Sugar & Spice, and all things nice?
I knew I would find it was difficult to find the true facts because I know enough already that the statistics, studies or reports, whether good or bad, are funded by the companies that own the sugar and sweetener companies, how else, or even why would independents afford the sums of money it costs to payroll a 4 or 5 year study.
I also know that simply because these reports and studies are published on the internet, doesn’t make them, in any way, true. A lot of time digging deep is required to try and find out who commissioned the reports and studies in the first place and if they are a credible source, but needless to say they are well hidden. I even found documents registered with the governing food body of the EU, they weren’t conclusive either way either. So, I donned my Deerstalker and armed only with my magnifying glass…
What I found initially, not unsurprisingly, were a few reports claiming that particularly Aspartame, which is portrayed as the devil of devils all over the net, is that it is categorically safe for human consumption. Now, the sceptic that I am, despite knowing that where any reports or studies that emanate from the States are concerned, I usually just dismiss it out of hand (their politics and processes leave a lot to be desired measured by our UK food standards). So that left me at a dead end with nothing conclusive to tell you.
But I kept searching and I have discovered that there are almost 100 different names used for sugar and sugar alcohols on ingredient lists. Some of the less apparent sugar names include carbitol, concentrated fruit juice, corn sweetener, diglycerides, disaccharides, evaporated cane juice, erythritol, Florida crystals, fructooligosaccharides, galactose, glucitol, glucoamine, hexitol, inversol, isomalt, maltodextrin, malted barley, malts, mannitol, nectars, pentose, raisin syrup, ribose rice syrup, rice malt, rice syrup solids, sorghum, sucanat, sucanet, xylitol and zylose.
Here’s the deal; the processed ‘food’ producers can put 3, 4 or all of these different sugars in the same products, so they are then in smaller amounts and appear further down the ingredients list! Makes my blood boil it does! So now I’m really interested!
The list of artificial sweeteners sounds just as yummy! acesulfame K, aspartame, saccharin, sorbitol, sucralose, stevia (steviol glycosides), xylitol, mmmmmm!
I got to thinking, Ok, so let’s say the research on the internet is true and they can prove that sugar and artificial sweeteners are essentially safe when tested in a lab. What about once they are ingested and are interacting with our body’s cells and all the other stuff in our stomachs? And… BINGO!
So ready for the facts?
Animal research shows all artificial sweeteners currently approved and deemed safe by the U.S. Food and Drug cause DNA damage in, and interfere with the normal and healthy activity of, gut bacteria
Artificial sweeteners reviewed in this study include aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, neotame, advantame and acesulfame potassium-k
Saccharin caused the greatest, most widespread damage, exhibiting both cytotoxic and genotoxic effects, meaning it is toxic to cells and damages genetic information in the cell (which can cause mutations)
Aspartame and acesulfame potassium-k were both found to cause DNA damage. Neotame was found to cause metabolic disruption and raised concentrations of several fatty acids, lipids and cholesterol
Other recent research shows artificial sweeteners damage vascular function and cause cellular changes that may be important during the onset and progression of diabetes and obesity
Other recent research adds to the ever-growing evidence pile showing that artificial sweeteners raise your risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes to the same or greater degree as sugar. The study in question explored how different sweeteners — including glucose, fructose, aspartame and acesulfame potassium-k — affect energy usage, energy storage and vascular functioning.
According to the authors, both high amounts of sugar and artificial sweeteners caused vascular impairment and other effects "that may be important during the onset and progression of diabetes and obesity." The artificial sweeteners, however, accumulated in the blood, thereby harming the blood vessel lining to a greater degree.
Of the two artificial sweeteners included in this study, acesulfame potassium appeared to be the worst. As noted by lead author Brian Hoffmann, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering at the Marquette University and Medical College of Wisconsin:
"Sweeteners kind of trick the body. And then when your body's not getting the energy it needs — because it does need some sugar to function properly — it potentially finds that source elsewhere," Hoffman says.
In the case of sugar, the problem we have is that it is addictive, psychologically as addictive as many drugs. We can legitimately become addicted to sugar and sugary foods. We are not genetically designed to consume the amount of sugar that we are currently eating. For that reason, our brains get that ‘happy feeling’ from sugar and it can override the “I’ve had enough” mechanism.
If we want to cut sugar and, or artificial sweetener down or even out, the only way to be able to control it ourselves is by not using processed foods where it lies in wait, hiding from us in a myriad of guises.
I personally couldn’t cope without sweetening my morning coffee, so I’ve switched to honey. I know it is also a form of sugar, but at least it’s natural, you need less of it, it has antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and bacteria-fighting assets which also help against fighting infections that are caused by viruses, bacteria and fungi. While I’m on it, apparently we can also use it as an effective moisturiser, it boosts our memory, helps coughs, it’s a good remedy for dandruff, a natural sleeping aid, eases sinus issues, helps with gum disease, it’s a natural energy drink and prevents Eczema! Jeez, and I’m debating the whys and wherefores of sugar and sweetener?! How naive I’ve been, I’ve been successfully blinded by the sugar hype. At least now I have a subject for next weeks blog…
Be kind to yourself, Denise x