Sugar & Sweeteners Series #1:
Artificial Sweeteners

By Rachel Oppitz, ND

Artificial sweeteners were originally developed as a sugar substitute for diabetics, but the manufacturers then discovered a huge market in a calorie-conscious society.  Artificial sweeteners do not usually satisfy a body that is craving sweets or carbohydrates.  In fact, they may so accustom the taste buds to sweet flavors that artificial sweetener users want more sugar rather than less.  The more sweets you eat, the more your taste buds get used to the sweet taste, so the more sweetness you need in order to satisfy your sweet tooth.  Furthermore, there is evidence that artificial sweeteners may actually stimulate your appetite.

The widespread use of artificial sweeteners and “low-calorie” drinks has’t been able to stop the increasing incidence of childhood obesity, and by fostering unhealthy eating habits, may even contribute to it.  Another problem with artificially sweetened drinks is that people tend to drink a lot of them, whereas the calories in a sugar-containing soda will satisfy the appetite.  If you introduce more tartness into your diet, your taste buds regain their sensitivity to sweetness and are more satisfied with less sugar.

Feed your child artificial sweeteners and you may see an increase in artificial reactions.  There is reason to believe that artificial sweeteners have no place in the diets of growing children, especially ones who already have problems with behavior and learning.  The studies that have tried to show a connection between artificial sweeteners and behavior have produced confusing and often conflicting results, so common sense has to take over.  Common sense says that feeding the brain an unnatural substance may cause it to perform in an unnatural way.  Furthermore, research on certain artificial sweeteners is lacking--number of studies on sucralose (19); saccharin (2374); aspartame (598); cyclamates (459); acesulfame-K (28).  My advice for any artificial substance:  WHEN IN DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT!

SUCRALOSE (SPLENDA):

Sucralose is produced by CHLORINATING sugar (sucrose).  This involves chemically changing the structure of the sugar molecules by substituting three chlorine atoms for three hydroxyl groups.  According to Consumers Research Magazine, “some concern was raised about sucralose being a chlorinated molecule; some chlorinated molecules serve as the basis for pesticides such as DDT, and accumulate in body fat.  However, Johnson & Johnson emphasized that sucralose passes through the body unabsorbed.” 

Despite the manufacturer’s claims, sucralose is significantly absorbed and metabolized by the body.  According to the FDA’s “Final Rule” report, 11-27% of sucralose is absorbed in humans, and the rest is excreted unchanged in the feces.  However, the Japanese Food Sanitation Council states that as much as 40% of ingested sucralose is absorbed.  Therefore ingesting sucralose may be like ingesting tiny amounts of chlorinated pesticides, but we will never know without long-term, independent human research.

One study of diabetic patients, using the sweetener, showed a statistically significant INCREASE IN GLYCOLSYLATED HEMOGLOBIN (HbA1C), which is a marker of long-term blood glucose levels and is used to assess glycemic control in diabetic patients.  According to the FDA, “increases in glycosylation in hemoglobin imply lessening of control of diabetes”.

The FDA acknowledges that sucralose “is produced at an approximate purity of 98%.”  While that may sound pretty pure, just what is the other 2%?  It turns out that the final sucralose product contains small amounts of potentially dangerous substances:  heavy metals (e.g. lead), arsenic, triphenilphosphine oxide, methanol, chlorinated disaccharides, chlorinated monosaccharides.

In addition, what is the impact of sucralose on the environment?  What happens after it is flushed down the toilet is a matter of speculation.  Does it remain stable or react with other substances to form new compounds?  Is the sucralose or any resulting chemicals safe for the environment?  How will this chemical affect aquatic life such as fish, as well as other animals?  Will sucralose begin to appear in our water supplies, just as some drugs are beginning to be found?  Of course, we will likely not know the answers to these questions for many years, if ever.  One of the main reasons for this is that the FDA DID NOT REQUIRE AN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT FOR SUCRALOSE, because in their words, “the action will not have a significant impact on the human environment.”  One study did find that sucralose is metabolized by microorganisms in both water and soil.  However, the ecological impact of this new chemical being introduced into the environment is unknown.

THE LONG-TERM SAFETY OF SUCRALOSE IS UNKNOWN.  Few human studies have been published on the safety of sucralose.  Sucralose has a) no long history of safe use, b) no independent monitoring of health effects, c) no long-term human studies, and d) no independent human studies.  Research in animals (rats, mice, and rabbits) has shown that sucralose can cause many problems including shrunken thymus glands (up to 40% shrinkage), enlarged liver and kidneys, atrophy of lymph follicles in the spleen and thymus, increased cecal weight, reduced growth rate, decreased red blood cell count, hyperplasia of the pelvis, extension of the pregnancy period, aborted pregnancy, decreased fetal body weights and placental weights, and diarrhea

ASPARTAME (NUTRASWEET):

Aspartame is the technical name for the brand names Nutrasweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure.  Aspartame is, by far, the most dangerous substance on the market that is added to foods.  Aspartame accounts for over 75% of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA.  Many of these reactions are very serious including seizures and death.  A few of the 90 different documented symptoms listed include:  headaches/migraines, dizziness, seizures, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, weight gain, rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, tachycardia, insomnia, vision problems, hearing loss, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, loss of taste, menstrual problems, hallucinations, tinnitus, vertigo, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis symptoms, memory loss, and joint pain.  According to researchers and physicians studying the adverse effects of aspartame, the following chronic illnesses can be triggered or worsened by ingesting aspartame:  brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, mental retardation, lymphoma, birth defects, fibromyalgia, and diabetes. 

Some scientists believe aspartame causes altered brain function and behavior changes.  These scientists are concerned about the biochemical quirks of artificial sweeteners.  The sweetener aspartame is a combination of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine.  Amino acids have different effects on the brain than sugars do.  In natural foods these amino acids enter the brain in company with other naturally occurring nutrients.  Theoretically, it is also possible that the amino acids in the artificial sweeteners could compete with the natural amino acids in the foods, throwing the neurotransmitters out of balance.

For more information, please read Excitotoxins:  The Taste That Kills by Russell Blaylock, MD.

XYLITOL:

Derived from birch cellulose and considered a carbohydrate alcohol. .  While it has the same amount of calories as sucrose, it metabolizes in a dissimilar manner and may be used safely for diabetics and hypoglycemics.  Bacterial salivary organisms do not feed, grow, or ferment on xylitol as they do on other simple sugars.  “Sugar-free” chewing gum contains xylitol which does not promote bacteria that forms cavity-causing acids.  It is best used in small quantities because studies show that prolonged use or large intake may produce the following side effects:  weight gain, diarrhea, tumor growth, liver/kidney/brain dysfunction.

Back to Top of Page