Sugar substitutes such as saccharin (Sweet’N Low®), aspartame (Equal®, NutraSweet®) and sucralose (Splenda®) may seem like a perfect solution to our growing waistlines and increasing obesity rate with its promises to satisfy our cravings with zero calories, but in reality they are ALL chemicals destroying our bodies. We are in a never-ending search for a “healthier” way to overindulge our sweet tooth without the repercussions of excess sugar; but, as you will soon read, artificial sweeteners are linked to many health risks- surprisingly including weight gain!
Without our intense addiction to sugar (over 115 million tons currently produced each year), we would never be looking for a substitute to replace it. Our overindulgence of processed junk food has left big businesses eager to create a money-making way to sell us more of what we crave- without the guilt. Aside from sugar satisfying our taste buds, it also increases opioids in the brain fueling our addiction. Here’s an interesting fact- just a few short years ago, 15.3 billion gallons of soda were sold in the US, that’s equivalent to one and a half 12 ounce cans of soda per day for every person in the US.
First, lets get into the topic of weight gain. Phenylalanine and aspartic acid (ingredients in artificial sweeteners) are known to stimulate the release of insulin and leptin, which in turn signal the body to store FAT. It also impairs the body’s release of the hormones signaling you’re full. A low level of serotonin (side affect of aspartame) triggers food cravings, especially carbohydrates, and leads to weight gain.
When your taste buds sense something sweet is about to enter your body, they signal the brain to prepare the digestive system to break down and digest sugar. The problem occurs when the sugar rush (extra calories) doesn’t materialize. The body is left with a release of insulin and digestive enzymes and since there are no calories to digest, they perform their other evolutionary task, which is signaling the body to store fat. Now, the body perceives itself as still hungry, so you, in turn, consume more calories than if you had the real thing (sugar) in the first place. The American Heart Association Journal published a study indicating people who consume diet drinks are at a higher risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome (abdominal fat, high blood pressure and insulin resistance among others).
The next few paragraphs are all about the mainstream artificial sweeteners found in many of our foods and beverages. It will describe how they were discovered, how they were approved and the dangerous things they do to our bodies.
In 1879 two researchers were studying products derived from toluene. Toluene is a liquid produced in the process of making gasoline. It’s used in paint, paint thinners and fingernail polish among other things. One of the researchers accidentally ingested the chemical and to his surprise, it was sweet- and just like that- saccharin was born. It was widely used for many years until it was banned in 1912 due to potential side effects, but because of the overwhelming demand made by the public, it was back on the market and in our food by 1914. Saccharin carried the following warning label for many years: “use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.” This warning label was used, because in fact, it has been shown to cause cancer in lab rats. In 2000, the US Congress removed the warnings and said they were no longer required. Saccharin was the first of many artificial sweeteners to hit the market. Saccharine contains 4 calories per packet.
Aspartame was discovered in 1965. It is sold in over 100 countries, found in over 6,000 products and consumed by more than 250 million people. It is nearly impossible to find a product without aspartame; gum, diet food and low fat yogurt all contain aspartame. This is a scary fact when you learn about the road to FDA approval for this chemical. Interesting tidbit- there have been more complaints to the FDA for aspartame reactions than all other food additives combined (except Olestra®). The FDA has received over ten thousand complaints of those who have had bad reactions to aspartame. This is quite large considering less than 1% of people suffering from reactions ever report them in the first place.
Many FDA scientists protested the approval of aspartame because of the following discoveries: early findings reported frequent brain tumors in animals, there was seemingly flawed and misreported data and because there were insufficient trails on humans over any extended length of time. In one study, 7 monkeys were fed aspartame, 1 monkey died and 5 others had grand mal seizures. The FDA did investigate the inaccuracies, but unfortunately the U.S attorney heading the investigation was lured over to G.D. Searle (manufacturers of aspartame at that time) and as a result, the jury had to abandon the case (statute of limitations expired). The FDA released the Bressler Report, which identifies all the misreporting and errors found in the research. The full break down can be found at http://www.dorway.com/bressler.txt. Aspartame was finally approved with the help of Donald Rumsfeld. He became the new CEO of G.D. Searle. He used his political connections, i.e. Ronald Regan, to limit the power of the FDA commissioner so aspartame could not be banned, and soon after he replaced the FDA commissioner with Dr Hayes. Once Hayes was able to override the ban and get aspartame approved, he quit as FDA commissioner and joined Searle as a consultant. Another fact about the FDA- A full 80 percent of the FDA’s resources are geared toward the approval of new drugs, and only 20 percent for all the rest. Only 5 percent goes to drug safety.
Aspartame is 50% phenylalanine, 40% aspartic acid and 10% methanol (wood alcohol). When phenylalanine and aspartic acid are consumed as free amino acids, they enter your nervous system in high concentrations causing excessive firing of brain neurons and potential cell death. These are commonly referred to as excitotoxins. This causes headaches, mental confusion, balance problems and seizures. Aspartame completely breaks down and metabolizes in the body. The Environmental Protection Agency defines safe consumption of the dangerous substance methanol as no more than 7.8 milligrams per day. Guess how many milligrams are in a can of diet soda- 16! Basically, once you consume aspartame, the methanol (wood alcohol) is metabolized into formaldehyde (a known carcinogen). It is stored in fat cells and it extremely difficult and in some cases impossible to be excreted from the body. According to the EPA, formaldehyde can cause cancer in lab animals and likely causes it in humans (because it alters DNA). Manufactures of aspartame defend methanol by saying it is found in nature. The whole truth is methanol never exists bound to amino acids in nature like it is in aspartame. Fruit contains methanol bound to pectin, which is a form of fiber. When fruit is consumed, the bond of methanol and pectin is excreted from your body and it is not metabolized or broken down into formaldehyde.
Phenylalanine alters the balance of our brain chemistry. It affects serotonin, norepinephrine and epinephrine. The Department of Health and Human Services came up with a list of more than 90 side effects of Aspartame. Among these are: depression, mood swings, tremors, numbness, nausea, insomnia, vision problems, vertigo, joint pain, heart palpitations and headaches. Aspartame interacts with antidepressants.
The blood brain barrier can become porous with things like age, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, pesticide exposure and hypoglycemia. These conditions allow aspartame to enter the blood brain barrier and make these people more susceptible to the dangers of aspartame. For comprehensive studies on aspartame and the effects on the human body such as cancer, migraines, vision impairment and weight gain, please view the National Library Medline Index. Equal® (aspartame) contains 2 calories per teaspoon and is 200 times sweeter than sugar. There are many websites dedicated to listing all over-the-counter medications containing aspartame. What I found was the majority of these medications were children’s products.
Splenda® is the brand name for sucralose. It is 600 times sweeter than sugar and claims to have no calories or carbohydrates. Sucralose itself is not sold to consumers, but Splenda® products contain sucralose in addition to other caloric sweeteners. Sucralose was discovered while creating insecticides. The chemists were adding sulfuryl chloride, a highly poisonous chemical, to sugar water. Again, taste was confused with test, and a sweet, poisonous concoction was created. The slogan, “made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar” is a clever marketing ploy to detract from the fact it has been treated with trityl chloride, acetic anhydride, hydrogen chlorine, thionyl chloride and methanol- so it’s nothing like sugar. Splenda® contains chlorine, which is highly toxic. Free chlorine is not found in nature. It is used in things like bleaching agents and disinfectants. According to Splenda®, chlorine is a safe and natural part of our food supply. In fact, there is chloride in nature, not chlorine.
Another clever plan is in the chemical’s name, sucralose. It has come under fire because it sounds very similar to sucrose, which is table sugar. Most labels do not disclose that Splenda® is in the product, it just lists sucralose as an ingredient and it can be easily confused. Products featuring Splenda® are perceived as “natural” because of the claim “made from sugar.” This is even being disputed by the Sugar Association, which is suing Splenda’s® manufacturer, McNeil Nutritionals.
Out of 84 published studies, only 15 were done to evaluate safety, and of those only 5 were tested on humans. The longest human study was conducted for a mere thirteen weeks. Also of interest is that of the fifteen published animal and human safety studies, thirteen were directly funded by the manufacturer. A study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health found Splenda® reduced the amount of good bacteria in the intestines by 50%, it can dramatically increase the pH level in the intestines, and contrary to previous claims, Splenda® can be absorbed by fat. Once Splenda® gets to the gut, sucralose goes largely unrecognized in the body as food which is why they can claim it has zero calories. The majority of people absorb approximately 15% of the chemical. The body tries to get rid of foreign substances (i.e. Splenda®) by digesting them, so it’s likely the healthier your gastrointestinal system is, the more you’ll absorb the chlorinated molecules of Splenda.
Splenda® claims it is a zero calorie sugar substitute, but that isn’t entirely true. Sucralose needs to have bulking agents added to it so it measures, pour and tastes more like real sugar. The bulking agents ARE other forms of REAL sugar. 99% of Splenda® is sugar, only 1% is actually sucralose! The food labeling laws allow products to be described as sugar-free if the serving size is less than .5 grams of sugar and calorie-free if the serving size is less than 5 calories. When it comes to Splenda® for baking, one cup contains 96 calories and 32 grams of carbs- that’s enough to significantly raise blood sugar levels.
The following list contains the most common symptoms associated with sucralose (these are self-reported adverse reactions to Splenda® or sucralose collected by the Sucralose Toxicity Information Center): skin redness, itching, hives, shortness of breath, dry mouth, swelling of the lips and tongue, headaches, stuffy nose, sneezing, red eyes, gas, constipation, palpitations, anxiety, insomnia, blood sugar increases and numbness of limbs. With all the Splenda® products in our grocery stores, it looks as if we are now in the process of another grand public experiment, and we may not know all the health implications for many years to come.
I receive many questions about Stevia and the following is what I have found. Stevia is a natural product derived from a South American herb named Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni. It is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia has been used for over 400 years without ill effect. Stevia makes up over 40% of the Japanese sweetener market with no adverse reaction reports, while 80% of food-additive-related complaints in the US is from aspartame. We’ve known about Stevia in the US since 1918, but pressure from the sugar import trade blocked its use as a commodity. Stevia is now gaining recognition as a sugar substitute, despite similar hurdles from large corporations. Since the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act was passed, Stevia can be sold legally in the US as a dietary supplement.
One thing is certain- some of the chemicals that make up artificial sweeteners are hazardous. The degree of experienced side effects mostly depends on each person’s individual biochemistry. Manufacturers are hoping that our bodies won’t absorb very much of these compounds at any given time. The problem is we don’t know what happens when we ingest significant amounts and combinations of different artificial sweeteners through many different low-sugar and sugar-free products.
When it comes to your health, you are the ultimate authority and it’s up to you to decide what is best. If you have to succumb to your sweet tooth, do so in moderation regardless if you use real or fake sugar. Keep your diet high in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. I hope this newsletter was informative! For additional information please ask us for our copy of Sweet Deception by Dr. Joseph Mercola. It goes into detail about each artificial sweetener and all of the other natural sweeteners out there. Also, we have a short documentary called Sweet Misery- A Poisoned World, which also details the deception behind aspartame, interviews with chemists who worked on the trails and additional side effects. Both are at the gym, just ask us!