Artificial Sweeteners “Consumer Beware”


By Dr. Jimmy Steger

Artificial Sweeteners “Consumer Beware”
      Food companies have been using sugar and other artificial sugar ingredients for many years in their products to make things sweeter and appeal to the consumer’s taste buds.

Some companies list the sugar up there near the top of their ingredient list, while others try to camouflage their sugar content by hiding behind such innocuous sounding names as turbinado sugar, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, acesulfame-k, and splenda.

While these sweetening ingredients may sound less offensive to the unsophisticated shopper, they are still empty calorie sweeteners that have been shunned for decades by nutritionist.  Remember this, labels must list their ingredients in the order of their predominance in the product.  So the nearer to the top of the ingredient list you see these various forms of sugar, the more sugar these products contain.

Artificial sweeteners have been among the most controversial food additives on the market.  In fact, controversy still rages today around two of the originals: cyclamates and saccharine.  One would think that artificial sweeteners would be among the last choice of companies who support to be surveyors of healthy foods.  Not so!  In fact, it is appalling to see the variety of artificial sweeteners that have currently found their way into the market place of our homes.  Let’s take a closer look at some of the popular ones as well as some of their possible side effects.

Aspartame, Here’s one of the worst!  This is one of the artificial sweeteners labeled as an Excitotoxin.  These excitotoxins, when ingested, cause too much frenetic energy in the brain.  Within one hour of ingesting this into your body, the neurons in the brain explode which can cause dull pain in the temple or front of the head.  If you are on a low carbohydrate diet or simply hypoglycemic, then your brain is going to suffer greater damage due to the lack of glucose in the brain cells. This is the main cause of ALS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s Disease and controversy has surrounded this product ever since it first came on the market as NutraSweet.  Here is a list of symptoms reported to the FDA’s Center for Food safety by people who have used aspartame:  headaches, dizziness, seizures, depression, numbness, muscle spasm, hearing loss, blurred vision, fatigue, weight gain, irregular heart beat, slurred speech, tinnitus, loss of taste, irritability, heart palpitations, anxiety, joint pain, insomnia, nausea, and memory loss.  Remember this the next time you decide to consume foods that list aspartame among its ingredients.

Acesulfame-K, This chemical sweetener is becoming more popular not only in foods but also high protein meal replacement powders, and nutrition bars, where it is the main sweetener used.  Manufactured by Hoechst, a German chemical company, this chemical is 200 times sweeter than sugar and used around the world.  Safety test were conducted in the 1970’s and according to some investigators, were of mediocre quality. Two studies in rats showed the additives caused cancer. Acesulfame-K was also shown to raise the blood cholesterol levels of diabetic rats, this fact lead several cancer experts, as well as the Center for Science in the public interest to urge the FDA to require better testing before permitting the artificial sweetener in soft drinks.  Furthermore Acetoacetamide, a breakdown product of Acesulfame-K, has been shown to adversely affect the thyroid gland in dogs, rabbits, and rats.  A word of caution.  Since the K stands for potassium, some companies have tried to avoid the controversy by listing this sweetener as Acesulfame-Potassium, making it sound natural.  Splenda, also known as sucralose is one of the very latest sweetener’s making it’s way into the foods we eat, as well as the nutrition bars, and other health products in the industry. It too is not with out controversy. McNeil specialty products manufacture Sucralose, also known as Splenda, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson.  It is derived by altering a normal sugar molecule through a patented process that selectively substitutes three chlorine atoms for three hydrogen/oxygen groups on a sugar molecule.  The tightly bound chlorine atom creates a molecular structure that is exceptionally stable and five to six hundred times sweeter that regular sugar.  The manufacturer claims sucralose is not broken down in the body after ingestion instead passes through the intestinal system intact and is then excreted.  However, some investigators claim that the sucralose is broken down in the body as small amounts of 1,6-dichlorofructose, a chemical that has not been adequately tested in humans. (Is it really good for any thing to pass through the body without being absorbed?)  Pre-approval research indicated that sucralose caused shrunken thymus glands (up to forty percent shrinkage) as well as enlarged liver, and kidneys.  The manufacturer claimed that the reason for this was that the sucralose was unpleasant for the rodent to eat in large amounts and that it was starvation that actually caused the shrunken thymus gland. Post-approval research has shown a possible sucralose link with enlargment of the large bowel area and renal kidney mineralization.  Furthermore, there have been no long term human studies done on this artificial sweetener.  Read your product labels and you will be surprised at how many of them are now using sucralose.  Sugar-Alcohol, Sugar Alcohol’s belong to a chemical family known as polyols, and while they resemble both sugar and alcohols in their structure, they are not actually classified as either.  Some of the popular polyols now being used as sweeteners now include Erythritol, (which is the most recent) Mannitol, Sorbitol, and Zylitol.  They are used in baking products, beverages, chewing gum, cookies, frozen deserts, and candy to provide sweetness, texture, and help retain moistness.  Even though the use of polyols appears to be safe, more research is still needed.  One human study conducted on erythritol, for instance, showed an increase in urinary excretion of calcium and albumin on test subjects, with some people experiencing bloating and flatulence at high levels of ingestion.  Until all the facts are in, it still would be wise to keep the use of polyols out of your diet.

Until next time, Stay Healthy!

Dr. Jimmy Steger