Fitness for Body, Mind and Spirit

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Fitness for the body, mind & spirit

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Are artificial sweeteners super bad for you…?


Artificial sweeteners are worse than sugar. Manufacturers have done a superb job of positioning them as a healthy, zero calorie and guilt-free alternative with no repercussions. Right? Wrong. But Americans didn’t know that. Instead, the number of Americans consuming products with sugar-free sweeteners grew from 70 million in 1987 to 160 million in 2000. What else happened during that time? Obesity in the U.S. doubled from 15% to 30% across all age groups, ethnic groups, and socioeconomic status. The number of overweight Americans has increased from 30% to over 65% of the population. If that wasn’t enough horrific news; the fastest growing obese population is...children... Certainly sugar is bad for us (it feeds cancer cells, feeds the bad bacteria in our gut, impairs cognitive function, accelerates aging ad wrinkles, contributes to skin issues, and increases risks to many diseases) but we tend to look for that “easy-button”, that thing or person to say it’s OK, no harm here, when actually there is - as is the case with artificial sweeteners. Much research exists on the negative impact of artificial sweeteners finding that they adversely affect gut health and glucose tolerance. Impacts of artificial sweeteners as Dr. Mark Hyman explains:

  • Increased risk for diabetes - Studies show sugar substitutes potentially can increase your risk for weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease

  • Rewire your brain chemistry and metabolism - How could aspartame and other fake sweeteners make you gain weight even though they’re calorie-free? Because they stimulate your taste buds and trick them to think you’re eating real sugar. Artificial sweeteners can be 1000 times sweeter than sugar, so your body becomes confused and revs up production of insulin, your fat-storage hormone. Your metabolism slows down, you become hungry more quickly, you’re prone to eat way more food (especially carbs), and increased belly fat is the inevitable result. Because they confuse and slow down your metabolism, you burn fewer calories every day. Artificial sweeteners make you hungrier and cause you to crave even more sugar and starchy carbs, such as bread and pasta

  • Highly addictive - Artificial sweeteners can quickly become addictive. In an alarming study, rats offered the choice of cocaine or artificial sweeteners always picked the artificial sweetener, even if the rats were previously programmed to be cocaine addicts. The author of the study said that, “The absolute preference for taste sweetness may lead to a re-ordering in the hierarchy of potentially addictive stimuli, with sweetened diets… taking precedence over cocaine and possibly other drugs of abuse.”

Here are five of the worst artificial sweeteners:

  • Aspartame - Equal, NutraSweet, NatraTaste Blue - A study found that aspartame may impair memory performance and increase oxidative stress in the brain. Common side effects include headaches,migraines, mood disorders, dizziness

  • Sucralose - Splenda - It’s 600 times sweeter than sugar. Sucralose is a chlorinated sucrose derivative i.e. chlorine - one of the most toxic chemicals on Earth. It was originally found through the development of a insecticide compound and wasn’t originally intended to be consumed. Common side effects include altering glucose and insulin levels and it can be metabolized and have a toxic effect on the body

  • Acesulfame K (ACE, ACE K) - Sunette, Sweet One, Sweet ’N Safe - Often found in sugar-free gum, alcoholic beverages, candies, and sweetened yogurts. It is composed of a potassium salt that contains methylene chloride. This has been shown to cause nausea, mood problems, some type of cancers, impaired liver and kidney function, problems with eyesight and possibly autism

  • Saccharin - Sweet ’N Low - It’s the primary sweetener for children’s medications, including chewable aspirin and cough syrup. In the 1970’s it was believed to possibly cause bladder cancer and was required to have a warning label: “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.” The FDA removed this warning. It’s believed that saccharin contributes to photosensitivity, nausea, digestive upset, tachycardia and some types of cancer

  • Xylitol (look for other sugar alcohols that end in -itol) - sugar alcohols aren’t absorbed well by the body and can cause an allergic reaction. Side effects include bloating, gas, cramping, and diarrhea. Note it’s part of the chemical makeup for many over-the-counter laxatives. I used to chew sugar-free gum and had G.I. issues as a result of the Maltitol, Mannitol and other chemicals jammed packed in the gum (which I have since thrown to the curb)

Beware of certain food products and beverages that contain artificial sweeteners:

  • Energy drinks

  • Protein powders - aspartame, acesulfame and sucralose

  • “Lite” or diet fruit juices and beverages

  • Prepared meats

  • Children’s chewable vitamins

  • Breakfast cereals

  • Yogurt

  • Processed snack foods

  • Salad dressings

  • Alcoholic beverages

  • Candy

  • Baked goods

But how about a little bit of goodness? Dr. Hyman provides a few tips to think about in terms of sweetness:

  • Learn to appreciate natural sweetness - Fruit, nuts, and other real foods contain natural sweetness without processed foods’ sugar overload or the detrimental effects of artificial sweeteners

  • Stop confusing your body - If you have a desire for something sweet have a little sugar, but stay away from “fake” foods. Eating a whole-foods diet that has a low-glycemic load and is rich in phytonutrients and indulging in a few real sweet treats once in a while is a better alternative than tricking your body with artificial sweeteners, which leads to wide scale metabolic rebellion and obesity

  • Judiciously use this one sweetener - Among sweeteners, I make one exception with stevia. A little bit in your coffee or tea should be fine, but be judicious. Besides, overdoing stevia creates a bitter effect, so you’re more likely not to get carried away. If you partake, make sure you’re buying 100 percent pure organic stevia, not the stuff that contains bulking agents like maltodextrin (corn) and nebulous natural flavors

In last week’s newsletter, "Five challenges…putting it altogether…” click to read, I wrote about stepping outside of your comfort zone and going to a challenge before it comes to you. Are you struggling with your daily intake of diet soda? Adding packets of sweeteners to your coffee or tea? Or perhaps aren’t aware of the hidden artificial sweeteners you are consuming on a daily basis? If so, set forth to tackle this challenge head on. Kick sugar and artificial sweeteners to the curb. Don’t fill the grocery cart with these chemicals. Take the first step. Do it today. To your journey, Lisa Schaffer GreenNote Fitness P.S. Checkout my Facebook page for inspiration. **Do you have a friend that would benefit from this information? Please forward it to them!**

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