Monday, February 15, 2010

Artificial Sweeteners

There are multiple artificial sweeteners on the market now and they each have their own potential problems. The trend of using artificial sweeteners as a diet aid is a great mistake. One of the big problems is that the artificial sweeteners do not trigger a sense of fullness – called satiety. For this reason, people who use these products often overeat. Overeating leads to increased risk of metabolic syndrome, increased abdominal fat accumulation, high blood pressure and insulin resistance.

Aspartame is rarely used these days having been replaced by newer sugar substitutes. This sweetener goes by the name of Nutrasweet or Equal. Aspartame has been associated with such symptoms as headaches, dizziness, seizures, muscle spasms, vision problems, hearing loss, and a whole host of other problems related to nervous system dysfunction. Aspartame contains aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. Aspartic acid is a class of chemicals known as excitotoxins. They are so-named for their excitatory effect on nerve cells, sometimes to the point of killing the cells by allowing too much calcium into the cells. Phenylalanine is a chemical that is normally found in the brain. People who have the genetic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) are not able to process this chemical so intake of this chemical leads to dangerously high levels of phenylalanine in the brain. By ingesting aspartame even persons who do not have PKU can accumulate dangerously elevated levels of phenylalanine. Methanol is also known as wood alcohol and it is a deadly poison. This compound is responsible for blinding or killing many alcoholics or those individuals who try to distill their own liquor at home.

Splenda also known as sucralose is one of the newer sweeteners and is gradually replacing aspartame in many diet products. Splenda is made by adding chlorine to a sugar molecule. The manufacturer claimed that sucralose poses no danger associated with the added chlorine since it passes through the body unabsorbed. There are conflicting studies that suggest indeed some of it is absorbed and metabolized. The FDA has a report on this as well as the Japanese Food Sanitation Council. Some symptoms found in animal studies were enlarged liver and kidneys, shrinking of the thymus (an important immune organ), and decreased red blood cell count. Sucralose is relatively new and as such has the fewest studies of all artificial sweeteners but these preliminary findings certainly indicate the need for further inquiry.

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