Artificial Sweeteners

First the sugar side of the story. Humans have zero nutritional need for added sugar. And, as you have heard, sugar is bad for our health. The evidence continues to grow. One recent study showed that those who consumed 25% of their calories from added sugars were TWICE as likely to die of heart disease within 15 years as those who “only” got 10% from added sugar. (That is still a lot!) Those most likely to hit that scary 25% level are people who look for “low fat” foods and consume soft drinks or sweet coffee drinks (which can be worse). There are several reasons that low fat foods are a problem. First, sugar is added to them to make up for the loss of flavor. Also, the foods are not satisfying and so more is eaten. And, they tend to be addictive. Although it is possible to overdo natural sugar (fruit juices are especially problematic), the added sugars are worse. In January 2020, the FDA will require food labels to list naturally the two types of sugar separately.

Martie’s opinion:

  • Always be suspicious of chemicals that have not been on the planet before such as the commercial sweeteners below (except Stevia which is from a plant). Based on history, there is a high likelihood that they will ultimately be found to have previously unknown toxic or drug-like effects on humans.
  • The FDA approval process depends on studies done by the manufacturer who obviously has much to gain by structuring the tests in a way that finds no problems.
  • The safety studies are, of necessity, short term studies. No one looks at the long term effects or the effects of one agent combined with others.
  • Studies are almost always on animals and may not correlate exactly with human chemistry. For example, most lab animals make their own vitamin C which helps with detoxification. Humans do not have that ability.
  • Studies typically look for immediate poisoning signals and increased cancer risk, but do not assess other effects like depression for example.
  • Once in the marketplace there are $ billions in profits at stake for the manufacturers and the FDA’s reputation is on the line, so we shouldn’t even expect any efforts to prove them unsafe.
  • The herbal sweetener Stevia seems appears to be the safest choice. Monkfruit sweetener is okay. Erythritol not bad. Xylitol has some health benefits in the mouth. However, any of the sugar alcohols (end in “ol” in excess can cause digestive issues.
  • Our craving for sweetness is nature’s way of guiding us to more nutritious foods and away from bitter foods that in nature are more likely to be harmful. However, the foods that use artificial sweeteners are not usually nutritious and when we short-circuit that natural instinct with chemicals, the body still is hungry for the nutrients. The craving continues.
  • There is not really scientific evidence that these products support weight loss. In fact, some studies show that the reverse may be true.
  • Moreover, there is evidence that the sweet taste, even from a calorie-free source, will stimulate an insulin response. High insulin levels lead to fat gain and chronic health problems.
  • The safest bet is to reduce our dependence on sweet foods. After you stay off of sweeteners for even a week or two, your taste buds become more sensitive and can taste the subtle natural sweetness in real foods such as almonds. There is also a leptin connection that will reset and reduce or even eliminate cravings.

For some time, research has shown that artificial sweeteners have a negative association with heart health, type 2 diabetes and changes to our good intestinal bacteria. A recent study showed that women who drank the equivalent of two 12-ounce cans or more a day of diet sodas were 23% more likely to have a stroke. Earlier studies showed that men are also at stroke risk. One study showed that high intake of diet drinks by pregnant women was linked to a 78% increased risk of preterm birth.

Compared to women who rarely consume diet drinks, those who drank two or more a day, were 50 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular disease. STUDY

According to findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, pregnant Danish women who consumed at least four servings of artificially sweetened carbonated soft drinks per day were at a 78 per cent higher risk of preterm birth than women who did not consume any soft drinks. Of course, the sweetener industry challenged the findings.

Great books on the subject:

Both by Janet Starr Hull, PhD, CN, Sweet Poison: How the World’s Most Popular Artificial Sweetener Is Killing Us – My Story (Aspartame) and Splenda: Is it Safe or Not?

Asteraceae Stevia
(Stevia—the green packets)
An herbal sweetener, it has been used in South America for centuries and safely in Japan for 30 years (I think their safety standards are comparable to those of the US). The Japanese don’t use very much each day and neither do most US tea drinkers. Coca-Cola has announced its intention to seek FDA approval for the use of a Stevia extract in soft drinks. (They have the money to do that.) Because it is an extract and sodas are consumed in huge quantities, the safety data might bear a second look.
Supportive information and resources.
Supposedly balanced view, from the online encyclopedia

Aspartame (Nutrasweet® , Equal® – the blue packets) Russell Blaylock, MD says that this chemical has about the same neuroexcitoxin effect as MSG.

There are about 10.5 million Google links to the subject but these are representative:
Aspartame Safety Network
Good overview
What doctors find in their practices on humans (not rats in studies)
Person diagnosed in error with Grave’s Disease. (Also aspartame resources)

92 documented side effects

Suralose (Splenda® – the yellow packets):
What critics say
The manufacturer’s position (Surprise, surprise, they like it.)

Saccharin (Sweet’n Low® – the pink packets)
From Center for Science in the Public interest at the time it was put back on the market

Acesulfame K (or Ace K or Acesulfame potassium – no packets, usually in combinations or as an ingredient)
From the head of the Center for Science in the Public interest

Copyright Martie Whittekin, CCN 2007-2019