you control blood sugar, right?
High blood sugar is another reason people use artificial sweeteners, and perhaps a better one. More than 20 million Americans struggle to control their blood sugar. And if you or someone you love is one of them, you may already know about the distressing health problems it can cause.
People with high blood sugar can develop a variety of life-threatening conditions – most obviously diabetes – but also including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease or failure
- Nervous system damage
High blood sugar – also called prediabetes – is the underlying cause of a whole array of dangerous health problems. It puts you at much higher risk of cancer.
So, no surprise, many folks opt for low-calorie artificial sweeteners to mix in their coffee and tea, to eat in their chocolate and hard candies, or to sweeten other foods while cutting their daily sugar intake.
Artificial sweeteners seem harmless to most people. The government and the mainstream medical profession tell us they’re safe. And the amount you consume seems tiny. Just a little powder from a blue, pink or yellow packet can go a long way. That’s because these substitutes taste sweeter than refined white sugar.
In fact, some sugar substitutes can be anywhere from 30 to 8,000 times sweeter than table sugar (sucrose). Yet they have few or no calories. Each gram of refined table sugar contains four calories versus zero calories per gram for sugar substitutes.
It seems like an attractive, easy way to lower your blood sugar and cut calories. Don’t fall for it!
There’s a possible cancer connection…
Research shows that possible cancer risks are associated with some artificial sweeteners.
Let’s start with a really popular artificial sweetener, known as saccharin sodium. Most of us recognize it by its brand name Sweet ‘n Low—in the little pink packet.
Although this sugar substitute is sweeter than sucrose, it leaves a bitter aftertaste. You’ll find it in a wide variety of products, including soft drinks, candy, biscuits, medicine, and even toothpaste.
After studies in the early 1970s linked saccharin consumption to bladder cancer in rats, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated that a warning label be placed on products containing saccharin sodium, citing potential health risks. It was not confirmed that the substance raises the risk of bladder cancer in humans, so the warning label was precautionary.
Then came a 1997 report issued by the Center for the Science in Public Interest (CSPI) concluding there is no consistent evidence that saccharin causes bladder cancer.
The FDA decided to allow companies to remove the cancer warning from the product packaging.
What they fail to acknowledge is that CSPI still advised you to avoid saccharin, based on the studies suggesting it may act as a carcinogen in humans.
Newer alternatives may pose the same threat!
Another popular artificial sweetener is aspartame, which you may know by its brand names of Equal or NutraSweet.
You’re likely to encounter it, because it’s in more than 6,000 sugar-free products, including diet sodas, gelatin desserts, and yogurts. People who eat this stuff (count me out) say that aspartame tastes better than saccharin.
The amazing thing is that a 22-year study commissioned by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health found a clear association between aspartame consumption and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia!
So why is this stuff still on the market? It amounts to a little government sleight-of-hand trickery!
Before the results of this 22-year study were published, the longest study available was a measly four-and-a-half months—which is far too short to determine the possible dangers of eating something every day for years.
There’s an abundance of these short-term trials, which is how study teams get away with saying that aspartame is one of the ‘most studied food additives’ in history and that no health concerns have ever been discovered! It sounds impressive until you know the facts. They don’t know the long-term effects because they don’t look.
Basically, if a food additive doesn’t cause immediate or obvious damage, the FDA permits it to be labeled safe. Few or no human studies are conducted to find out the effect of five, ten or twenty years of heavy use.
But CSPI isn’t joining in with the cheers and applause for aspartame, saccharine and other artificial sweeteners. Their recommendation is, ‘when in doubt, do without.’
Aspartame might not be so popular if people knew this: When it’s warmed to more than 86 degrees Fahrenheit., the wood alcohol in the product changes to formaldehyde. Considering the body’s temperature is more than 98 degrees Fahrenheit. it kind of makes you wonder. Or do you think folks might be concerned if they knew formaldehyde is known to increase the risk of developing breast and prostate cancer?
You should also know recent studies in Europe found that the formaldehyde in aspartame can accumulate in your brain—and seriously damage your central nervous system and immune system.
So if, like me, you suspect that artificial sweeteners could raise your cancer risk, it’s probably best to just avoid them!
Lee Euler, Publisher