Getting Rid of the Worst Offenders – Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners: a gift to all the people watching their weight. You get all the sweet delicious treats without having to worry about calories. Because of this glorious substance we can drink diet soda all day long or indulge in creamy, sweet coffee drinks without the guilt, or have that big bowl of sugar-free ice cream without having to worry about a couple extra pounds. This has been the answer to our weight problems. Right?
So many of us think that the no-calorie sweeteners are a free pass. It makes sense logically: calories are what count when it comes to weight, so if something has no calories then you should be allowed to have as much of it as you want. It SHOULD make a difference if you replace out your normal sugary treats, with a no-calorie version. However, it doesn’t seem to work that way. Did you lose weight when you switched from regular to diet soda? Why has the obesity rate risen since artificial sweeteners hit the market in 1983? With all of the sugar free options, why is obesity still a problem in America?
In Part 3 of this series, your challenge this week is to dump all the products you usually eat or drink that contain any artificial sweeteners.
The most commonly used artificial sweetener is Aspartame, followed closely by Sucralose. We see it under brand names such as Equal, Nutra-sweet, and Sweet’n’Low. It is in almost everything that’s labeled sugar-free. When the low-carb diet craze hit in 2000, the market blew up with sugar-free baked goods, diet versions of most beverages, sugar-free ice cream, etc. You name it, you could buy a version without sugar. What most of these companies were doing was switching out the sugar with no-calorie sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose (most widely known as Splenda). With the recent rise in Type II Diabetes, these sugar-free options have managed to stay around longer than the low-carb diet.
Recently, the most accepted reason to not use artificial sweeteners has been that your taste buds become accustomed to the intense sweetness and cause you to crave other sweet things. Therefore, you end up eating the calories in other forms. That may be enough for you, but science has found much more pressing reasons to give it up completely.
Aspartame was first discovered by a chemist in 1965. For almost 20 years the substance was studied on lab animals and the FDA vacillated on whether it should be approved for human consumption. Initial studies on rats showed an increase in brain cancer. Further studies on monkeys, revealed many suffered from Grand Mol seizures. In 1983, after a new FDA head was appointed politically, aspartame was approved for use in beverages, such as diet soda. Since that time, scientists have found that the three chemical components that make up aspartame can affect DNA structure, protein synthesis, and interrupt electrical impulse function in the brain. They have also found that when aspartame is combined with carbohydrates it can interrupt the building block for Serotonin, which greatly affects our moods and a lack of this chemical can lead to depression. Studies conducted regarding aspartame’s effect on the production of Leptin (which we first discussed in the High Fructose Corn Syrup Article) show that Leptin was “significantly reduced by 34%” after “chronic ingestion of aspartame .” Leptin is a chemical produced in our bodies that lets us know when to stop eating.
If you are someone who drinks diet soda or energy drinks, uses no-calorie sweeteners in your coffee or tea, or regularly buys “sugar-free” pudding, ice cream, baked goods, etc., do you suffer from headaches, joint pain, insomnia, or depression? These are some of the more common side effects of aspartame, not to mention the addictive qualities. This is meant to be a weekly challenge to get this out of your pantry and diet, but if you are skeptical give it one month. Get rid of all artificial sweeteners, aspartame and sucralose, for 30 days and see how you feel. I used to drink diet soda by the case. All day, every day, I would have a big cup of diet soda and ice. I also went through bottles of Excedrin migraine and couldn’t sleep most nights. After about a month off the soda, I realized I hadn’t had to take Excedrin in a while. I had always thought I was just someone prone to headaches, turns out I’m not. In one year, being completely off diet soda, I have only had one headache!
If you still would like an alternative, try Stevia. It is an all natural no-calorie sweetener that is derived from the Stevia plant. It is 400 times sweeter than sugar and therefore you won’t need much. You can find this in most grocery stores or in specialty stores such as Trader Joe’s. Another good one to try is 100% Agave Nectar. This one does have calories but it is an all-natural, unrefined sweetener that won’t spike your blood sugar levels the way table sugar will. Always check the ingredient labels before you buy to make sure they aren’t paired with undesirable sweeteners.
What has been your experiences being on and off artificial sweeteners? Tell the FR community about it in the comments section below.