Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sweetly Sinister ?

Hi Jean,

Just wanted to see what your take is on the artificial sweeteners that seem to be in just about everything out there these days. I lost over 100 lbs last year and the diet drinks etc..definitely played a huge part in controlling my calorie intake. But I just completed a certificate as a Nutrition and Wellness Specialist as well as a Personal Trainer and the info I rec'd about artificial sweeteners was eye opening to say the least! I have totally eliminated every trace of Splenda and any product with aspartame from my home and refuse to consume it. A sort of cleansing if you will and maybe feeling a placebo effect but I feel fantastic and more lean than before. What do you think ? Should people who are trying to look the leanest and best they can benefit from this type of body cleansing ?
John Miller

This is an interesting kind of question and one that frequently finds its way to my inbox. Please refer to my blog here about artificial sweeteners in general and where you can find them.

I have seen a multitude of websites with anecdotal reports that causes headaches, seizures, etc; however, these findings are certainly not supported in research. If negative claims were well-supported, aspartame would not be in the market. I believe this because there are many other good-tasting economical artificial sweeteners on the market and the food industry is not dependent on aspartame exclusively.

That said, credible people have made the claim that some artificial sweeteners are hazardous or just not optimally healthy. Also, they are typically packaged with highly processed and chemical-saturated foods, which are wise to avoid. For instance, dark sodas have excessive phosphorus, which may have negative effects on bone density and health. Furthermore, artificial sweeteners are packaged in hot chocolate mixes, highly processed diary, cereals, bars and other items, many of which are not labeled as "diet." Generally speaking, highly processed food and beverage should be avoided. If you eradicate artificial sweeteners from the diet, you may be cutting out a lot of other "junk" type food, which could make you feel and look leaner.

Also, eating high amounts of artificial sweet products may cause you to develop an extreme sweet tooth, so some people satisfy their sweet cravings with a small hard candy instead of copious amounts of Splenda in the coffee ;-)

On the other hand, a credible and academic article entitled "Aspartame and its Effects on Health" was published in the British Medical Journal. It's a good read if you're concerned about the scientific stance on aspartame.

Also, when you are looking at a site that highly anti-artificial sweeteners, look at what the authors may be selling on the site. Are there teaser articles and a link to a book that tells you the "full story?" Are there links to buy natural Stevia products instead? Every "expert" needs a niche or an angle--artificial food additives are an easy target. Commercial interests often sit behind extreme and sensational viewpoints and those commercial influences are important to consider when you make your own decision about products like artificial sweeteners.

In terms of my own use, I limit aspartame and use Splenda and saccharin a little more freely. I eat very few processed foods, so the bulk of my artificial sweeteners come straight from some kind of packet. I will typically have Splenda or Sweet N' Low Brown in my oatmeal and coffee in the morning, and I often won't have it again for the rest of the day. I cut my diet soda back to about 1-2 can/month about 6 months ago to limit the dye and acid exposure on my teeth. Generally speaking, artificial sweeteners can be very useful for appeasing a sweet-tooth as long as your diet, on the whole, is healthy and unprocessed.

No comments: