Say ‘no thanks’ to artificial sweeteners

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Part 2 of a two-part series on sugar and sugar substitutes.

Diet. Sugar-free. Low-calorie. These are the buzzwords you’ll find on drinks, desserts, drink mixes, cereals, breath mints, chewable vitamins, toothpaste, cough syrup, and other processed foods crowding grocery store shelves. Many people turn to artificial sweeteners trying to avoid extra calories and excess sugar.

BUT, and it’s a big one, just because calories are reduced doesn’t make them safe for consumption, and you will still be left craving more sweets. These products may contain aspartame, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), Stevia or sugar alcohols to name a few.

Aspartame, also called Nutrasweet or Equal, is found in many “diet” drinks like diet coke or coke zero, sugar free jello, sugar free gum and many other products. Aspartame is a carcinogen and a neurotoxin. It has been shown to erode short term memory and even intelligence. This toxic sweetener has been linked to a variety of ailments and diseases such as brain tumors, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, dizziness, headaches, nausea and seizures.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a highly refined artificial sweetener that can really pack on the pounds. You’ll find it in lots of foods and beverages like breads, flavored yogurts, salad dressings, canned vegetables and cereals. It increases your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and contributes to the development of obesity, diabetes and tissue damage. A bad actor indeed.

Stevia is a “natural” plant that is very sweet and calorie-free. However, the powder and extracts that you can purchase at the store have been highly processed and have little to do with the original plant. It will contribute to your dependency on sweets and can contribute to the depletion of chromium in your body.

Sugar alcohols can be confusing. First they are not sugars or alcohols. See what I mean? They can improve dental health. They are considered a prebiotic, meaning they feed friendly gut bacteria. Studies have shown the sugar alcohol, xylitol, can increase bone volume and the mineral content of the bone. That should help protect against osteoporosis. Xylitol has also been shown to increase collagen which can then improve skin tone. On the other hand, sugar alcohols can cause stomach upset, nausea, bloating, flatulence and even diarrhea. Sugar alcohols are not fully absorbed in the intestines, causing fermentation to occur—which in turn leads to the G.I. issues.

All of these artificial sweeteners contribute to your body’s craving for sweets, and they can deplete your body of chromium. This is a crucial nutrient in the body that helps to regulate blood-sugar metabolism. Ever wondered why so many people drinking “diet” drinks are overweight? We need to get back to real food. Read all food and beverage labels and know what you are consuming and what effect all those names on the packaging means to your health. There are many additives in our food in the U.S. that are banned in other countries that have been shown to contribute to cancer, diabetes, heart disease and inflammation, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, chronic fatigue, depression, and many other problems as well.

For more information, go to Nutrition Action Health Letter published by the Center of Science in the Public Interest and The Environmental Working Group. Both groups are publicly funded, unbiased and report on all types of nutritional concerns.