Feb
20
2016

The Quagmire Of Artificial Sweeteners

You probably heard bad things about many artificial sweeteners; we could call it the quagmire of artificial sweeteners.  If you did, you are not alone. The history of artificial sweeteners is full of surprises and power struggles. On Jan.18, 2016 CNN reviewed the most common sweeteners.

Here is a brief review of the most common sweeteners.

Saccharine 

This sweetener’s history goes back to 1879 when the Russian chemist Constantin Fahlberg first noted experimenting with coal tar compounds that one of the end products, benzoic sulfanide tasted sweet. In fact it was between 200 and 700 times sweeter than granulated sugar! But there were political struggles that accompanied this sweetener throughout the years. There were rumours that in rats saccharine could cause bladder cancer. The health authorities became concerned. This led to Congress passing the Pure Food and Drug Act in June of 1906, to protect the public from “adulterated or misbranded or poisonous or deleterious foods, drugs or medicines.”

FDA investigation of saccharine

This was the precursor of the FDA that would examine all of the medical evidence and consider the pros and cons of sweeteners as well. President Roosevelt took saccharine for weight control to replace sugar. In 1908 Roosevelt felt he had to stop the actions of overzealous Dr. Harvey Wiley, chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chemical division who was of the opinion that saccharine should be taken off the market. Dr. Wiley did not give up his fight and finally the FDA decided to ban saccharine in processed foods, but to continue to allow private sales of saccharine.

Cyclamate

This sweetener was detected in 1937. It was marketed first to help control diabetes better. Because of the reduction in sugar consumption it allowed diabetic patients to cut the amount of insulin required to control diabetes. Cyclamate did have a bitter aftertaste, so it was mixed with saccharine at a ratio of 10 parts of cyclamate to 1 part of saccharine and “Sweet ‘N Low” was created. In 1958 the FDA gave cyclamate the GRAS designation: “generally recognized as safe”. The good fortunes of cyclamate did not last long: in 1969 damaging animal experiments showed that cyclamate/saccharine had caused chromosomal breaks in sperm of rats. Another study from 1970 showed bladder tumors in rats. Other studies showed lung, stomach and reproductive tumors in animal experiments with cyclamates/saccharine.

FDA concern about cyclamate

The FDA wanted to shut down the sale of the Sweet N’ Low sweetener, but public pressure and the food processing industry forced the issue to be brought up in front of Congress. The compromise was to use a warning label: “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.” In the year 2000 and beyond a series of animal experiments and data from Denmark, Britain, Canada and the United States on humans showed there were no signs of bladder cancer from exposure to Sweet N’ Low. In 2000 Congress removed the warning labels.

Aspartame

A chemist detected aspartame in 1965. His name was James M. Schlatter and he was looking for anti-ulcer drugs. He noticed the intensely sweet flavor of aspartame when he licked his fingers. This led to the newest sweetener by 1973. We know it by the trade names Equal, NutraSweet or Sugar Twin. This sweetener consists of the two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid. The body can normally metabolize aspartame, but people with phenylketonuria cannot take it.  People with certain rare liver disorders or pregnant women can not take aspartame either. It causes high levels of phenylalanine in their blood, because those individuals cannot metabolize it properly. Any food made with aspartame has to put that restriction on the label, a requirement by the FDA.

Suspicion of brain tumors

In 1996 W. Olney and his associates presented research that implied that Aspartame would have caused brain tumors in rats. But later these experiments were disproven and new studies from children with brain tumors showed “little biological or experimental evidence that aspartame is likely to act as a human brain carcinogen.”

Sucralose

Insecticide researchers detected sucralose in 1976. They were looking for new types of insecticides. They found that chlorinated sugar worked as an insecticide. One of the researchers tasted the chemical and to his surprise he noted how sweet it was. If you Google “Splenda and insecticide”, you have a hard time finding references regarding the history of sucralose, but 20 years ago I found detailed descriptions with explanations as I summarized here.  Sucralose is about 600-times sweeter than table sugar. Here is one of the few references that explains that insecticide researchers discovered sucralose.

Insecticide experiment with sucralose

I have repeated the insecticide experiment myself in Hawaii where small ants are ubiquitous. Out of curiosity I took a package of Splenda from a coffee shop and sprinkled the contents in the path of ants. In the beginning the ants were reluctant to eat it, but after a short time they came and took it in. They slowed down, and finally they were all dead. A few hours later I found only dead ants in the area where I sprinkled Splenda earlier. Their bodies were only half their original size or less. Proof enough for me that Splenda came from insecticide research and was not safe for human consumption! In the meantime Dr. Axe in the above references lists the side effects in humans: “Migraines, agitation, numbness, dizziness, diarrhea, swelling, muscle aches, stomach and intestinal cramps and bladder problems.”

Marketing of sucralose

In the Splenda marketing scheme they decided to first introduce Splenda gradually into diabetic foods as a sweetener, then later sell it to the public at large. Don’t fall for it. It was a side product of insecticide research, and insecticides have the undesirable quality of being xenoestrogens, which block estrogen receptors in women. As a result estrogen can no longer access the body cells, including the heart. The final consequence for a woman is a higher risk for cardio-vascular disease. This can cause heart attacks, strokes and cancer. In men estrogen-blocking xenoestrogens can cause breast growth and erectile dysfunction. Taken everything together Splenda seems to be too risky for its sweetness.

Other sweeteners

Researchers have not stopped looking for newer, better sweeteners. There is a number of sugar alcohols with less calories than sugar such as erythritol. Another common sugar alcohol is xylitol, which is in use in chewing gum. The advantage is that these are natural sweet alcohols that exist in nature. Xylitol originated from birch wood and was touted to help tooth decay when you use chewing gum containing it. Karl Clauss and Harald Jensen in Frankfurt, Germany detected another sweetener, acesulfame potassium, also known by the names acesulfame K, Ace-K, or ACK in 1967 when they experimented with various chemicals. This is known under the brand name “Sweet One”, but is often disguised in processed foods together with other artificial sweeteners to mimic the taste of sugar.

Stevia

Stevia has been in use for over 400 years, particularly in South America. It grows like a small bushy herb with leaves that can be taken to sweeten foods.  With modern, reliable extracting procedures (Sephadex column) it is possible to separate the bitter component of stevia and discard it leaving stevia behind without any bitter aftertaste. In Japan stevia has been occupying 40% of the sweetener market. Compare that to Europe and North America where there is a lot of competition with the above-mentioned sweeteners, mainly because of clever marketing techniques. The FDA gave  stevia GRAS status in 2008.

The Quagmire Of Artificial Sweeteners

The Quagmire Of Artificial Sweeteners

Conclusion

The history of artificial sweeteners has constant intricate connections with political intrigues. There also has been influence peddling of companies, hoping to make profits from the sale of their products. Unfortunately powerful advertising slogans were in use like “naturally made from sugar”. This is a meaningless rhetoric, as three chlorine atoms in a sugar molecule distort the biological properties of sugar entirely. Nobody tells me that an insecticide made from sugar that kills ants can be healthy.

Stevia is safe as a sweetener

With stevia on the other hand we have a substance with experience on humans for over 400 years. There have been no adverse effects with stevia. The FDA cleared stevia in 2008 as GRAS (“generally recognized as safe”). The problem in our society seems that we tend to blindly trust companies. These want to sell us chemical products as “harmless”, when in fact they often are not. I have decided for myself that I follow the Japanese lead in favor of stevia, with nothing else mixed in to replace sugar. Eating sugar is not a healthy option. It starts with tooth decay, but the evidence is also there for more sinister problems. Researchers documented that sugar also causes heart attacks, strokes and even cancer. So, if we want a sweet taste, the healthy alternative to sugar is stevia.

May
31
2014

Industry Sponsored Diet Soda Study Deceptive

Recently an industry sponsored study was reviewed by the media with this headline: “Diet soda helps weight loss, industry-funded study finds”. Before you get too excited about this study, let me tell you that you are being deceived. Essentially the study compared 150 overweight or obese people on water and a similar group of people on diet sodas. Both groups were counselled on the benefits of exercise and a healthier diet. At the end of 12 weeks the water group that did not drink diet sodas had lost 9 pounds, while the diet soda group that continued their former habit lost 13 pounds. The question now is why this 4 pound difference? The sponsor of the study would like you to think that the soda diet drink is healthier, because it helps you to lose weight. Let me explain to you that there are a few flaws in the study as follows.

1. Most often there are confounding errors in industry-sponsored studies. Even though it looks on the surface that the two groups were comparable, researchers should have checked out various parameters like sex distribution, other underlying illnesses, mental state (depressed or not etc.), diabetes and other factors to make sure that there is no metabolic bias between the two groups from the start of the study.

2. Deception built into study: we know from other studies that on the long-term diet sodas lead to weight gain by stimulating your appetite for sweets and their subsequent consumption. Often short-term studies show the opposite effect, so it would be false to assume that long-term results would be similar. But most readers who read this quickly would be tempted to think “so it must be OK to continue to consume diet soda drinks!” Off you go to the grocery store and buy another 6 or 12 pack. That’s exactly what the industry-sponsored study set out to do. Somewhere in the back-room of a big soft drink corporation the executives discussed among themselves that their statistics were bad; the sales of diet soft drinks were down; there was too much negative press fuelled by the health food industry. They had to do something about this, so they designed a study where the good guy was the diet soft drink. If the consumer is not buying the results, at least the study helped to confuse people and whenever there is confusion, at least part of the confused population will return to their old habits. After all the study showed “ it is OK”.

Industry Sponsored Diet Soda Study Deceptive

Industry Sponsored Diet Soda Study Deceptive

3. Excitotoxins are not OK. Unfortunately all artificial sweeteners are toxic to your brain, they are excitotoxins. MSG is another excitotoxin. The only exception is the natural sweetener stevia, a plant product, which is OK. Splenda is an insecticide, so this is belongs to the xenoestrogens, bad for you as it acts like a foreign estrogen and has cancer-promoting qualities when exposed to it for several decades. The rest of the artificial sweeteners are excitotoxins: they burn your brain cells very slowly and can lead to dementia. Unfortunately they are addicting and your brain will make you feel good when you drink more of it. So, the real reason why the study group on diet sodas did better than the water group is because they did not have to change that habit, there was no withdrawal to deal with and they felt fine. So they could concentrate on dieting and exercising and of course you would lose 13 pounds in 12 weeks doing that. The water group on the other hand had to cope with diet soda withdrawal and on top was challenged by an exercise and weight loss program. As there was no diet restriction, they could compensate a bit for their trouble of withdrawal and eat a few muffins or some extra bread to make up for the lack of their comfort diet drink fix (the satisfaction of consuming the excitotoxin). This slick short-term study design is what should have alarmed the publisher to ask a few hard questions.

4. There needs to be an internal logic in the study: Let’s do a thought experiment where we repeat the study and start with two comparable overweight/obese groups of people and put them on no sugar and no refined carbs for 2 weeks and also on no diet sodas for the same time. After two weeks they are both accustomed to this diet and the no diet soda habit and they have probably lost the same amount of weight from the calorie restriction. Now we start the one group on diet sodas and the other group on water, but strictly controlled for a similar calorie intake in terms of other foods or drinks as much as is humanly possible. I would predict that after 12 weeks the water group will have at least lost the same weight as the diet soda group, if not more. The diet soda group likely will have had some problems with sugar craving and may have had more dietary indiscretions (sneaking in snacks and underreporting them), but this would show up as weight gain.

You may be proud of having completed this well controlled study. The trouble is that your industry sponsor that produces the diet drinks will not like this outcome and would not allow the results to be published. In fact that kind of result would be actively suppressed.

Conclusion:

The diet soda study discussed here is a lesson in biased publishing. We are constantly bombarded by an endless string of meaningless publications that are designed to make the consumer insecure, or bias us for accepting a company’s product in the hope of achieving a certain result (like high sales). Even, if this is not accomplished the company has sold enough of their product just for giving it a try. Beware of the door-to-door sales person. This figure is very much present right in this publication. In this case it is the sales pitch of the diet soda manufacturers! You are looking at a study that was designed to make you buy more of the excitotoxin (aspartame or other artificial sweeteners), which likely contributed to your extra weight or obesity in the first place. It’s up to you to shut the door on this sales pitch. Instead of a diet soda I suggest you make your own drink: squeeze half an organic lemon and top this with mineral water of your choice. Sweeten it with a tiny amount of stevia. This has no calories and does not stimulate you to eat more sugar and starchy foods; but it quenches any thirst and you even get some water-soluble vitamins in the process.

Last edited May 31, 2014

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Sep
14
2013

Food Processing Can Be A Danger To Your Health

Food processing is found everywhere: in pizzas, hamburgers, ready to eat deep frozen dinners, and in the myriad of packages that you see in the center of the grocery store. There are aisles and aisles of ready-made food packages including potato and corn chips, power bars, low fat yoghurt, and on and on it goes.

So, what are the problems with these foods?

Here are the major players that you will find (sometimes not) on the food ingredient lists.

Hidden sugar

With the recommendation for the past few decades that we should use low fat yoghurt a whole industry has sprung up surrounding low fat products. If you study the labels you will see that this has been done at the expenses of adding hidden sugar content. Don’t go for the berry or other fruit yoghurt, because it is over processed, sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup. This is a fast track to becoming a diabetic. Stick to plain yoghurt with 2 to 3 % fat, which has only the original milk sugar in it, but no additives. Also, in the US you ought to avoid any milk and milk products containing bovine growth hormone, which is solely there for increasing the milk farmer’s profit, but will seriously undermine your health (it blocks your growth hormone receptors). Ref. 1 and 3 explain in detail how the metabolism is being changed through added sugar and an overdose of starchy foods, which is the reason for the pancreas over producing insulin. This in turn causes such varied diseases like heart attacks, diabetes, inflammatory conditions like arthritis, MS, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

Cut out cookies, excessively starchy foods like potatoes, bread, pasta and rice. Within half an hour of ingesting these your system will be overrun with sugar, the breakdown product of starchy food.

Added salt

Added salt is often used to preserve foods, to lengthen their shelf life and to stimulate your appetite. In restaurants it is added to stimulate your appetite for more liquids. As a result more beverages (alcoholic and nonalcoholic) will be ordered, which is where the profit margin is highest. High amounts of salt will not be beneficial to you, as it will raise your blood pressure and on the long-term will cause high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. When you buy organic food, there is no added salt in it, although you get sodium chloride that is contained in the vegetables and fruit. Add very little salt, if any; instead add  herbs and spices, which contain valuable trace minerals.

Food Processing Can Be A Danger To Your Health

Food Processing Can Be A Danger To Your Health

Hidden fat

Whenever you have a food that was deep fried such as potato chips, corn chips or French fries, there is the danger of exposing yourself to trans fats from polyunsaturated fatty acids. This is also true for deep fried chicken or any other ready to eat foods that have been prepared in the deep fryer.This type of oil is often reused after it is filtered and advanced glycosylation end products (AGE’s) are accumulated in it. This ages your cells including your skin much faster. AGE’s also worsen diabetes by causing more complications like heart attacks and kidney failure. For the same reason you should avoid burning meats on the BBQ or food that you cook on a stove.

Hamburgers also have a lot of hidden fat, sometimes as much as 50%. This fat enters your bloodstream and is eventually deposited as fat deposits in your arteries. After decades of eating too many hamburgers and sausages your coronary arteries clog and you require a stent or a bypass surgery. If you do not want to become a statistic prematurely, cut out sausages, hamburgers and other processed meats replacing them with lean turkey breast, organic chicken and lean pork,venison or grass fed lean cuts of beef or bison.

MSG and other food additives

Many foods have artificial sweeteners in them, which includes excitotoxins like MSG and aspartame. MSG is added to stimulate your appetite, but it has devastating effects on your brain cells on the long term. The name may be disguised as yeast extract, sodium caseinate, broth stock, malt extract, natural flavors and others. Soda drinks either have added sugar, in which case your insulin response makes you want to eat more calories in a day leading to obesity and to dementia. Aspartame, which is used by diet conscious people as a low calorie drink, causes insulin resistance making you gain weight. It also damages your brain. I recommend the plant extract stevia, which is a sweetener that does not have the deleterious effects of aspartame. Sucralose (Splenda) was developed through research on insecticides when a student found out that it tasted sweet. Although Big Pharma has succeeded to introduce sucralose into the diet of diabetics, it is a sweetener that in my opinion is not safe. First it kills ants: a few years ago I did an experiment where I took a package of Splenda from Starbucks and sprinkled it on Hawaiian ants. In the beginning they were reluctant to eat it, but after a few hours they came and took it in. One day later there were only shriveled up dead ants left in the area where Splenda had been sprinkled. I refuse to eat insecticide-laced soda! Second, when you read the link about the “sweet deception about Splenda” above you find that it has reduced the growth rate of rats, caused anemia in mice, enlarged the liver and the brain of rats, shrunk ovaries of rats and caused kidney damage with calcifications in rats. We have no official human data, although millions of Splenda doses have been consumed.  Nobody has done clinical safety studies in man.

One of the food additives you may not think much about is gliadin, which is used in baking to bind the ingredients together. It is derived from wheat, which is usually the Clearfield variety of wheat (a dwarf variety). Dr. William Davis (Ref.1) has examined the effects of wheat and wheat products on humans in detail. Suffice it to say that it is safest to avoid wheat and wheat products entirely; otherwise you could develop bowel disease like celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease; heart disease, obesity, autoimmune diseases, but also CNS disease like Parkinson’s disease, ataxia, and dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease).

Other health problems associated with marketing and so-called “best practices” of agroindustry

Milk and milk products are not as innocent as in the past when no marketing boards were around. Animals are no longer freely roaming on green pastures, but are kept in high-density facilities and have to be put on antibiotics to prevent infectious illnesses. So we are told. In reality farmers have found out that antibiotics and bovine growth hormone will both increase milk production. The profit principle has been applied and as a result the consumers of milk and milk products have a change of their bowel flora from the antibiotics, which can cause heart attacks. The bovine growth hormone from milk and milk products causes breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Superbugs have emerged as a danger from treating beef animals with antibiotics in feeding lots leading to resistant bacterial strains that can cause human disease like flesh eating disease etc. These superbugs imported from the grocery store and meat market are what can make us sick! Eating only organic meat and organic foods are one way that we can use to protect ourselves. Organic milk or goat milk are alternatives to regular (unhealthy) milk.

Toxins in our foods

Roundup is so rampantly present in agroindustry to protect crops from weeds that traces of it are present in most regular crops. Despite claims that Roundup would be safe for the consumer, newer research has shown that it is not. Genetically modified crops are routinely sprayed with Roundup, as they are resistant to this herbicide, so I recommend to stay away from these crops as well.

Your best protection is to buy organic foods.

Heavy metals can be another source of food toxicity. Red wine was found to contain heavy metals, which could undermine that heart healthy effect of a glass of red wine per day.

Mercury is toxic to the central nervous system. It comes from the effluent of gold mines, the smog from coal burning and volcanic activity, which finds its way into the ocean. Fish is the main source of exposure to humans as explained in this link.

Conclusion

We need to be vigilant about the food we eat. The more it has gone through food processing, the more ingredients get mixed in. We need to ask questions about how the food that we eat was raised. Were food additives mixed in? Are they harmless or bad for our health? Beware of sugar as this causes insulin levels to raise causing obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Watch the addition of salt, which causes high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Avoid polyunsaturated fats, cook with olive oil instead. It’s the Mediterranean way of preventing heart attacks. No butter, no margarine, because this fat ends up in your arteries. Avoid wheat and wheat products that are often mixed into foods. Cook your own food whenever possible. Eat lots of vegetables and salads. Watch the glycemic index and avoid high glycemic index foods. Sweeten with stevia, but avoid all other sweeteners. This way you avoid the insulin response discussed above.

The dietitians of the US have summarized the problems the American public faces in Ref. 2. Essentially we need to take back the responsibility for our own food preparation and become less dependent on manufactured foods. A good collection of wheat-free recipes can be found under Ref. 3.

References

1. William Davis, MD: “Wheat Belly. Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. HarperCollins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada, 2011.

2. The Profession of Dietetics at a Critical Juncture: A Report on the 2006 Environmental Scan for the American Dietetic Association; Journal of the American Dietetic Association – Volume 107, Issue 7 (July 2007)

3.  William Davis, MD: “Wheat Belly Cookbook. 150 Recipes to Help You Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. HarperCollins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada, 2012.

Last edited Oct. 4, 2014

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Mar
01
2003

Do Diet Drinks Make You More Hungry?

There were some articles recently that stated that diet drinks would make you hungry. However, they lacked proper controls. For this reason the gastroenterologist, Dr. Khursheed Jeejeebhoy, from the University of Toronto/Ontario designed a well controlled 10 week trial where several parameters were measured while patients were either snacking on diet drinks or on sugar containing soft drinks on top of their regular food intake, which was also closely monitored. The only requirement in the beginning of the study was that the subjects had to be overweight (body mass index of 27 to 28). Participants of the study were then divided randomly into subjects drinking soft drinks with either sugar or sugar substitutes. The drinks were blindly given, but meticulous records were kept of what was consumed. In addition the subjects were allowed to eat as many snacks as they liked with either sugar in it or sugar substitutes. Below  is a tabular summary of the findings.

The surprising findings were that the sugar group had an increased appetite and wanted to eat more and more. Sugar also raised the blood pressure significantly.

Do Diet Drinks Make You More Hungry...

Diet Drinks Make You More Hungry

The result was a significant weight gain during the 10 weeks of the trial while the other group (AS) had lost a significant amount of weight without any hunger pangs. The researchers also measured body fat versus muscle mass and found that the sugar group (SG) had gained fat mass without changing the muscle mass. On the other hand the atrtificail sweetener group (AG) had lost only fat mass, not muscle mass.

Dr. Jeejeebhoy concluded according to the article in The Medical Post (Jan.14, 2003 edition, page 27) that sugar in snacks and drinks should be kept to a minimum to prevent obesity from developing or getting worse. Patients with high blood pressure should avoid sugar as much as possible and stick to a low glycemic-index diet. Drinks should be diet drinks or fluids without sugar content. Do diet drinks make you more hungry? The answer is: “NO!”

Artificial Sweeteners And Weight Loss(10-Week Study)
Findings: Comments:
Additional Calories
from drinks per day:
AS: 250 Cal.       SG: 870 Cal.
total caloric intake over the 10 weeks: AS:decreasing steadily
SG:increasing
steadily
appetite sensation: AS:no appetite
complaints
SG:sugar stimulated
appetite
weight gain or loss: AS:significant weight loss SG:significant weight gain
activity level(exercise) no change in either groups (AS or SG)
blood pressure
AS:no change
SG:sugar increased
blood pressure significantly
AS=Artificial sweetener group SG=Sugar group

Comment: Not every diet drink is medically safe. Aspartame and Sodium cyclamate are brain excitotoxins. One of the safest alternatives to sugar is Stevia. Read this review about  sugar alternatives.

Last edited December 10, 2012