Sugar used to be rare and very expensive known as ‘white gold’. Nowadays refined white sugar is added in large quantities to many different food stuffs and could be more correctly classed as ‘white poison’. However, as our health detectives discover in this issue, the worst dangers are not found in natural sugars but in the use of sugar substitutes – specially the artificial ones.
“For many years I have been taking sugar free products, using sweeteners, chewed sugar free chewing gum, drinking light and sugar free drinks in order to avoid sugar – isn’t that healthy?” one client asked in the clinic. No, it isn’t our health detectives say.
A sugar substitute is a food additive that duplicates the effect of sugar or corn syrup in taste, but usually has less food energy. Some sugar substitutes are natural and some are artificial sweeteners.
Natural sugar alcohols are chemically related to sugar and are transformed into sugar in the body, and include sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, isomalt, lactitol or maltitol. They provide calories like normal sugar and sometimes even more because we use more of them to get the sweet taste, so the body is being cheated: it gets sugar even if it says sugar free on the packet! Something diabetics have to be aware of. Our client chewed 2 – 3 packets of chewing gum every day without knowing that excess use of these sweeteners causes diarrhoea, which was one of his problems!
Artificial sweeteners are chemically different to sugar, and include saccharin, aspartame, acesulfam potassium and cyclamat. They all cheat the taste buds by sweetening food up to several hundred times more than sugar but with no calories added.
Aspartame – the silent killer?
Aspartame is one of the most controversial artificial sweeteners, and with so many people on diets, the market for aspartame is simply enormous. Aspartame users can suffer from many unpleasant symptoms ranging from headaches, numbness and seizures to joint pain, tinnitus, depression, anxiety attacks and various cancers. This toxic artificial sweetener is made up of three chemicals: aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol and what these chemicals do in our bodies is anything but sweet. Aspartame acts as a neurotransmitter facilitating the transmission of information from one brain cell to another, but it allows too much calcium into brain cells, killing certain cells, and with aspartame now in many thousands of products it is PERHAPS no surprise that there is a virtual epidemic of memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.
The chemical phenylalanine, a by-product of aspartame metabolism, is an amino acid normally found in the brain. It has been shown that excessive amounts of phenylalanine in the brain can cause serotonin levels to drop, perhaps leading to depression. Does it seem that half the people you know are on Prozac? Methanol or wood alcohol, another by-product of aspartame, is created when aspartame is heated higher than 30ºC, so if you cook a sugar free pudding that contains aspartame, you are creating free methanol. Methanol is truly criminal after it enters the body as it breaks down into formic acid and formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. Diabetics really have to be careful using aspartame, it can be deadly. Soldiers in the Middle East were offered free diet drinks that had been stored in the hot sun, and many of the unusual symptoms found in veterans are similar to those of people chemically poisoned by formaldehyde.
Aspartame was not even approved until 1981, as for more than eight years the FDA refused it a license because of the seizures and brain tumours this drug produced in laboratory animals.
Looking for alternatives – Stevia
Using artificial sweeteners is not recommended, it is better to find alternatives or eat food which does not need to be so sweet. Stevia is a natural herbal sweetener used by South American Indians as a medical and sweetening agent for thousands of years. In Asia Stevia is widely used because Aspartame is forbidden, and is now becomgin more widely used in Europe.
Our client soon realised his daily intake of sweeteners was not as healthy as he thought, so he began looking more carefully at the contents of the food he bought. He was quite upset to realize that even his toothpaste contained sorbitol and saccharin! His morning orange juice, ketchup, jam, yoghurt, biscuits, ice cream, pre-prepared food, mustard, salad dressings and even mayonnaise was full of that stuff!
Our client immediately dropped the chewing gum and the diarrhoea disappeared and he was inspired to avoid as many artificial additives and chemicals as possible. He started looking for fresh and natural foods to cook for himself instead of eating a lot of pre-prepared food or processed foods. If he needed sweet he added Stevia powder instead and is well on his way to a more healthy life.
This article is part of a series and you can read more
Pernille Knudtzon, MD
Tel: 678 253 510
This post is also available in: Spanish