Using Artificial Sweetners - Is it worth it?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Posted by Mansi

The first thing that I was advised to do when I started my weight-loss program was to reduce my intake of calories, and the most obvious thing to avoid was "Sugar". As sugar is a very essential part of my diet, ( read tea/coffee, desserts and other day-to-day foods here!), I had to find an alternative for sugar, and thus decided to go for artificial sweeteners like Splenda. But as I learned more about it, I noticed that its not the perfect solution, and indeed has a lot of controversies attached to it! Recently, a lot of people advised me to stop using Splenda saying it's carcinogenic and has other side effects. So what's the truth behind it? And is it really worth it to substitute sugar for artificial sweeteners??

Splenda is basically a combination of three ingredients--sucralose, dextrose, and maltodextrin. Dextrose is a sweetener, while Maltodextrin is a solids builder and drying agent. Neither of them is known to have any side effects, except for some allergic reactions in persons with allergies to corn or wheat. Sucralose is a chlorinated sucrose derivative used as an artificial sweetener, and with rising concerns about the use of Sachharine (found in Equal and NutraSweet), people gladly embraced Splenda as the new sugar-alternative. As its made from sugar residue, it tastes exactly like sugar, and can be used in the same proportions without contributing to any caloric value. It was like a boon for weight-watchers and diabetic patients, and until recently, it ruled the market for artificial sweetners.

However, there's more to this small yellow sachet than what meets the eye. Research has shown that Splenda, which struggled with FDA approval (approval received in April 1998) as it wasn't adequately tested on humans, is suspected to be toxic and carcinogenic. It is said that Sucralose breaks down into 1,6-dichlorofructose, which is toxic and can lead to shrunken thymus glands (up to 40% shrinkage) and enlarged liver and kidneys, Atrophy of lymph follicles in the spleen and thymus Increased cecal weight Reduced growth rate Decreased red blood cell count Hyperplasia of the pelvis Extension of the pregnancy period Aborted pregnancy Decreased fetal body weights and placental weights Diarrhoea. However, it is important to consider that all this research was done on animals, not humans.

A lot of people have observed other side effects of Splenda, including skinrashes/flushing, panic-like agitation, dizziness and numbness, diarrhea, muscle aches, headaches, intestinal cramping, bladder issues, and stomach pain. These show up at one end of the spectrum — in the people who have an allergy or sensitivity to the sucralose molecule. Some of the chemicals that reside in such sweeteners have been stated as hazardous — but the degree to which you experience side effects just depends on your individual biochemistry. Manufacturers are banking on the fact that our bodies won’t absorb very much of these compounds at any one time, which may be true, but with increasing craze about low-calorie and "sugar-free" products, how much of an intake can we avoid??

On the other hand, there are ample pages that endorse this product and deem it to be safe for human consumtion. But the question remains, is this a gamble worth betting for?? I agree, for many people, especially those suffering from Diabetes, sugar is totally restricted, and they are forced to turn to artificial sweeteners as an alternative. But if you already suffer from weight gain, diabetes, inflammation, chronic pain, migraines, headaches, or depression, it means you may have sugar intolerance, in which case, you should eliminate sugar entirely from your diet, or opt for healthier choices like honey, rice syrup, molasses, and maple syrup.

I am neither a doctor nor a nutritionist, but I am a woman who tries to choose what's healthy for myself and my family. And I ask myself, isn't it better to reduce my sugar intake to half and get used to eating less sweet stuff than going for these alternatives which could be carcinogenic or hazardous to my body? Ask yourself the same question, and trust your heart and mind to give you the right answer!

I think I have made my decision and will revert back to Sugar and Honey, but in a restricted amount. Its best to avoid anything artificial, especially when we have ample natural sources to consider! And if you still have trouble deciding, make sure to consult a family physician, and pray to lord he knows the truth himself!

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This Post was written by Mansi from Fun and Food


You may enjoy stevia as a sugar alternative. My entire family sweetens with it. It is not great for baking, but you can reduce a lot of calories from other items (drinks come to mind) by using it in liquid or powdered form. I use it in batters as well. It is an all natural herbal extract that is gaining in popularity, but must be labelled as a dietary aid.

Anonymous said...
June 23, 2008 at 11:29:00 PM GMT+2  

I completely agree with you. We use sugar in moderation and try to stay aware of calories... but that's it.

Anonymous said...
June 24, 2008 at 2:26:00 AM GMT+2  

This is a very nice and meaningful article. the craze for sweeteners has increased a lot lately and people don't realise how harmful they can be! I've seen cases where Equal has caused side effects to a friend...i would definitely suggest to stay away from these!


Anonymous said...
June 24, 2008 at 5:31:00 PM GMT+2  

Yes, I too feel the same way as you do, only the circumstances are different. I have diabetics in my family and we do not use sugar or natural sweeteners at all in our daily foods.

However, we are only humans and we find ourselves craving for a piece of cake or a muffin or a cookie, like normal families. And our cravings often go unsatisfied. These reports and researches are so contradictory, confusing and scary.

The nondiabetics in my family (including myself) find it hard, because we too have to go without sweet stuff most of the time to accomodate the patients in our family. There is just no way to enjoy the sweet things in life, it appears.

Anonymous said...
June 25, 2008 at 9:50:00 AM GMT+2  

folks, I know it can get hard to say no to sweets every tme..but as I've suggested, honey and molasses can be substituted for sugar in most items..even maple the few times u want to indulge, try these options, until science comes out with something that is really deemed "safe"!:(

Mansi said...
July 3, 2008 at 8:48:00 PM GMT+2  

I see anonymous 1 has already suggested stevia which I think of as a good alternative. For easy use you could make a concentrate like I do and use a small quantity as and when required.

Sunshinemom said...
July 4, 2008 at 12:31:00 PM GMT+2  

Nice article and blog site, my first visit to your site! I have read that white, processed sugar is one of the worst things for our bodies! Also, the substitutes are carcinogenic because they may contain Aspartame which is known to be a carcinogen. So we use organic, cane sugar that's not bleached and that too in moderation. Honey is a good alternative too if it's pure honey (preferably organic too).

Anonymous said...
July 21, 2008 at 8:19:00 PM GMT+2  

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