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The Toxic Truth About Artificial Sweeteners
The problem with sugar is that it doesn't contain any nutrients so when you consume too much you crowd out room for healthier foods. In fact, it is estimated that on average, Americans consume over 200 pounds of refined sugar annually. On the other side of the coin you have artificial sweeteners which are getting more negative press as adverse health effects begin to emerge.
What's the big deal? Well, decades ago it was found that some artificial sweeteners may cause cancer and were taken out of products and off the shelves. Next, enter the next latest and greatest. The FDA said it was the recommended alternative and put it in all sugar free products. It wasn't very long before women in particular started having negative side effects as a result of ingesting it in their usual products. Later it was discovered that due to a chemical reaction in the body, it can act as a neurotoxin (one that affects the brain and nervous system). It is now speculated to mimic symptoms of Alzheimers, MS, Parkinsons and a host of other neurological diseases. While it hasn't been taken off the market, there is yet another contender.
It's claim to fame is that it is a healthy alternative to other artificial sweeteners because it is made from sugar. Yes, it is manufactured from sugar molecules but in order for it to be converted, labs have to use a process whereby they chlorinate it. Hello, I said chlorinate! We know chlorine is a known carcinogen and shouldn't be consumed in any amount. Since it has only been on the market for a short time, there is no way of knowing whether it will cause harmful side effects. If history is any indication, I wouldn't be so quick to be the guinea pig for such a study. I'll admit, it is confusing even for those of us in the health profession. There is so much conflicting information being bombarded on us all the time that it is just too difficult to keep up on all the latest information.
What about sugar alcohol? Sugar alcohol usually ends in "tol" on labels. These can be an acceptable alternative in very small amounts as they do not affect blood sugar as much as the real thing, but too much can cause gastric distress, bloating, cramps and diarrhea. You will find sugar alcohol in many of the low carb candies and chocolates on the market as well as products made for diabetics. This is one time when portion size really needs to be adhered to as not paying attention could cause some not so pleasant side effects. Your best bet is to minimize refined sugar rather than substitute it with anything artificial.
Health tip: Try using fruit juice or Stevia to sweeten things instead. In fact, applesauce is a great substitute for sugar and oil in baked goods.
Corie Goodson is a health educator and speaker, freelance writer and author of the book Tween Kwisine: A Road To Better Health. For more information log onto: http://www.happydogpublications.com
St. Bernard partners with Tulane to discuss nutrition in schools: Class Act - The Times-Picayune - NOLA.com (blog)
Retired NFL punter kicks around nutrition ideas with Wilkes-Barre students - Wilkes Barre Times-Leader
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