It has taken me many weeks/months to put this post together. I have been 'discussing' with a friend about one of these sweeteners for some time about the dangers so I thought I would put them all out there with the actual research into them. You know who you are!! I care about people - everyone, and want to see people happy and healthy!! Not 'pickled' from the inside out because of what we eat or drink!! We don't need to be 'preserved' from our food based on the chemicals they contain!! I think this information may surprise many, some it may not!!
Artificial Sweeteners and the Inherent Dangers
Since the advent of processed foods, the overall weight of the Average American has increased by an average of 25 pounds in the last 25 years. As such, the food industry has looked for ways for consumers to 'cut the sugar' from their diet. However, in doing so they have contributed to an even growing problem - an increased intake of processed sugars, artificial sugars, and a growing addiction to chemically laden foods.
Some people are naturally prone to being more likely to become addicted to carbohydrates, sugars, artificial sweeteners, and in general foods. However, it is possible to get off those foods! I know, I have done it though it wasn't easy! Many of the chemicals, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners that are put into our foods today can actually lead to increase risks of many cancers, diseases, allergies, difficulties in mood disorders, and more. Again, I have been there and have been recovering from the 'dependency' on those substances as I get myself and my family off of those substances. It took quite some time to completely change our diet but it has been so worth it!!
So, what causes these problems with artificial sweeteners? First, lets take a look at what they are. All 'sweeteners' can be classified two ways - nutritive and non-nutritive. A 'nutritive' substance is one that adds nutrition to any food substance. That is, it provides calories, vitamins, or minerals when you ingest it (eat it). A 'non-nutritive sweetener is one that doesn't add any nutrition to any food substance at all. An example of a 'nutritive sweetener' would be honey, or even maple syrup but also 'sugar alcohols'. Some of these sweeteners not only add calories but also vitamins and minerals to your diet. Some are all natural and are minimally processed to be used. However, some are highly processed such as sugar alcohols which include xylitol. Products containing xylitol now must carry a warning about the risk of diarrhea if over-consuming it as it has a laxative effect. An example of a 'non-nutritive' sweetener would be Splenda®, Equal®, or Sweet-n-Low®. They don't add any calories, vitamins, or minerals at all to your diet. So, what's so bad about them if they are free of all of those things?
In order for a food 'substance' to be approved by the Food and Drug Association (FDA), it has to meet certain requirements. There is a great amount of testing that is done to determine if a food 'substance' is 'safe', 'unsafe', or considered 'GRAS' or 'generally recognized as safe'. 'In the United States, artificial sweeteners fall under the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list or as food additives under the 1958 Food Additives Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. According to the FDA, "Regardless of whether the use of a substance is a food additive use or is GRAS, there must be evidence that the substance is safe under the conditions of its intended use. FDA has defined "safe" as a reasonable certainty in the minds of competent scientists that the substance is not harmful under its intended conditions of use. The specific data and information that demonstrate safety depend on the characteristics of the substance, the estimated dietary intake, and the population that will consume the substance."' This is the amount that the person should consume daily over their lifetime without ill effects at the time of the evaluation. One thing that was not taken into consideration? That it would become so addictive that people would consume far MORE than was expected!!
There are several 'non-nutritive, artificial sweeteners' on the market today and include sucralose, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, and acesulfame potassium. They are often combined with other substances to make them more palatable and easy to digest as well as cut down on bitterness. Each substance also has a 'acceptable daily intake' amount (ADI). Again, when these substances were approved people were NOT expected to be consuming the amounts they actually are. When was the last time you saw a commercial for equal or splenda? I haven't seen one in quite a while and there is a reason for it!
Sucralose (Splenda®) is made by substituting 3 molecules of sugar with chlorine molecules! Yes, I didn't write that incorrectly! And, yes - your FDA in the US approved knowing the pre-approval research showed possible toxicity issues with it!! Chlorine is a known carcinogen!! So, my question is why on earth was this approved and why is there no warning on it like Sweet-n-low®? You can make your own judgments there, I'm just giving you the information.
Aspartame (Equal® or Nutra-Sweet®) is in thousands of everyday products and was the second artificial sweetener on the market. It came out many years after Saccharine (Sweet-n-Low®) was found to cause cancer in rats but was delisted in 1980 as it couldn't be found to cause it in HUMANS! However, the damage to their reputation was already done. Saccharine can be safely used but isn't widely used due to the reputation it already had. Aspartame however is another story. It has a very, very complex process that starts with making amino acids in bacteria! You can read all about the process here on enotes. It just explains the process of how it came about, the discovery and how it is made. From the research I've read, much of the research that shows the dangers were hidden or falsified by the company that developed it and weren't brought forth to the FDA. When it came up for review again the second time more of this came about but because some of the purported research was 'missing' they had a hard time determining if it was GRAS or not so the FDA continued to allow it to be sold. Unfortnately, since that time more and more has been discovered and now less and less of it is being used and more and more are switching to other forms of sweeteners. Even military pilots are warned not to use it!! It has been linked to numerous neurological problems including chronic headaches, brain tumors, birth defects, mental retardation, diabetes, fibromyalgia, parkinson's disease, and more. Again, I'm just giving you the information.
So, how do you get artificial sweeteners out of your diet? For starters, read your labels. Don't buy anything that contains aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium k, saccharin, splenda, equal, or nutra-sweet. Drink water (not tap water!!) If all you have is tap water, get a pitcher filter or other filter to do your filtration. They put chemicals in our city water to kill bacteria but you don't need those chemicals in your body (fluoride, bleach, etc.). Take probiotics regularly to balance your intestinal tract. Avoid processed foods altogether if at all possible but especially those labeled low calorie, sugar free, no sugar added, or diet. Those items likely have artificial sweeteners in them. Look for products that have xylitol or stevia/truvia in it instead. Many flavored waters now contain these in them. Crystal Lite Pure and Vitamin Water Zero now contain Stevia Sweetener. At home, use Raw Agave Nectar (not just Agave Nectar) or honey as well as Stevia or Truvia. I'm personally allergic to honey so I only use Raw Agave Nectar or Stevia/Truvia or Raw Sugar when I need it. I try to avoid refined white sugar.
So, there is all the information. What you do with it is up to you. It has taken me years of education and research to fully understand why it's important to avoid these things. Much of the research about these sweeteners were 'hidden' from the medical community and the public for years. But, it is now widely available to anyone that looks for it. It really makes me sad that many providers still recommend some of these products when it has clearly been shown to cause continual problems and the rise in cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease is ever pressing. I do know one thing, since I've been 'off' most chemicals, processed foods, etc. I certainly feel and look better!! Let's get back to basics and just good clean eating and living!!