Updated: Mar 30, 2020
Any sweetener that delivers a sweet taste without a significant caloric or energy increase is termed a “sugar substitute”. We have looked at many of these within this series--including stevia and xylitol. Each sweetener has varied in their level of purity and processing, but they have all been natural. Now it is time to evaluate a different category of sweeteners which are synthetically produced--artificial sweeteners.
There are six artificially produced sweeteners today, which are approved by the FDA as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe): aspartame, sucralose, neotame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), saccharin, and advantame. These chemicals contain a 0 glycemic index/load, and because they are not derived from a natural source, are not classified as “fructose” or “glucose”. So, should we trust the FDA label of GRAS and include this chemical in your diet?
First of all, I am hopeful that many of you will enthusiastically reply “no” to such a question simply because this is a synthetic substance. Within this column, I have taught a lot on the necessity of eating traditional, local, whole foods. Anytime we eat a processed ingredient (I can’t bring myself to call it “food”), we put a burden on our digestive system as it attempts to break it down. Soon our compromised digestion weakens every other system in our body. This is one huge reason to eliminate artificial sweeteners from our diets.
Secondly, there is increasing research and evidence of how these sweeteners specifically wreak havoc on our health. These include a disrupted gut microbe in the digestive tract which actually leads to increased glucose intolerance ; depressive, emotional and psychotic disorders caused by disrupted serotonin levels ; and these products have been linked to leukemia, breast cancer, thymus cancer and respiratory disease due to it’s inflammatory effects . They don’t sound so “sweet” anymore!
Unfortunately, as a culture, these sweeteners are increasingly consumed from brightly colored packets poured into beverages as well as the plethora of processed foods to which they are added. (Anything from candy, soda, ice cream and yogurt, to toasted almonds, and pre-marinated chicken breasts.) Why should we expect more when our medical industry is encouraging individuals (particularly diabetics) to consume these as a safe alternative to sugar?
Clearly my opinion on this sweetener is to remove it fully from our “food dictionary.” Any healthy kitchen detox will see products containing this ingredient tossed into the welcoming garbage can. I encourage you to own your health by being a label reader--look to avoid the six artificial sweeteners detailed above. Also, as much as possible skip the product with a label and simply go for the whole food. Another words, avoid the artificial and stick with the genuine nutrients. This will increase simplicity and healing of your health!