Each October I am reminded of sugar, it’s prevalence in our lives and the health damage it can cause along the way.
Some might ask what’s the big deal about sugar. Truthfully, if eaten in moderation absolutely nothing is wrong with it. Moderation. That means very occasionally. This is not the case for most Americans. An exploration of most folks pantries and freezers will unveil many hidden sugars. Obesity and diabetes are at epidemic proportions not only for adults, but for children as well.
When the weather shifts to cool and we start celebrating ’candy-centric holidays’ we see significantly reduced immune function. It’s even more prevelant with our elderly and youth.
This is classically when the flu, virus and ear infections begin
I have an even larger concern about sugar substitutes.
Dr. Weil, an internationally recognized expert on alternative health has these comments on Seven Substitutes for Sugar and why to stay away from them
(commentary below is excerpted from his June 2006 newsletter. Thank you)
We are all born with an innate craving for sweetness, a desire that served our ancestors well in the form of fruit or honeycomb that offered a quick source of natural energy. Now hidden sugars in foods, drinks can cause problems; including obesity. Many turn to artificial sweeteners as weight loss aids.
84% of Americans use sugar substitutes.
(This is SUCH a staggering percentage).
Dr Weil does not recommend them. He says there is little evidence that they help anyone slim down and some research says that artificial sweeteners may interfere with the body’s natural ability to judge a food’s caloric content by sweetness, making people more likely to over indulge in sweet foods and beverages.
Most artificial sweeteners have seemed safe at first, only to prove harmful later.
Dr. Weil says sugar in moderation, I tend to agree with this philosophy, and for those who can not tolerate sugar he recommends stevia or tagatose.
Here is a list of seven substitutes for sugar and which ones he says to stay away from:
Acesulfame potassium also known as “SweetOne” is 200 times sweeter than sugar, this is often paired with aspartame or sucralose. Known to cause breast tumors in rats. Stay away from this one.
Aspartame also known as NutraSweet or Equal and is 220 times sweeter than sugar and has a funny taste to it. Recent studies show rats had elevated rates of lymphomas, luekemia and other cancers. (environmental health perspectives, march 2006) . Many say aspartame makes them feel dizzy, gives them headaches or may affect central nervous system activity. Some woman comment that it aggravates their PMS.
Dr. Weil considers aspartame very dangerous and to stay away from it.
Saccharin also known as Sweet’NLow, is the oldest of the artificial sweeteners and is 300 –700 times sweeter than sugar, It has a bitter metalic taste to it. The National Cancer Institute found evidence of increased bladder cancer in people who heavily consumed saccharin. He suggests to avoid this one completely.
The label below is found on toothpaste, gum, and many other products that contain saccharin
“USE OF THIS PRODUCT MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH. THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS SACCHARIN WHICH HAS BEEN DETERMINED TO CAUSE CANCER IN LABORATORY ANIMALS.”
Sucralose also known as Splenda is now the best selling artifical sweetener and tastes 600 times more sweeter than sugar. Recently the FDA was petitioned to withdraw it’s approval of splenda until more research can be done on it’s safety. Consumers report stomach pains, other GI concerns, headaches and skin rashes. Dr Weil says while it’s unclear these concerns are related to the sweetener, why risk it – stay away from it.
More on the toxicity of Splenda can be found here.
Sugar alcohols; natural sweeteners also known as sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol and others are about 60 times sweeter than sugar – they do not promote tooth decay and they have little effect on blood sugar levels. Those with digestive disorders can sometimes find these sugar alcohols upsetting, but if tolerated Dr. Weil says these are OK to use in moderation.
Additional commentary on sugar alchohols can be found here
Tagatose also known as milk sugar ( lactose) is a natural sweetener that is 92 % as sweet as sugar yet with about 1/3 of the calories. Brands include Shugr, Sweet Fiber, and TheraSweet. Tagatose does not raise blood sugar levels, is often paired with sugar alcohols so those with digestive problems may not handle this one very well. However if tolerated well, he recommends this natural sweetener.
( I personally have mixed feelings about this one )
Stevia, a non – caloric natural sweetener that is 250-300 times more sweet than sugar, is derived from the leaves of a shrub native to South America. Available as a powder or a liquid it has a licorice-like taste. It is considered a supplement vs a food additive and not approved by the FDA. Stevia has a long history of use in humans with no side effects. Some brands are better than others and can be bitter. Above all Dr. Weil recommends this natural sweetener
(At home we use liquid Stevia by Sweet Leaf – it’s less bitter)