Sugar Substitutes, Sweetness Continued…
The need for a calorie free sugar substitute fills many needs. For those with diabetes these products may help in maintaining a stable blood glucose levels. As our modern lifestyle has become increasingly sedentary the need for weight management has increased. Those seeking to reduce sugar related tooth decay. However, controversy exists over the safety of sugar substitutes. There is an abundance of research and an equal or greater abundance of opinions on both sides of this discussion. The purpose of this author is to provide information for personal use and is not intended as an endorsement for or against use of these products. That being said. Let’s look at what sweetness has been cooked up in a lab near you in pursuit of a calorie free non-nutritive sugar substitute.
Saccharine.org tells us saccharine is a man-made sugar substituted discovered by a chemist working with coal tar at Johns Hopkins in 1879 its use was rather limited until sugar shortages during both WWI and WWII. Depending on the source saccharine is stated as being 200 to 700 times sweeter than sugar, but has a bitter after taste. It also passes through our digestive system without breaking down. Saccharine is derived from toluene, as petroleum product as per dictionary.com. Naturalhealthsherpa.com includes: “anthranilic acid, nitrous acid, sulfur dioxide, chlorine, and ammonia”. Saccharine has also had its share of mixed press. The cancer.gov fact sheet reports limited studies in the 1970s have linked it to bladder tumors in male rats. While subsequent studies with primates and continued use by humans have not shown any increase in tumor formation. In the early 2000s the National Toxicology Program (NP) recommended removing labeling requirements stating “possibly carcinogenic” according to medicinenet.com. Canada has also recently lifted its ban on use. Multiple sites attribute the following statement to Teddy Roosevelt circa 1907, “Anybody who says saccharin is injurious to health is an idiot.”
Aspartame was discovered in 1965 and approved for use in the 1980s.
Aspartame.org estimates that 2 million plus people around the world consume aspartame; which is easy to do sine it is found in over 6000 products. Mercola.com reflects information found in many places. Aspartame is composed of amino acids: aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol. Unlike saccharine, which remains intact and undigested as it passes through our bodies, aspartame breaks down into these individual amino acids. Aspartic acid functions as an excitatory neurotransmitter; which may over excite our nerve cells. Phenylalanine is found the brain and also functions as a neurotransmitter. There is a genetic disorder, phenylketonuria (PKU), which impairs excretion of this amino acid and can lead to serious and sometimes fatal consequences. Methanol is also known as wood alcohol; this breaks down further into formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and is connected to other side effects. Dr. Mercola calls aspartame “…the most dangerous substance added to most foods today.” He believes aspartame can be linked to over 90 physical manifestations related to toxic levels of these imbalanced amino acids in our bodies. On their website cancer.org the American Cancer Association(ACA) feels the current research doesn’t support any links to cancer in humans and the use of aspartame. They also support the FDA in that use of aspartame is same and in the majority of people have no risks for other side effects.
Sucralose.org, sponsored by The Calorie Control Council, explains how sucralose is made by taking sucrose (sugar) and replacing three hydrogen-oxygen groups and replacing them with chlorine molecules. Creating a product that is like sugar but is free from calories. They take the position that sucralose is safe for people and the environment. Sucralose is approximately 600 times sweeter than regular sugar. This author reviewed a recent (2013) research article by Susan S. Schiffmana & Kristina I. Rotherb, published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B: Critical Reviews Volume 16, Issue 7, 2013. This research is showing: sucralose is partially digested and absorbed, contrary to previous research stating it is inert; can reduce beneficial gut bacteria by up to 50%; and may interfere with medication absorption. This is based on rat studies; the same process used by the FDA; using recommended safe daily amounts. The bulk of previous research has been performed by the food industry.
According to pubchem, a website of the NIH contains information concerning this chemical including decontamination, safe daily limits set by the FDA, along with 3 patents. One help by Pepsi, the second by a Chinese company and the third held by a German company. According to www.acesulfamek.org, Acesulfame potassium; AKA, ACE-K; was discovered in a German lab in 1967 and was approved for human use in 1983 and is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Since its approval ACE-K can now be found almost ubiquitously in foods, beverages and medications: over 5000 products worldwide. It is usually found in conjunction with other artificial sweeteners. This site also states that ACE-K has no side effects, non-carcinogenic and is safe for pregnant women and children. As per this site this is supported by “over 90 studies”. Naturalnews.com shows an opinion which is diametrically opposed. Naturalnews.com states ACE-K contains methylene chloride, known to cause cancer. Calling this product “the sweet devil”. Fitday.com states “There is evidence that long-term exposure to methylene chloride is linked to visual disturbances, headaches, depression, liver effects, nausea, mental confusion, kidney effects and cancers in humans.” While the FDA feels there will be no methylene chloride in finished food products due to filtering processes.
This sweetener was discovered during the research process for this article. According to a fact sheet on neotame.com this sweetener was approved for use in July of 2002. It is chemically similar to aspartate, but due to a refining process has no issues for those with PKU; a genetic disease resulting in impaired excretion of the amino acid phenylalanine. This site also tells us that the NutraSweet Co. makes Neotame and plans an aggressive marketing campaign focused on soft drink and food producers, not the general public. This information comes from an article by the Wall Street Journal based on a 2002 interview with Nick E. Rosa, President and Chief Executive of the NutraSweet Co.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest(www.cspinet.org) list all of the above as products to avoid; along with reducing salt and sugar consumption. As over use of “natural” food components can lead to health problems. In researching this article the amount of conflicting research, lack of research and opposing camps accusing the other of “bad science” was eye opening. The opening premises of sugar substitutes aiding in weight loss and blood sugar control may not be true. A large body of recent research implies these “super sweet” products may actually feed sugar cravings and consumption of more calories throughout the day. This author feels with the relatively recent advent of these products over the past 20–30 years more “good science” and unbiased research needs to be done and disseminated.
As a health care practitioner “evidence based practice” is the new standard. Being an allopathic RN ad a complimentary Chiropractor “evidence based” and common sense can point in divergent directions. My disclaimer is I personally do not knowingly use these products. I just have to many questions concerning their safety. I also do not knowing consume HFCS and limit my use of sugar and processed foods. This is where I say “Knowledge is power”. Please, copy paste these products to your favorite search engine and read the existing data for yourself. Make informed choices about what you and your loved ones put in your bodies.
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