Sugar Artificial Sweeteners:
or Treat? Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners in the Modern Diet
are an integral part of our modern lives. Whether a complex sugar like honey or
a more refined sugar like High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) everyone consumes them
to varying degrees. The amount and degree of refinement strongly determine the
health impacts of various sugars. Complex, or unprocessed, sugars are slower to
enter the bloodstream; the more refined the product, the more quickly your body
in order to metabolize sugar your body requires calcium, sodium, potassium and
magnesium which it pulls from other parts of the body, such as calcium from the
bones. [everlastinglife.net]. Refined, or simple sugars include white sugar, brown
sugar (white sugar with a light coating of molasses for color), HFCS, crystalline
fructose, and concentrated fruit juices. Complex sugars include brown rice syrup,
barley malt syrup, whole fruit puree or sauce, honey, maple syrup, unrefined cane
juice, date sugar (made from ground, dried dates), agave syrup and blackstrap
people include stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) in this category. Although it is not
a sugar per se, stevia is a sweet herb from South America with up to 400 times
the sweetness of white sugar and no calories. Also, stevia will not cause a rise
in blood sugar.
to the Statistical Abstract of the United States, published by the U.S. Census
Bureau, total per capita consumption of caloric sweeteners (which include cane
sugar, beet sugar, and corn sweeteners) rose from 120.2 pounds in 1980 to 141.7
pounds in 2003. From 1980 to 2003 per capita sugar consumption declined from 83.6
pounds to 61.1 pounds however HFCS consumption increased from 19.0 pounds to 60.9
pounds. [U.S. Census Bureau, 2006]
many of the calories consumed are hidden calories found in soft drinks, condiments
and other food stuffs which most likely explains the decrease in sugar, increase
in HFCS and overall increase in sweetener consumption. The World Health Organization
recommends we eat no more than 10 percent of our calories from added sweeteners.
Thus, for a 2,000 calories diet that equates to 200 calories, or 50 grams of sugar.
[HealthyMe, November 30, 2007]
has calories; 1 level teaspoon weighs 4 grams and contains 15 calories. Regardless
of whether it is complex or simple there is still an effect from caloric intake.
While most of us like the sweetness of sugar we are not so fond of the caloric
addition to our diet. In 1879 a researcher spilled a derivative of coal tar on
his hand and discovered that it tasted sweet; this accident became known as saccharin,
or Sweet-n-Low, and was the first sugar substitute. [WebMD, March 25, 2005]
sweeteners became very popular because of their low or zero calorie content, leading
many to believe that it was better than using natural sweeteners; it also allowed
diabetics to partake of sweet foods.
there are five sugar substitutes available; saccharine, aspartame (NutraSweetTM
or EqualTM), sucralose (a chlorinated sugar also called SplendaTM), neotame (another
form of NutraSweetTM), and acesulfame potassium (SunettTM and SweetOneTM).
are a number of others that are currently pending FDA approval such as Alitame
and Cyclamate (which was banned in 1970 and is currently seeking re-approval with
the FDA) [Wikipedia] and Coca-Cola and Cargill are working together to develop
a new sweetener based on stevia named RebianaTM. [American Botanical Council,
of sweeteners has negative consequences for health. A recent study, published
in November of 2007 showed that the gene that regulates active testosterone and
estrogen can be turned off by eating too much fructose and glucose (sugar is composed
of fructose and glucose). Glucose and fructose are metabolized in the liver which
converts excess sugars to lipids.
have discovered that increased production of lipids shuts down the sex hormone
binding globulin (SHBG) gene reducing the amount of SHBG protein in the blood.
With reduced SHBG protein the levels of testosterone and estrogen rise. These
higher levels have been associated with acne, infertility, and polycystic ovaries
among other illnesses. [Science Daily, November 21, 2007]
research reveals that overconsumption of fructose causes a spike in levels of
uric acid which can block the ability of insulin to regulate use and storage of
sugar and other nutrients. This in turn can lead to obesity, metabolic syndrome
and type 2 diabetes. [ScienceDaily, December 14, 2007]
sweeteners also have various negative health effects. In the 1970's the USDA tried
to ban saccharine because of studies revealing a risk for cancer of the various
organs including bladder, uterus, ovaries, and skin. In the late 1990's the Calorie
Control Council stated that the main concern was bladder cancer in male rats,
not people. As a result the ban was overturned. Now Aspartame has come under scrutiny
with a recent study from a highly respected Italian cancer institute showing an
increase in lymphomas, leukemias and breast cancer in rats.
a result of this study the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has
downgraded aspartame, now labeling it everyone should avoid instead
of it's previous use caution rating. [CSPINET, June 25, 2007] Research
from Purdue University reveals that the ability of the body to countcalories,
based on sweetness, may be confused by artificial sweeteners. This research also
showed that on a caloric count basis solid foods are more satisfying than thick
liquids. [ScienceDaily, June 30, 2004]
of the above clearly indicate that over-consumption of sweeteners, whether processed,
unprocessed or artificial have negative effects on the body. The best option is
to limit sugar intake and carefully read labels to understand which sugars are
in the products you are consuming. If you choose to consume sweet foods, choose
naturally sweet or sweetened, minimally processed foods.
Mira Dessy is the owner of Grains
& More and teaches whole grain cooking and nutrition classes. She is currently
studying Nutrition Education through Bauman College and is a member of the National
Association of Nutrition Professionals.
Hazards of Refined Sugar, Everlasting Life.
Artificial Sweeteners Safe?, WebMD, March 25, 2005.
and Cargill Developing New Natural Sweetener from Stevia, American Botanical
Abstract of the United States: 2006, U.S. Census Bureau, Table 202
Per Capita Consumption of Major Food Commodities: 1980 to 2003, pp 136.
Substitute, Wikipedia, January 1, 2008.
Much Sugar Turns Off Gene That Controls Effects Of Sex Steroids, Child
& Family Research Institute, ScienceDaily, November 21, 2007.
Much Fructose Could Leave Dieters Sugar Shocked, University of Florida,
ScienceDaily, December 14, 2007.
Should Reconsider Aspartame Cancer Risk, Say Experts, Center for Science
in the Public Interest, June 25, 2007.
Sweetener May Disrupt Body's Ability To Count Calories, According To New Study,
ScienceDaily, June 30, 2004.
Sweet Life: How Much Sugar is Too Much?, Chris Woolston, Consumer Health
Interactive, HealthyMe, November 30,2007.
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