Sugar is naturally derived from plants like sugar cane and sugar beets by the process of shredding them to a pulp and then juicing them. The sugar cane / sugar beet plant mass is evaporated until it begins to crystallize, where the end result is white sugar crystals.
There is no direct correlation linking sugar to an increased risk for diabetes. You can certainly make the case that excessive sugar consumption leads to diabetes: increased sugar usage -> leads to obesity -> and obesity leads to an increased risk for diabetes. Many people use artificial sweeteners to lower the calories they take in, but these artificial sweeteners have their own problems. While the FDA lists them in their ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’ category (which only means that they are considered safe until studies are studies to suggest otherwise), it’s up to you to protect you and your children’s best interests. Our regulatory system really doesn’t have enough safeguards in place to ensure our safety from different foods and substances in the environment. These artificial sweeteners are exactly what they sound like: “artificial”. Artificial and synthetic substances should not be used for human consumption. While natural sugars can indeed lead to obesity in large amounts, this type of natural sugar can be easily processed and absorbed by the body. The nutrients go directly to the bloodstream. Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose (retail name: Splenda), aspartame (retail name: Equal) and saccharin (retail name: Sweet and Low) have their own harmful side effects that everyone should know about before ingesting them.
- Sucralose is known to cause stomach discomfort, including diarrhea. There’s a simple reason for this: once sucralose reaches your gut, it’s not recognized by your body as food. Although your gut tries to absorb it (in order to process it and get rid of it), there is a portion of it that your gut is not able to get rid of which causes the discomfort. Sucralose is also a known migraine trigger, and is also known to cause headaches, anxiety, dizziness and skin rashes.
- Aspartame has been linked to many disorders such as depression and anxiety. There is evidence of aspartame causing birth defects in newborn babies.
- Saccharin is made from combining among other things chlorine and ammonia. There are studies showing that saccharin causes bladder cancer in rats and although the FDA tried to get the substance banned in the early 1970s, it was unsuccessful.
Foods and Other Products Containing Artificial Sweeteners
- Frozen yogurt sometimes contain aspartame, so make sure to check the label if you’re buying it from the grocery store.
- Diet sodas contain aspartame as well as saccharin.
- Artificial sweeteners are found in toothpaste and mouthwashes as they help give them that minty and sweet taste. But at least with toothpastes and mouthwashes, there is some good news. The saccharin is partially rinsed out of your mouth when you rinse with water. Also, artificial sweeteners prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause tooth decay and other oral problems.
- Any food item that is a low-calorie or “diet” version of another food item.
Artificially Sweeteners Lead to Weight Gain
Clinical studies have shown that consuming artificial sweeteners actually leads to weight gain.
When you eat diet foods or drink diet sodas, you are tricking your body into taking something it thinks is natural. After consuming artificial sweeteners for any length of time, traditional food does not have the same “weight” in your brain as it once did. When you use artificially sweetened foods and drinks, you’re essentially crying wolf to your brain over and over again and sending it mixed signals. Let’s look at an average day in the brain of someone who regularly ingests artificial sweeteners:
- Breakfast: diet soda and artificially sweetened muffin. Brain’s response: Great – lots of sweet stuff. This is going to give me plenty of energy to start the day.
- Mid-Morning: Brain’s response: Wow, I’m really low on energy right now. Going to have to shift some of that blood sugar from the body to the brain so I don’t conk out. Sending hunger signals – WE NEED MORE ENERGY.
- Lunch: diet soda and slice of pizza. Brain’s response: Pretty good meal, but remember what happened last time? Am I getting the real stuff or the fake stuff like last time? Better send out hunger signals in an hour just to make sure.
As you can see, mixing artificially sweetened “diet” foods usually leads to increased food craving. The result is obvious: increased food consumption leads to increased weight gain.
Even with all of the negative side effects surrounding artificial sweeteners, these products are becoming more and more popular as people want a low-calorie way to satisfy their sugar cravings. People can instead try to increase their intake of fruits that have natural sugars inside of them as well as fiber that helps you feel full. Snacking on fruits can alleviate hunger pangs. If you are drink diet sodas, consider switching to water. With diet sodas, you’re sending the signal to your brain (since it’s sweet) that you’re giving your body calories when you’re not. The next time you reach for an artificially flavored soda, remember that anything artificial can never have a positive effect inside your body.