Twelve years ago, as a newly diagnosed diabetic, my doctors told me to avoid sugar as much as possible. They implied that if I ate any sugar it would have extreme negative effects on me. At the time, without adequate time to research for myself, I believed them and had an expectation that all doctors know what they are talking about. And so, from then on, I had my own special sets of food: Halloween candy was sugar free, syrup was sugar free, juice was made with no sugar added, jams and jellies were made with Splenda. There was doubles of everything in our fridge: one sugar free, one regular.
Fast forward about 8 or 9 years and the fridge was still doubled, however right around this time my mother became extremely interested in the topic of nutrition and food contents. Through her research, she found some disturbing facts, such as the presence of plastic and metals in many of the lower calorie, lower sugar foods (such as margarine and sugar free yogurts). The contents of many artificial sweeteners could contain traces of plastic and metals amidst the chemically configured sugars. In addition, her research uncovered the addictive natures of the substitutes, a fact that is nothing but terrifying for the mother of a young adult who is approaching the age of being fully independent. No parent wants their child to be addicted to anything, whether it be drugs or porn or even sugars.
An addiction, of any form, is a mental illness that requires treatment in order to fully recover. And yet, doctors and marketers are quick to provide us with access and information about how these artificial sugars are an adequate replacement for natural sugars. While they might contain less calories themselves, the research shows that the risks associated with these chemically altered products are far larger and more deadly than any of the risks associated with the natural sugars. But perhaps all of these risks can be mediated with one simple method: moderation. A term that has seemingly lost its meaning, in the United States especially, where everyone seems to want their food bigger and better.
All of these companies are demonizing the concept of natural sugars, corresponding intake of sugar with obesity and diabetes. This marketing is validated by doctors and other people in positions of authority who deter parents from allowing their children to eat sugars. What they fail to note is that anything in excess will have negative effects, for instance too many fruits can cause diarrhea and too much cheese can cause constipation.
Often times, sugar is the first thing a person cuts down on in their food intake when they decide to try and eat better. For the most part, this is done by replacing sugar with sugar alternatives, usually artificial sweeteners. But studies have show that this is actually quite bad for people to partake in. There have been multiple studies showing that artificial sugars are linked to cases of cancer, diabetes and obesity. This seems counter intuitive doesn’t it? One would think that if they’re eating nothing but diet sodas and artificially sweetened drinks or desserts that they should be losing weight not gaining it.
Studies have shown that one of the side effects of artificial sweeteners is a change in the way that we taste food. “Non-nutritive sweeteners are far more potent than table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. A minuscule amount produces a sweet taste comparable to that of sugar, without comparable calories. Over-stimulation of sugar receptors from frequent use of these hyper-intense sweeteners may limit tolerance for more complex tastes,” explains Dr. Ludwig (an obesity and weight-loss specialist at Harvard-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital). Essentially what this means is that the body stops being able to appreciate less sickeningly sweet foods, such as fruits. Foods such as vegetables, which contain no natural sweetness, are completely unbearable to someone who consistently partakes in artificial sweeteners. In other words, use of artificial sweeteners can make you shun healthy, filling, and highly nutritious foods while consuming more artificially flavored foods with less nutritional value.
Yet another concern with artificial sweeteners is their ability to play tricks on the mind. For someone who typically eats foods with artificial sweeteners, they stop corresponding sweeteners with calories. Thus they are more like to eat a larger number of sweets, without realizing any of the negative health effects. This results in an increase in the sweets intake and a dismissal of more nutritional and healthy foods. Participants in the San Antonio Heart Study who drank more than 21 diet drinks per week were twice as likely to become overweight or obese as people who didn’t drink diet soda.
The advertising of these low-calorie sugar replacements gives the viewer a feeling of health and the impression that in order to lose weight, they need to utilize these replacements that were created in a lab. What isn’t shown is the side effects of these alternatives, which could be argued to be blatant false advertisement. Moreover it is shown that it is not as easy as just switching back to regular sugar when you decide you don’t want to experience any of the negative effects. Animal studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may be addictive. In studies of rats who were exposed to cocaine, then given a choice between intravenous cocaine or oral saccharine(a type of artificial sugar), most chose saccharin.
Even the government shows wariness over the topic of artificial sweeteners, with only 5 types of artifical sweeteners receiving the FDA’s approval: Acesulfame potassium, Aspartame, Neotame, Saccharin, Sucralose. These 5 types are the base for any artificial sweetener you will find, such as Equal, Sweet n’ Low, and Splenda. It is almost more common now days to find artificial sweeteners at a restaurant than it is to find natural alternatives, making it hard to avoid them altogether. What does this mean for us? And why is it that this chemically manufactured product is constantly forced upon us, despite multiple studies showing negative affects of prolonged use of it? It certainly makes one wonder whether it is a matter of money that is causing this over exposure of a chemically enhanced and nutritionally deficient product.