Artificial Sweeteners Carmel IN
Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe?
By Lisa Lanzano, RD
Q. I’m diabetic. Should I use artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda or NutraSweet, instead of sugar?
A. As you know, when you eat sugar (or simple carbohydrates), your blood glucose levels rise, and your pancreas releases insulin to usher the sugar into cells. As a diabetic, however, you either don’t produce enough insulin or your cells don’t respond to the insulin (or both), and your blood glucose levels remain sky high. So eating too many carbohydrates will lead to an excessive rise in blood glucose that can cause serious health problems if left unchecked. These diabetes-related complications include increased risk for kidney failure, stroke, blindness, heart disease, and nerve damage.
Because of these risks, many people argue that artificial sweeteners are safer than sugar for diabetics since they contain no calories and have not been shown to raise blood-glucose levels. However, artificial sweeteners pose dangers of their own. Several studies have linked Aspartame (NutraSweet), acesulfame K (Sunette or Sweet One), and saccharin (Sweet’N Low) to increased cancer risk. Much of this research was conducted on animals and in doses significantly higher than an individual would consume, so the jury’s still out on whether the results apply to humans. Aspartame also has been implicated as an excitotoxin, a compound that overexcites neurons, leading to cell death (see www.naturalsolutionsmag.com for more info on excitotoxins).
As for sucralose (Splenda), it’s synthesized by reacting sugar with chlorine. While some say sucralose doesn’t break down in the body, and few studies have shown negative health effects, it may still pose problems. Because sucralose degrades slowly, scientists don’t know yet whether the amounts found in waste-water harm the environment. The real question with all these sweeteners is: What health risks arise from continual, long-term use? We just don’t know.
What’s more, artificial sweeteners raise insulin levels—even without your blood-glucose levels rising. Scientists theorize that the sweet taste fools your body into thinking you’re eating sugar, and in preparation, it releases insulin. This can lead to complications like hypoglycemia (when blood glucose drops too low) and altered hormone metabolism.
Whether or not you put stock in the research censuring artificial sweeteners, one thing’s for sure: They do not provide any nutritional value, and we can only hope they do no harm. Managing blood sugar levels is critically important, but you can achieve that in many other ways. My advice: Eat fewer processed treats, which rapidly raise blood sugar, and instead consume more naturally sweet whole foods, such as nutrient-rich fresh fruit and sweet vegetables like red bell peppers, sweet potatoes, sugar snap peas, and baby carrots. They contain less sugar than processed foods, and the fiber in them helps your body absorb the sugar they do contain more slowly, so your blood glucose doesn’t spike. Sweetener...
Author: Lisa Lanzano, RD
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