The Bitter Facts on Artificial Sweeteners

In this carbohydrate rich society we live in, one thing is true, we Westerners love our sweets. In recent publications in leading medical journals, it has been acknowledged we are the fattest generation the world has ever seen.

Diabetes in children and adult onset diabetes has more than doubled in the last 25 years, why is this? Purely and simply, because we are burning out the organ responsible for sugar metabolism - the pancreas. The all important pancreas produces called insulin, too much sugar equals too much work for the pancreas, it is widely accepted the pancreas can only produce so much insulin in its lifetime, then we become diabetics.

What are some of the most common offenders of the pancreas assault in our diet today? Mostly it is the result of overly refined starchy carbohydrates such as breads (even if it is whole wheat), pastas, white rice, sweets and sugary foods. Some of the worst culprits are those overly refined breakfast cereals we load up on in the morning. No matter how ‘natural’ they may be, they will contain a lot of sugar. Just take a look in most peoples cupboards today, I bet it is 80% carbohydrates.

Society seems to be in an eternal search for sweeteners that do not “anger the insulin gods”, and so the category of non-foods that are classified as the ‘artificial sweeteners’ was born, in this group we find such products as Splenda, Acesulfame K, Aspartame, NutraSweet and the like.

You may be surprised to find out that there is research which states that most artificial sweeteners actually cause you to gain weight.

The whole idea of artificial sweeteners sounds great, doesn’t it? Something that sweetens our food, doesn’t cause any weight gain and won’t harm the body. Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Well, unfortunately, it is. A neurologist by the name of Dr. Richard Blaylock has written a book called “Excitotoxins, the taste that kills”, he clearly outlines the potential dangers of following the ‘artificial sweeteners road’.

What is an excitotoxin? It is defined as a substance that is a stimulant which can cross the blood brain barrier (BBB) and can be addictive. The BBB is there to protect your brain from would-be attackers, viruses, bacteria and the like. If some substances, like artificial sweeteners pass undetected, it can potentially harm the brain tissue.

It is thought that one of the worst things we can give a developing mind of a child is an artificial sweetener because as a child, this all too important barrier is not entirely formed yet, thus, making them more susceptible to injury or damage to their brain. Is it any wonder we are seeing more attention deficit disorders and behavioral problems now more than ever? Dr.Wurtman found that Aspartame, alone, can cause neurological symptoms like headaches, dizziness and agitation in over half of their test group.

So what does the brain use for fuel? Sugar and nothing but. Without it, the brain is literally starving thereby, altering its optimal function. Most people get agitated and muddled in their thinking when their blood sugar drops too low. This can lead to learning disabilities, lack of concentration and anxiety.

Your body needs sugars and has the ability to use sugar, so use it. Your body does not have a pathway to burn NutraSweet and the like. The artificial sweeteners you ingest today reside in your fat cells and brain tissue until the day you die. There is no elimination pathway for these imposters. The longest study conducted on the effects of artificial sweeteners in humans is only eight years. In other words, we really do not know what they will cause long term. Simply put, there is strong suspicion that these sugar imposters cause degenerative brain disease, learning disabilities and cancer.

So, Dr. Smarty-pants, what do I use instead? If you want a sweetener that you can add to your coffee or tea, baking etc. use stevia. Stevia is made from the root of a plant and is 200 times sweeter that sugar. It won’t spike your insulin levels and it will not harm you in the way the artificial guys will.

Another is honey, it is low on the Glycemic Index, 100% natural and can be added to tea, coffee, oats, etc.

I find it funny when I look at some of the many bodybuilding forums and speak to many of the shop and gym owners we supply about people who go to the gym and try to look after their bodies, watch what they eat and try to stay healthy and lean but don’t seem to care about the ingredients and additives in their food or supplements. Yes, they are calorie aware and yes they know how much protein they take in but lose interest on some of the finer points which may effect them negatively in time.

Another thing which I find crazy is the number of people buying supplements because of extensive and expensive marketing of overpriced mediocre products and at the other end of the scale people buying price led lower quality products both of which groups have not only artificial sweeteners but artificial thickeners too which the body cannot digest either, but that’s another article.

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