A barge pole wouldn’t quite be long enough when it comes to avoiding artificial sweeteners… Needless to say, I’m not a fan!
When it comes to sweeteners there’s the good, the bad and the ugly. And the ugly, without doubt, are the artificial, chemical kind. ‘But they’re supposed to be better than sugar!’ I hear you say. Well, let me explain why that is so not the case.
Aspartame comprises two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid, the latter of which is a neurotoxin. While glutamate (download my list of food additives to avoid below) and aspartic acid or aspartate are two of the most common neurotransmitters found in the brain and spinal column, when their concentrations rise above a certain level they can literally excite certain neurons to death. Now I don’t know about you, but I’d like to keep as many of my neurons as possible! The really sobering fact is that when MSG and aspartame are combined (think a burger and diet coke) the effects are significantly multiplied.
Food additives to avoid
Still need convincing? Aspartame also contains methanol, which breaks down in the body into formaldehyde, which accumulates near DNA and causes damage – and it builds up over time. So even one diet cola a day can cause formaldehyde to increase each day…
And the consequences? Aspartame can worsen depression, cause weight gain and sleep problems, make diabetes more difficult to control, worsen symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases, cause migraines, affect eye health and damage a fetus’ brain as it develops.
While all of that is bad enough for anyone of any age, it does mean that the very young and the very old are most vulnerable to the damaging effects.
Then there’s saccharin, which is made from petroleum materials and could increase the risk of bladder cancer. And Sucralose, which is made by chlorinating sugar.
And one last thing. When we eat something sweet our brain tells our body to expect the additional calories. However, with artificial sweeteners there are no calories, so we’re left unsatisfied and with an increased appetite. The brain then tells us to eat something to give us the calories it was expecting. The more we have, the more we’re locked in this cycle, which leads to weight gain.
So where do we find artificial sweeteners?
I was really shocked to discover that artificial sweeteners are in all kinds of medications. Take a look at cold and flu preparations and anything effervescent – including effervescent vitamin C.
Diet soft drinks
The sugar in ordinary soft drinks has been replaced by aspartame in their diet alternatives.
NutraSweet, Equal, Canderel, Sweet ‘N Low, Splenda
So what do we do?
We read ingredient labels
We want to make sure that we avoid eating any flavour enhancers or artificial sweeteners so we’ve become avid label readers! I’ve written an article about this recently, called Why we read ingredient labels.
We use alternative treatments
We go all-out on prevention when it comes to the common cold and flu virus. If we don’t get them then we won’t be tempted to take medications that contain aspartame. Check out my article Best cure for a cold?
We use natural sweeteners
It’s amazing how lovely 100% natural, organic maple syrup can taste in foods like crumble or pancakes. We also use organic coconut sugar, which has a host of nutritional benefits.
Fortunately I have never sweetened hot drinks but if you do and would find it too difficult to just stop, then you could consider using something like Stevia, which is extracted from plants.
We drink (almost) anything other than sweetened soft drinks
Whether sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners, soft drinks are just a no-no for us. We drink lots of water (sad, but true!), herbal teas, green tea…
Want to understand more?
Dr Russell L Blaylock MD has written a lot about excitotoxins as it has been a particular area of interest to him as a neurosurgeon, whose parents both died of Parkinson’s disease. His book ‘Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills’ (ISBN 978-0-929173-25-2) is quite technical but he explains a lot about the brain, neurodegenerative diseases and the impact of dietary glutamate and aspartame.
Dr Marilyn Glenville has written a book called ‘Natural alternatives to sugar’ (ISBN 978-0-9935431-0-4), which explains about the devastating effects of sugar, and artificial sweeteners, and explains what alternatives can be used instead. She also includes some recipes.