Friday, January 31, 2014

Food for Thought Friday: Artificial Sweeteners--- Too Good to be True?

Today's Food for Thought Friday discusses artificial sweeteners. When you're eating clean, your goal is to avoid anything artificial. Yet a lot of people still consume artificial sweeteners while claiming to eat clean--- justifying that choice by claiming that the low calorie benefits in the short term outweigh the potential health risks in the long term. Today, I'll discuss some of the benefits, research, alternatives, and my opinions in regards to artificial sweeteners!

Artificial Sweeteners: Possible Benefits
- Weight control
- Diabetes control

Sucrose (AKA Sugar)
- Empty calories (high in calories--- but no real nutrients)
- Bad for your teeth
- CSPI labels "cut back"
- Avoid/Eliminate if attempting to eat clean!

Aspartame (AKA Equal/Nutrasweet)
- A 1970s study linked aspartame to brain cancer, but FDA approved aspartame anyway, viewing the study as inconsequential
- A 2005 study by Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center of the European Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences linked aspartame to lymphomas, leukemias, and various tumors, such as kidney tumors
- 2007, again by the Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center, studied the effects of aspartame on rats in utero, and linked aspartame to leukemias, lymphomas, and breast cancer
- 2010, the Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center studied the effects of aspartame on mice in utero this time, linking the artificial sweetener to liver and lung cancer
- Aspartame has also been linked to weight gain, headaches, and dizziness
- CSPI labels "avoid"
- CSPI has given aspartame the lowest food additive ranking!

Saccharin (AKA Sweet N Low)
- A 1970s study linked saccharin to bladder cancer in rats
- Further studies showed saccharin caused cancer of the uterus, ovaries, skin, blood, and other organs
- Saccharin was banned in Canada
- The FDA considered banning it and placed a warning label on it
- The FDA ultimately decided not to ban it due to "lack of evidence" in human subjects
- Is lack of evidence of evidence of safety?
- CSPI labels "avoid"

Sucralose (AKA Splenda)
- Pre-FDA study showed shrinkage of the thymus gland, leading to immune system problems, yet it was approved by FDA anyway
- A 2002 study showed (in high amounts) it caused DNA damage in mice
- A 2008 study showed it reduced the amount of good bacteria in the GI tract
- A 2012 study, similarly, linked it to IBD (inflammatory bowel disease)
  - A 2012 study by Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center studied the effects of sucralose on mice in utero, and found links to leukemia
- CSPI labels "caution"

High Fructose Corn Syrup (AKA HFCS)
- It has been linked to obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and fatty liver disease
- Is HFCS worse than sugar though? Researchers are still undecided
- CSPI labels "cut back"
- If you're eating clean, then avoid/eliminate this as you would sugar!

Sugar alcohols (AKA Sortbitol, Xylitol, Mannitol)
- Sugar alcohols are not actual alcohol, just molecularly closely related to alcohol
- They're often used in sugar free foods marketed towards diabetics
- However diabetics should be careful, as they do contain carbohydrates, and can cause an increase in blood sugar
- Proven to cause bloating, GI distress, and diarrhea when consumed in large quantities
- Labels state "do not consume in large quantities"
- CSPI labels "cut back"

Clean Sweetener Alternatives
- Agave Nectar
- Honey
- Maple Syrup
- Molasses

Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Gain
- Artificial sweeteners have been linked to weight gain, even though they are relatively low in calories
- Why is this? Researchers believe that artificial sweeteners interfere with natural digestive pathways, since they send sweet signals to the brain during digestion, yet no sugar is actually being ingested
- This leads to a decrease in satiety (feeling satisfied), causing a person to eat more as a result. Basically, your body tastes what it thinks is sugar, and keeps waiting for that sugar to arrive--- only it's artificial sweetener, so the sugar never arrives. 
- As a result, you're more likely to eat more, ultimately gaining weight over time with the use of artificial sweeteners

Make Informed Food Choices!
- Whatever you choose to put in your body, make sure that you're educated about it!
- Artificial sweeteners may or may not be safe--- it's up to you to decide where you stand on it!
- Me personally? I choose to err on the side of caution! I won't sacrifice my long term health for my short term goals!

What's Your Take on Artificial Sweeteners?
- I'd love to hear your thoughts, opinions, comments, and feedback!

Muddy Melissa