So what is all the hype about artificial sweeteners we hear you say? Are they ok for us to use as a healthier substitute for sugar…..or not?
Sweeteners have been widely used in the food industry for some time now in an attempt to try and tackle the increasing global prevalence of obesity & type 2 diabetes.
Their aim is reduce peoples sugar intake and are promoted as a ‘healthy’ alternative. Despite many governing bodies recognising sweeteners as safe for human consumption, scientific studies of their safety continues to be controversial. Increasing research shows detrimental effects to human health, which is a huge concern considering the worldwide consumption of artificial sweeteners continues to grow exponentially year on year.
Artificial sweeteners can be anything from 30 to 13,000 times as sweet as natural sugar, they have no nutritional value to us and are poorly absorbed in the body. Not only that, they interact with our sugar receptors, over stimulating them, increasing the desire for sweeter foods and so the addictive cycle continues. Interestingly, sweeteners are implicated in reduced insulin sensitivity thus increasing our risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Different sweeteners are metabolised in different ways in our body and although of there is no conclusive evidence on their detrimental effects, the increasing body of evidence of the negative consequences on health is increasing. Reported side effects range from headaches, nausea, irritability, mood swings, hyperactivity and depression to digestive issues, liver disease and weight gain to neurodegenerative diseases, DNA mutations and cancer.
There are some artificial sweeteners that contain chemicals that have the ability to cross the blood brain barrier and are believed to play an integral part in neurodegenerative diseases:
E950 is also known as Acesulfame K – this has been found to cause headaches, nausea, depression and some evidence suggests it is also linked to cancer. It is most often found in alcoholic and soft drinks, chewing gum, desserts, tinned and baked foods
E951 is also known as Aspartame – this has also been found to cause depression along with irritability and evidence also links it to cancer. Research has connected it to impaired spatial orientation and neurotransmitters and its use is contraindicated in people with phenylketonuria (PKU) which is an inability to break known phenylalanine, an amino acid and metabolite of aspartame causing neurological damage. Aspartame is most often found in foods labelled as ‘sugar free’ such as diet drinks, yoghurts, ice-cream, chewing gum, sweets and breakfast cereals.
Food manufacturers use ‘tricks’ when labelling and it's not uncommon to find sweeteners listed by other names so as we've already mentioned, Aspartame can also be listed as E951 or marketed by its brand name, NutraSweet, Equal or Canderel and this applies to other sweeteners too. Be aware also of maltodextrins which are modified processed starches - they are used to replace sugars in processed foods and impact our blood sugar in the same way that sugar does while having no nutritional value. So the next time you do a food shop be on your guard and read those labels carefully.
We understand that it’s difficult to break the craving for sweet foods but with so many sweeteners in just about every processed item we buy, it really is a minefield! However, armed with some information, we are hoping that you can make more informed choices about the food and drink that you purchase and consume and reduce the number of sweeteners in your food. By doing so, you should be able to crush the sugar cravings, have more energy and generally take better care of your health.
Now, go hunting in your cupboards and refrigerator to see how many of your groceries have got these pesky sweeteners lurking in them……we bet you’ll be surprised!
If you'd like to know more about how to achieve better health without the need to resort to low sugar and sugar free drinks, foods and snacks, book a call and let us help you crush your sugar cravings.