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The sweetness of sugar is something that most of us cannot stay away from because as kids we were conditioned to crave sugar. Nowadays sugar is everywhere. You can find it in soft drinks, energy drinks, candy bars, canned foods, pancake mixes, bread, cereal, condiments, ice cream, the list can go on forever. Because of the easy access to junk food and the popularity of fast food, the amount of sugar consumption in the United States and Western countries has increased dramatically. According to USDA survey, in the U.S., per capita consumption is more than 150 pounds annually.
Sugar is great for giving you quick energy but also give you energy breakdowns. Sugar is what nutritionists called “empty calories” which are foods that are high in calories but low in nutrition, such as processed food, fried food and junk food. The lack of nutrients can lead to certain diseases, prevent the body from functioning properly and drain the body of energy. The popularity of fast food and junk food have many health experts worried about the negative impact they have on consumers. Fast food and junk food are major contributors for the increase of diabetes and obesity. Those diseases are starting to affect the decision of consumers; therefore, many of them are seeking alternatives to refined sugar. The most popular alternatives are artificial sweeteners.
The popularity of artificial sweetener is actually a good thing for manufacturers because it is cost efficient and their profit margins is extremely high. Industry experts estimated that the market for sweetener will grow over $1.1 billion by 2010. Artificial sweetener, also known as sugar substitute, is many time sweeter than regular sugar (sucrose) and is popular in weight loss, prevention of tooth decay and people with insulin deficiency. However, independent studies have shown that it actually promote weight gain and diabetes.
There are many controversies about how artificial sweeteners can cause cancer. Certain studies have confirmed that some artificial sweeteners can cause cancer in rats but have not provide clear evidence of how they are related to cancers in people. However, independent studies had confirmed that many artificial sweeteners are toxic to the body, especially the brain and nervous system.
Types of artificial sweetener (sugar substitutes)
- Acesulfame Potassium: Studies had shown that it can produce lung and breast tumors, leukemia and chronic respiratory disease in rats. Acesulfame potassium is FDA approved.
- Alitame: Pending FDA approval
- Aspartame (Nutrasweet, AminoSweet): Lab tests had shown that aspartame caused brain tumors in rats. Recent studies from independent researchers concluded that aspartame can cause negative effects on nerve endings in the brain. Many users experienced symptoms such as panic attacks, hallucinations, dizziness, headaches, nausea, memory impairment and temporary blindness. Aspartame is approved by the FDA.
- Aspartame Acesulfame: FDA approved
- Cyclamate: According to lab tests in rats in the 1970′s, high levels of cyclamates caused bladder cancer. This study wasn’t very conclusive because rats are particularly susceptible to this disease. Cyclamate is banned in the United States by the FDA but is still used in many parts of the world.
- Dulcin: FDA banned
- Glucin: It is similar to saccharin because it is derived from coal tar. Unlike saccharin, glucin does not store well and reacts easily to other food ingredients because it is water soluble. Glucin is prohibited in the United States due to health concerns.
- Neohesperidin Dihydrochalcone: Has not been approved by the FDA
- Neotame: FDA approved
- P-4000: Was accidentally discovered in the early 1900′s and used during world war 2 in Europe as a commercial sweetener. Due to its strong anesthetic effect on the mouth and high toxicity in rats, P-4000 is banned by the FDA.
- Saccharin: It is one of the first artificial sweetener. Studies in the 1960 showed that high levels of saccharin causes bladder cancer in rats. The FDA did ban saccharin but the ban was lifted in 1991. Most countries allow the use of saccharin but at low doses.
- Sucralose (Splenda): It is one of the most used artificial sweetener. Funded researchers claim that sucralose is not harmful because it passes through the digestive tract unchanged. If this is true, how come people can taste it when they put it in their mouths? Independent researchers claim that it is harmful to the nervous system and the brain. An article published in Science Health Abstracts reported that high doses of sucralose shrunk the thymus glands of rats by up to 40 percent. Sucralose is part of a class of chemicals called organochlorides, some organochlorides are highly toxic which is why there are a lot of controversy about this sweetener. Sucralose is FDA approved.
- Isomalt: Approved in the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
There are many controversies about artificial sweeteners but to say that they are safe may not be the best answer. As for health benefits, they are not healthy because they lack nutrients. Artificial sweeteners contain synthetic chemicals which may cause your body to react to the sweeteners in negative ways. If you are concern about your health, stay away from artificial sweeteners.
What are your thoughts about artificial sweeteners? Feel free to leave a comment.