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A Word On Sugar Substitutes

March 28th, 2008 added by Stefania Vaughan

Life on earth for us begins with breast milk, a food that is half sugar—and sugar in the forms of simple and complex carbohydrates, found in starches, vegetables, and fruits, ideally makes up the bulk of our diet for the next 83 years (after weening). The food industry is well aware of our inborn love affair with sweet-taste. These profiteers lace our food supply with concentrated and purified sugars, such as fructose and sucrose (white table sugar)—totaling up to 158 pounds per person annually. Along with the ever increasing popularity of sugar, problems of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and tooth decay have become more common in Western societies over the past century. The belief that sugar plays the major role in the fattening of people has led to the development of intensely sweet-tasting, lower- or no-calorie substitutes. Up to 90% of people living in the USA now consume beverages and foods containing sugar substitutes.

But do they provide health benefits, and are they safe?

The final report of a seven-year study on aspartame (also known as Nutra-Sweet or Equal) has linked it to high rates of lymphomas, leukemias, and other cancers in rats. The rats were given the equivalent of four to five bottles of diet soda a day for a human. The carcinogenic effect of aspartame was found at levels as low as 400 parts per million, or about 20 milligrams a day for humans. This is far less than current daily limits in America (50 milligrams) and the UK (40 milligrams). When the initial findings were released almost a year ago, they were met with criticism from artificial sweetener trade groups, and support from groups critical of aspartame. No government regulatory agency has yet acted on the findings; there have been calls for a ban in Britain, and the European Food Safety Authority has begun a review of the study's results. United States FDA officials have said that they also intend to conduct a review.
Environmental Health Perspectives March 2006; 114(3): 379-385
New York Times February 12, 2006

Dr. Mercola's Comment:
Dr. Morando Soffritti and his international team of researchers have been investigating the link between aspartame and leukemia for a number of years. Last fall, we received the first tidbits about his long-term study of aspartame on rats and more horrible health risks. His study is finally published, and the news is as bad as you probably expected. More than 200 million people consume aspartame in their foods, drinks, vitamins and toothpaste, among other things, and their exposure to it frequently begins in the womb, so there's simply no telling how massive the problem truly is. Will Dr. Soffritti's latest findings provoke far more scrutiny about the debatable safety of artificial sweeteners? I certainly hope so. However, it will probably retain its profit-motive driven defenders, such as former G.D. Searle CEO Donald Rumsfeld, who is now reaping in millions from his Tamiflu involvement. But despite their claims, the evidence is quite compelling that artificial sweeteners are not good for you; leukemia is just one of more than 90 different related symptoms that have been documented in humans who ingest aspartame. If you are time pressured like me and just don't have the time to read the enormous amount of compelling evidence that makes the case for why you or anyone you love should never consume aspartame, then I would strongly recommend ordering the video Sweet Misery. Without question, it is the single best summary of the issues of aspartame toxicity and some of the leading crusaders for bringing the truth to the public are in the film. The phenylalanine in aspartame dissociates from the ester bond and increases dopamine levels in your brain. This can lead to symptoms of depression because it distorts the serotonin/dopamine balance. It can also lead to migraine headaches and brain tumors through a similar mechanism. Furthermore, the aspartic acid in aspartame is a well-documented excitotoxin. Excitotoxins are usually amino acids, such as glutamate and aspartate. These special amino acids cause particular brain cells to become excessively excited, to the point they will quickly die. Excitotoxins can also cause a loss of brain synapses and connecting fibers. Then the ester bond in aspartame is broken down to formaldehyde and methanol, which have their own toxicities. So it is absolutely no surprise that leukemia is associated with using it. If you are having trouble kicking the, in this case, "diet" soda habit, then please read our recent article on how to easily get rid of your soda addiction. And if you're drinking them in an attempt to lose weight, they won't help you; diet soft drinks can double your obesity risks. If you want to lose weight, eat according to your metabolic type and start an appropriate exercise plan.

Related Articles:
Aspartame: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You
Aspartame Disease: An FDA-Approved Epidemic
Aspartame Can Harm Your Health

Is there a natural alternative to artificial sweetners? Dr McDougall's newsletter provides more information about natural and artificial sweetners, the history of both and his thoughts on the real reason for obesity in USA, not necessarily related to sugar consumption.
Artificial Sweeteners Are Unnecessary and Unwise