Sweet Poison: Part 2

Whether you reach for the pink, blue, or yellow packet, they all are unhealthy choices. Well, if you can’t go pink, blue, or yellow and sugar in all it’s numerous forms are not good choices either what are we to do to satisfy our sweet tooth? We will give some suggestions later in this article.  For now, let’s talk about those pink, blue, and yellow packets and why we should avoid them.

Saccharin branded as Sweet N Low is Sodium saccharin an artificial sweetener with effectively no food energy. It is about 300–400 times as sweet as sucrose but has a bitter or metallic aftertaste, especially at high concentrations. Saccharin is used to sweeten products such as drinks, candies, cookies, and medicines.  Where does Saccharin come from?  If someone dared you to eat coal tar, would you?  Would you happily sip it down or gleefully sprinkle it on your morning cereal?  Probably not.  After all, you’d have to be crazy to knowingly consume something as awful sounding as coal tar.  But what if I told you it was sweet?  Really sweet.  As in 400 times sweeter than sugar.  Would that matter?  Before you answer an emphatic “no,” consider this.  Not only have you likely eaten or drank this mysterious coal-derived sweetener, it graces virtually every table in restaurants across the country.

It was first produced in 1878 by a chemist working on coal tar derivatives at Johns Hopkins University.  After working with his compounds all day, he discovered that his hand tasted “sweet.   Not really sure how it came about that he tasted his hand, but there it is.  Today, saccharin is commonly manufactured by combining anthranilic acid (used among other things as a corrosive agent for metal) with nitrous acid, sulfur dioxide, chlorine, and ammonia.  Yes, that’s right.  Chlorine and ammonia.In fact, that particular group of chemicals sounds more like a recipe for a household cleaner than a sweetener.  And yet, millions upon millions of people consume saccharin every year.

A 1997 report from the Center for the Science in Public Interest felt that it would be highly irresponsible for the National Toxicology Program to take saccharin off their list of toxic substances.  They believed that doing so “would give the public a false sense of security, remove any incentive for further testing, and result in greater exposure to this probable carcinogen in tens of millions of people, including children (indeed, fetuses).”And with good reason.  There are  rodent studies showing that saccharin caused bladder cancer, not to mention vascular and lung cancer.  It also increased the risk of uterine cancer in female mice. This was based on several studies, including one from 1978, which found that rats given saccharin developed bladder cancer that was quite aggressive. 

Additionally, rats exposed while in the womb were even more likely to develop cancer than those exposed immediately after birth.  Researchers in that study concluded, “Saccharin is carcinogenic for the urinary bladder in rats and mice, and most likely is carcinogenic in human beings.  But the pro-saccharin people argued that rats and people aren’t the same.  Agreed.  There in lies the issue.  No one is willing to do a double blind, placebo-controlled study with saccharin, as it would be irresponsible to knowingly place someone at risk.  But there are several case-controlled studies showing a definitive link between saccharin consumption and increased risk of cancer.  Studies have proven that there is an increase in bladder cancer in consumers who use saccharin regularly. 

As if cancer weren’t bad enough, saccharin has also been tied to a variety of allergic reactions, including headaches, breathing issues, skin rashes, and diarrhea. Worst yet, it is still being added to some infant formulas!  And then there’s the dieters’ and diabetic dilemma.  Or perhaps irony is a better word.  A 2008 study from Appetite found “a significant increase of plasma insulin concentration was apparent after stimulation with saccharin.  And they didn’t even ingest the saccharin!  They just rinsed their mouth out with it.  As we all know, increased insulin levels is a risk factor for both obesity and diabetes.  Probably NOT the side effect dieters and diabetics are going for when they choose a sugar-free product.

Aspartame branded as Equal or NutraSweet is an artificial sweetener that’s sold under the brand names NutraSweet and Equal. It’s commonly found in “diet” foods. While the sweetener remains popular, it also faced controversy in recent years. Many opponents have claimed that aspartame is actually bad for your health.  It’s Interesting that  if you Google “is aspartame bad for you?” you will first come to sights that sing aspartames praises.  You need to dig deeper to find the truth.  You will find that recent studies have shown that artificial sweeteners actually increase weight gain. They fail to satisfy cravings and often intensify hunger. Aside from contributing to weight gain, this sweetener has been linked to serious birth defects and cancers of the brain as well as other neurological disorders. Aspartame consists of Aspartic acid and Phenylalanine, which when broken down in the system produces Methanol, which can be toxic in high amounts. 

Since the onset of its use in the United States, its safety in regards to consumption has been highly controversial. Because of the claims against aspartame and its safety, it is considered one of the most thoroughly tested and studied food additives around. The FDA, as well as numerous independent laboratories, have conducted studies regarding the side effects and safety surrounding aspartame consumption.

Aspartame has been linked to numerous hazardous side effects including a greater risk of birth defects in women who consume aspartame while pregnant. Not only has aspartame been linked to certain cancers, it’s side effects include  seizures, headaches, dizziness, weight gain, lupus, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. The side effects attributed to aspartame can occur gradually over time or can be acute reactions to the chemical. Immediate reactions can include trouble with vision and eyes, ringing in the ears, heart palpitations and shortness of breath.  There is still a large amount of controversy surrounding the use of aspartame as an artificial sweetener. Though links to certain cancers and other health problems have been shown, there is still widespread use of aspartame in everyday products.

Sucralose branded as Splenda is another artificial sweetener.  From its discovery until very recently, Splenda was regarded as safe to consume. This may not be entirely true, however.  Splenda has always been considered to be biologically inert (chemically inactive), meaning it passes through the human body untouched. However, a recent article posted to the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health noted that some of the ingested sweetener is metabolized, meaning that it is not entirely inert.  There are other interactions that medical researchers are currently investigating; for instance, ingested sucralose has been linked to altered intestinal microbe levels in mice; and it is believed that cooking with sucralose may produce toxic compounds called  chloropropanols which are chemicals that are suspected to be carcinogenic to humans.

We know that refined sugar can lead to all sorts of health problems, especially weight gain. But is reaching for the “sugar free” alternatives any better? Often times, no. Consuming these chemicals we can barely pronounce won’t do us any good other than just briefly satisfying our cravings. If you’re confused about what to do, keep reading. Below we’ll go over some of the best artificial sweetener alternatives and natural sugar substitutes to satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy way. 
Next month we will write about healthy alternatives to processed sugar and artificial sweeteners.  There are good choices to be made that not only feed our sweet tooth’s, but help us in our quest for overall good healthy choices.

Gonstead Difference