We all fall victim to trying things that appear to hold beautifying effects such as weight loss. In a society that is plagued with innumerable fad diets and at the same time bombarded with fast-food chains it’s sort of hard to decide what approach to take when it comes to food. As a result, it is almost like our consumerist society has combined the two: low calorie “diet food” and the convenience of speedy access. In quote on quote harmony with this conflicted approach to eating, the introduction of zero calorie sweeteners were introduced. Initially they were the saving grace for those with diabetes. Now, however, sweeteners have become a common element or even heralded necessity to the average person’s diet. Regrettably, this sugar substitute not only will make you gain weight but it has a wide range of detrimental side effects. What’s even more frightening is that this lack of awareness and the appearance of new misleading brands has consumer spending estimated to reach $1.5 billion by year 2015 on artificial sweeteners.
What’s more is that these sweeteners are not only popping up in our beverages, they are also being used as food additives in baking, dairy products, confectioneries, snacks, and even cosmetics. That being said it is important to know how exactly these chemically manufactured products are affecting our health as well as their contribution to weight GAIN. Interestingly, the very purpose sweeteners are thought to serve (weight loss) actually leads to the opposite. In fact, artificial sweeteners are so “sweet” that when ingested a message is sent to the brain letting the body know that there is sugar in the blood ready to be absorbed when there really isn’t. This causes the body to send out a burst of insulin which is meant to breakdown the glucose in the blood. However, when there is no glucose to be found in the body it’s natural response is to feel hungry and actual crave carbohydrates as a source of glucose. Therefore, ingesting any form of artificial sweetener will actually cause a person to feel more frequent hunger pangs and as a result consume more calories.
Now aside from weight gain the following are some startling health effects of the all too popular sweeteners found on the market:
– Aspartame– found in the brands Equal™ and Nutrasweet™. Contains phenylalanine–therefore, those with the metabolism disorder PKU cannot consume this product because their body does not contain the enzyme that breaks down phenylalanine. Numerous side effects include dizziness, headache, increased appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, changes in mood, and cramps. More serious illnesses associated with aspartame: joint pain, anxiety attacks, depression, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, blurred vision, lupus, various cancers and slurred speech.
– Sucralose–found in Splenda™. There is a trace of chlorine in Splenda, which has caused concern over the safety of sucralose. Chlorine is not safe for humans and is used in pesticides, cleaners, and poisonous gases. Not many studies have been conducted on humans to evaluate its safety, but many have been done on animals. Some side effects found in animals are depression, mood swings, anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, chest pains, runny nose, cough and wheezing.
– Saccharin—found in Sweet N’ Low. Studies have shown that consumption can lead to allergic reactions and cause diarrhea, breathing difficulties, headaches and skin eruptions. Also, there is evidence of carcinogenicity–in particular, bladder cancer.
– Cyclamate–found in Sucaryl®, Sugar Twin® and Sweet ‘N Low®. Possible side effects include bladder cancer, liver damage, birth defects, birth mutations, and a reduction in male testosterone levels.
All of this sounds pretty scary, especially because the presence of these sugar substitutes are almost everywhere making them a staple food and beverage additive. More research is called for in order to implement bans on these products however the prognosis does not look bright.
So the important lesson here is the more natural the better. Frequent sugar consumption isn’t good but artificial sugar consumption is worse. If you are like me and have an unrelenting sweet tooth try some creative fruit dishes for dessert which is a healthy and delicious way to curb the sugar cravings.