It’s obvious that Americans as a society consume way too much sugar, and it is having a devastating effect on our health. However, while doing research for this article, I was very surprised by some of the facts I discovered.
According to Drs. Bowden and Sinatra, in The Great Cholesterol Myth, sugar, not fat or cholesterol, is the leading dietary contributor to heart disease. Sugar and processed carbohydrates found in grains contribute to inflammation in arterial walls and spike insulin levels, which increases blood pressure and cholesterol, thus making sugar the missing link between obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
A USDA survey shows that sugar consumption has been increasing every year since 1982. The average American consumes 135 lbs. of sugar per year compared to about 5 lbs. per year in the late 1800’s.
In an effort to offer low calorie sugar substitutes, a variety of commercial sweet alternatives have been developed including Splenda, Aspartame, and Saccharine.
In the United States it is estimated that the average American consumes 24 pounds of artificial sweeteners per year. Some of this consumption is intentional, but a lot of it is being consumed unknowingly. There are artificial sweeteners in foods such as yogurt, frozen dinners, and even baby foods.
Diet sodas are the number one way that artificial sweeteners are consumed. For many, the belief is that there are less calories and it is better for you when you are trying to watch your calories. The truth in fact is that consuming artificial sweeteners actually causes you to gain weight. When we eat artificial sugars our body tries to use the sugar. This causes the pancreas to release insulin. The problem is that there isn’t any sugar in our body to use so we begin to crave sugar which in turns makes us crave food.
Splenda has become one of the most used artificial sweeteners on the market today. Splenda is a form of sucralose which is one of the four FDA approved types of artificial sweeteners. There are many rumors about sweeteners. The first is that they cause cancer. While this has not been proven, researchers have seen an increase in cancers due to excessive body fat in people who use moderate amounts of artificial sweeteners. Splenda and other artificial sweeteners have been shown to be very addictive as well as causing hyperactivity of the muscles controlling the bladder.
The best thing to do is avoid artificial sweeteners all together. There are many natural healthy substitutes such as honey and raw cane sugar. Many people have shifted to using Stevia which is derived from the stevia plant. The problem is unless you are making it yourself some companies place additives in with the stevia such as other artificial sweeteners.
While Splenda has been promoted as a healthy sugar alternative and even boasts that it is made from sugar, it is a far cry from sugar once the chemists are done manipulating its chemical structure. In fact, Splenda is the trade name for sucralose; a synthetic compound stumbled upon in 1976 by scientists in Britain seeking a new pesticide formulation. The biggest issue with Splenda is that we don’t know the long term effects it can have on the body. Some people have been known to have allergic reactions ranging from skin rashes and dizziness to stomach pain and headaches. Only time will tell if there are more serious side effects. Meanwhile, anyone using Splenda is a participant in a long term lab test.
Aspartame, on the other hand, has been around a long time and its effects are well known. When Aspartame is digested in the body it is converted to formaldehyde and can accumulate in the brain. It’s been linked with MS, lupus, fibromyalgia, and other central nervous disorders. Side effects also include headaches, migraines, panic attacks, dizziness, irritability, nausea, intestinal discomfort, skin rash, and nervousness.
Saccharine has long been considered to have carcinogenic effects. Although Saccharine is not as widely used as it once was, it can still be found in a variety of products, such as gum.
So what is a sweet tooth to do? Honey is a viable option. How about apple sauce in baking? Another alternative is polyalcohol sugars like sorbitol, xylitol, malitol, and mannitol. These are natural sweeteners that do not trigger an insulin reaction. They have half the calories of sugar and are not digested by the small intestine. However, sorbitol is a natural laxative and should be used sparingly.
The best known alternative appears to be Stevia, a sweet herb from South America. Although it is not widely used here in the United States, it is gaining popularity. Stevia can be used for anything you might use sugar in, including baking. It is naturally low in carbohydrates. You can buy Stevia at most health food stores and various online stores. Based on reports from other countries where Stevia has been used for years, it appears to have little to no side effects.
The best possible results will come from being as natural as possible. Removing sugars both natural and artificial is one of the best ways to both lose weight and gain more energy!
Make sure to educate yourself about what you are putting into your body, and ‘pick your poison’ wisely!