Thursday, February 5, 2009

Artificial Sweeteners: Mayo Clinic Perspective

I still have a lot to learn about artificial sweeteners.

I am passionate about nutrition and the safety of food products. I aim to give a fair and honest look at all of the possibilities. There is much to keep up on. Research seems to give us all kinds of information. "Coffee is good for you!" one month, then, "Warning: Coffee may cause....!" I am not talking about media hype, here. Just research.

I have entire sets of ideas that I want to be right, but, I have to remember to give each and every credible source its voice. Even if I don't want to. Otherwise I am just another biased voice pushing an agenda.

In an effort to share ALL of the credible information I find in my research, I would like to share what I found at the Mayo Clinic website: "According to the National Cancer Institute, however, there's no scientific evidence that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use in the United States cause cancer."

The Mayo Clinic article focuses on the four low/no calorie, sugar substitutes; Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), Saccharin (Sweet'NLow, SugarTwin), Acesulfame K (Sunett, Sweet One), and Sucralose (Splenda).

The best part of this article is where they touch upon those of us who completely gorge ourselves on sweets. They have a very classy way of saying, "You idiots! Stop eating crap!"

I love this: "Just removing sugar from cookies and chocolates doesn't make them low-calorie, low-fat foods. If you eat too many, you'll still get more calories than you may need, and you may not get enough nutritious foods."

The obvious can be so profound. This issue is exactly what I have been dealing with. Eating too much of something, even if it is "healthy and naturally sweetened." Sure, I'm sugar-free. But I am still wrestling with my inner imp on issues of moderation.

I have written a lot about the negative aspects of artificial sweeteners, because there is a LOT of hype about how dangerous they are, but even those claims, as much as we want to believe them, need to be questioned and researched just as thoroughly. It is extremely difficult to know, sometimes, which of the information out there is to be believed. Obviously, if we are already biased or just desperately wanting to believe something, it's easy to back up what you want to be true. You can find anything online. "They" don't call it the information superhighway for nothing. What makes a source credible? I am still trying to figure this out, especially in light of all of the networking, politics and incentives between giant organizations/corporations.

The cold, hard facts on artificial sweeteners? We may not know all of the facts for another 20 years. Many studies come to fruition after a certain amount of time has passed and researchers are able to talk "facts" in retrospect. In the meantime, I am considering going to school to become a clinical nutritionist or registered dietitian. Then when I get preachy to my friends and family, they'll have to listen.



Tobias Davis said...

I was thinking of this very thing when I heard of Virgils Diet Root Beer, which uses stevia and xylitol. Having never heard of Xylitol, I did some research and found these statements: "Use Xylitol for your health!" "Prevent cavities with Xylitol" "Prevent every disease known to man using Xylitol!

The problem I have with artificial sweeteners is: I don't trust the FDA to say if something is "not bad for you."

Artificial sweeteners are said to be alright (by advertising) because they are "made from plants", unfortunately so are several different poisonous compounds.

I don't buy it: Cancer is not the only problem you can get from something, and the FDA telling me something doesn't cause cancer doesn't convince me it is healthy.

I'm rambling...

icajay said...

Have you heard anything about what they do to your blood sugar levels? My understanding from my research in the last couple months is that the main problem with artificial sweeteners is that they still raise your blood sugar just as much and sometimes worse that regular sugar. Have you ran across any of that? I try to use natural ones that raise your blood sugar more slowly but I know that none of the options is perfect (which is why I am trying to cut them almost all the way out :) )

My Year Without said...

You are smart to listen to your intuition and explore these matters further. The FDA has a record of changing their stance on something, according to the research available at the time. For myself, I strongly go by my intuition, even though I am still curious about products that I would NEVER use. Basically, my bottom line is that if something isn't "food", then I am not interested in it AT ALL. No amount of marketing/advertising will EVER convince me otherwise.

I save my intake of chemicals for when I need medication. The buck stops there.

Read this:

This is the beginning part of the article I posted. It addresses the raising of blood sugar. Basically, some "sugarless" sweeteners like sorbitol and manitol can "affect" blood sugar levels...which probably means raises them. Also, the article makes a good point about not just looking at the sweeteners but at other potential blood sugar raising ingredients like white flour.

You ask an important question, and the entire answer doesn't seem to be found here. You have prompted me to look into this.

anastasia_wolf said...

My take on them is they are highly processed and unnatural. I don't like to put stuff in my body that is too processed, and aspartame in particular carries a whole ream of question marks. The argument about how it breaks down in a human's body is pretty scary. Personally I think there are good enough natural sweeteners out there that we can do without artificial ones (although I've never seen date sugar in Australia! The idea intrigues me!)