Diets | August 2, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
They’ve been tied to cancer, diabetes, and even weight gain; and yet the use of artificial sweeteners is increasingly popular, as people desire sweet taste without extra calories.
It all started in 1879 by accident. The story goes that a researcher at Johns Hopkins University spilled a chemical compound over his hands during a lab experiment. When putting his fingers to his mouth he tasted something sweet. The sweet-tasting chemical was eventually produced as saccharin, the first artificial sweetener.
Saccharine is sold under different brand names including Hermesetas, Sugarella, Sugarine, and Sweetex.
Other artificial sweeteners were to follow; the main ones include:
Cyclamate, marketed as Sweet’N Low, Sugarine, Sugarella, Sweetex, and Hermesetas
Aspartame, marketed at Nutrasweet, Equal, Equal Spoonful, and Hermesetas Gold, and
Sucralose as splenda.
Artificial sweeteners are most commonly used in diet-carbonated soft drinks. They also are found in a variety of other products, including toothpaste and mouth wash.
Hundreds of scientific studies investigated the safety and health effects of artificial sweeteners and produced conflicting results.
Past studies in rats linked saccharin with the development of bladder cancer, and aspartame with lymphomas and leukaemias. However, the animals in the studies were fed massive amounts of sweeteners, far greater than humans could possibly consume. Studies in humans have not shown any evidence of an association of artificial sweeteners with cancer. At the same time, we really don’t know the long-term effects of consumption of large amounts of sweeteners over many years.
The American Institute of Cancer research (AICR) states, “there’s no strong evidence that links artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin and aspartame to cancer”
Some researchers believe that sweeteners may lead to increased body weight by interfering with the body’s mechanisms of sugar metabolising and appetite regulation.
In fact, the brain may be trying to overcompensate for the sweet taste without the expected calories by driving up appetite. Others have claimed that consumption of artificial sweeteners encourage sugar craving and sugar dependence. Furthermore, an Israeli study has shown that high intake of artificial sweeteners can change the composition of the gut bacteria, which in turn may lead to poor sugar metabolism and weight gain.
Results from studies in animals and sweeteners have consistently shown that rats that were fed with artificial sweeteners gained more weight than rats fed with sugar.
A recent review in the Canadian Medical Association Journal analysed 37 studies, including more than 400,000 participants. The researchers concluded that regular consumption of artificial sweeteners appeared to be associated with a long-term increasing waist circumference, abdominal obesity, and overweight, as well as increased risk of diabetes.
However, it is possible that these studies point to the simple fact that people who gain weight are more likely to consume artificial sweeteners in an effort to lose weight.
While artificial sweeteners are considered quite safe to eat, and will probably do you no harm, they are not real food.
If you want to lose weight, reducing your overall intake of sweeteners, whether they are natural or artificial, is probably a good idea. Artificial sweeteners in the long term may even prevent you from losing weight, as high intake has been shown to lead to weight gain through disruption of your normal physiological mechanisms and gut bacteria.
Dr Mark Hyman, Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, suggests that we should:
Honey is a natural sweetener that contains many beneficial amino acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants.
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Stevia is obtained from the leaves of the plant Stevia rebaudiana, and is considered safe in reasonable quantities. Although stevia is very sweet, it can leave a slightly bitter aftertaste. According to studies, stevia can help regulate blood sugar and may be beneficial for people with diabetes.
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American Institute of Cancer Research 2016, Hot Topics in Cancer Risk: Your Most Frequently Asked Questions, Available at: http://www.aicr.org/cancer-research-update/
Azad, M.B. et al., 2017. Nonnutritive sweeteners and cardiometabolic health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal, 189(28), pp.E929–E939. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28716847 [Accessed July 25, 2017].
Diabetes.co.uk 2017, Stevia - How is it Made, Uses and Health Benefits. Available at: http://www.diabetes.co.uk/sweeteners/stevia.html [Accessed July 25, 2017].
Dr Hyman 2015, Why You Should Ditch Artificial Sweeteners, Available at: http://drhyman.com/blog/2015/12/02/why-you-should-ditch-artificial-sweeteners/ [Accessed July 25, 2017].