I am blessed because I am allergic to every artificial sweetener made. The symptoms in me range from sucralose (a deceptive name for Splenda) headaches to aspartame fever blisters on my hands and feet. I do call this a blessing, because this is where it all began. From the time I was in high school I have had a Mountain Dew habit.
It was like coffee to most adults. I had to have one to wake. I had to have one mid day. I had to have one when I craved one. It wasn’t until I hit my thirties, and my belly started to expand like Pinocchios nose, that I tried to make a few changes. One of those changes: I would switch from Mountain Dew to Diet Mountain Dew. That would reduce the calories I was taking in. I didn’t realize at the time that calories werent the problem. So I traded the super sweet, high calorie, high fructose corn syrup regular Mountain Dew for the not as sweet aspartame artificial sweetener chemical bite of Diet Mountain Dew. It was quite a transition. It took some getting used to. All went well until in the second week. I noticed I was getting blisters on my hands and feet. I had no clue what that could be, so I went to the doctor.
Her first question was appropriate. What have you eaten that is different in the last few weeks? Well, that was easy. I had switched from regular to diet soda. Her recommendation was to stop drinking diet soda. I did. (I no longer drink sodas that are artificially sweetened or sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. I occasionally drink a Blue Sky soda made with real sugar). The blisters went away. But just to see if that was what caused my blisters I tried Diet Mountain Dew again a few weeks later. This time the blisters appeared after only a few cans of soda. That was it. Like so many people, I now had to adhere to the bold print aspartame phenylalanine warnings on product labels.
In one swoop, all diet sodas, most gum and some processed foods were on my no eat list. I was now a label reader and a beginner researcher. I didn’t give it anymore thought until years later. Fast forward to today. Millions of people drink diet drinks because these drinks are reduced or zero calories. But are these at the expense of the drinkers health? What if these artificial sweeteners are actually harmful? But they can’t be. They are legal products for sale. Some are made from sugar. They have no calories. They cant be bad. Yes. They can. They can be very bad. They can cause cancer, leukemia and as an added bonus, they will help make you fat.
Artificial sweeteners have been sold for years as a sensible way to reduce calorie intake. They have been marketed as healthy alternatives to sugar and fructose. They are even listed on many diabetic websites as an acceptable sweetener. Once again, what you have been told and soldis wrong. First, how vain we must be to think that we can out do nature. Nature has many natural sweeteners that if taken in moderation will not adversely affect our health: raw sugar and raw honey to name two. But nothing is in moderation anymore. Pick up any processed food and count how many times a sugar is listed on the label (dextrose, sucrose, lactose, fructose, maltose, syrup, honey, etc.). In many processed dinners you will find 5-10 sugars listed. Soda is loaded with high fructose corn syrup, a man-made super sweet sweetener. To escape all these added sugars many have chosen the route of artificial sweeteners. No calories, a sweet taste and terrible consequences. Our best bet is to reduce our intake of sugars and eliminate all artificial sweeteners, not to substitute one for the other.
One of the most popular sweeteners is Splenda. It shocks people when I tell them that sucralose (Splenda) was never designed to be a sweetener. It was created in a laboratory as in insecticide. By accident it was discovered that Splenda was sweet. The formula was then slightly modified, patented, then sold. It is made from sugar, but only in a distant sense of the word. They started with a sugar molecule (see, made from sugar) then added three chlorine molecules in a patented five step process. Chlorine is a carcinogen that is used in poison gas and disinfectants. This five step process converts the sugar molecule into what is called a fructo-galactose molecule. You won’t find this in nature and just like trans fats, your body has no idea what to do with it. As a result, it isn’t metabolized so it has no calories. That seems healthy enough. Oh, by the way, pour it on an ant mound and the ants will all be dead within the month. So if your body doesn’t know what to do with sucralose, what happens to it while it’s in your body? Thats a great question.
In a 2008 study conducted by Duke University’s Departments of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology found that Splenda immediately reduced the amount of beneficial bacteria in the intestines, elevated pH levels, caused changes in the colon, and increased body weight in rats. The beneficial bacteria in the gut were reduced by 49.8% over twelve weeks. These beneficial bacteria are involved in the fermentation of carbohydrates, production of vitamins, maintaining a healthy immune system, suppression of harmful pathogens, and the metabolism of drugs. Splenda reduced those beneficial bacteria in the body by half. What it didnt suppress were the detrimental bacteria. This interferes with the bodys natural balance and disrupts nutrient metabolism, normal immune functions, and pathogen suppression. PH levels were raised 5-7% and remained significantly elevated. Weight gain ranged from 17-21% percent higher in the groups of rats that were given Splenda and the weight gain continued even after the Splenda was no longer being given . This increase in body weight is attributed to reduction of beneficial bacteria which play a role in weight regulation. I found it interesting that all of this occurred after they took in about the same amount of Splenda that can be found in one bottle of Diet Coke with Splenda (1.1mg of sucralose/kg). The researchers concluded that the body uses the same metabolic mechanism to process Splenda as it does to process toxins. Your body views Splenda as a toxin, not as a sugar. Your body views artificial sweeteners as toxins, because that is exactly what they are.
Another study done at The Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center in Italy found that aspartame (phenylalanine) (Equal and Nutrasweet) is a multipotential carcinogenic even at intake levels that are less than half of what the FDA views as safe. In the early 1970’s three studies were done on rats and mice testing aspartame by Searle, the manufacturer. All three studies were stopped at 104 weeks and reviewed by the FDA. None of these studies have ever been published. They are not available to the public for review. Unlike Searle’s unpublished studies, the Cesare Maltoni study was done on 1800 rats to their natural end of life, up to 159 weeks. Aspartame was administered in their food at 40% of what the level that the FDA views as safe. The results are as follows. In the group that was given aspartame 12 brain malignant tumors occurred (none in the control group), 3 extremely rare bladder tumors (none in the control group), 42-51% had malignant tumors (compared to 36.7% in the control group), 14-25% had leukemia (compared to 8.7% in the control group). I hate to bore you with the statistics, but they are necessary to make my point. Aspartame in the body is metabolized into methanol (free methanol, to be specific, which does not occur in nature), and that is further metabolized into formaldehyde in both rats and humans. Formaldehyde is a carcinogenic. This would explain the increased rates of tumors and leukemia. Also, in the above study the animals were not autopsied until their natural death (up to 159 weeks), as opposed to 104 weeks in Searle’s study. The extra time that they lived allowed the carcinogenic properties of aspartame to reach its full potential.
But the reason you use artificial sweeteners is to reduce calories so that you can lose (or not gain) weight. Unfortunately, they certainly don’t help with that either. A study by Purdue University found that using artificial sweeteners increased caloric intake, increased body weight and increased body fat. It is not clear what causes this to occur. What is understood is that at the end of this study the rats that were given artificial sweetened food instead of sugar sweetened food weighed 10% more and had 5% more body fat. That is exactly the opposite of what people want when they choose an artificial sweetener.
Over the last 20 plus years many people have begun using artificial sweeteners as a way to reduce calories in their diets. Interestingly, over the same period of time our obesity rates have skyrocketed. I think that many things are to blame for our obesity problem. Among them are the increased use of simple carbohydrates and starches, cheap low quality food that lacks complete nutrition, processed foods, fast food, the over use of sugars and other sweeteners, the use of artificial sweeteners, the use of vegetable oils, the increased use of chemicals in and on our foods, reduced sleep, and increased stress. All of these factors throw our body’s delicate balance off course. The only way to reverse the obesity trend is to go back to the basics. Start with whole foods (meats, vegetables, fruits, cheese, eggs, nuts and dairy), use real natural sweeteners sparingly, eliminate all the toxic chemical additives found in processed foods and artificial sweeteners, get enough sleep, get enough sun and reduce your stress. Ignore all of the advertisements and advice on how to lose weight and be healthy. Go back to common sense. Go back to natural. Trust your instincts. The simplest way is the best way. Artificial sweeteners have no role in your health. I encourage you to discontinue using them. Check for them on labels (sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame-K (acesulfame potassium), saccharin and neotame). I guarantee that in just a few weeks you will start feeling better. As a friend of mine said, I still can’t put my finger on it, but I feel better. You will too.