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Is My Diet Hurting Me?

If you consume foods or beverages that are labeled ‘diet’, ‘low calorie’ ‘reduced sugar’, ‘sugar-free’, chances are they contain some type of artificial sweetener, which has been found to disrupt your metabolism. Many people who decide to buy diet products do so because they virtually contain no calories, they want to lose weight, and think that these diet products are healthy options that will help their weight loss.

I must point out that the research on artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame, the most widely used artificial sweetener has been quite controversial as some are still not convinced that there is adequate research to designate artificial sweeteners dangerous. However, several new research revealing the health risks associated with artificial sweeteners continue to pour in.

Concerns about Artificial Sweeteners

Many of the diet products, over 6,000, (e.g., NutraSweet, Equal, diet sodas, sugar-free gum, baked goods, yogurt, chewing gum, children’s medicine, etc.) on the market contain aspartame, which have been linked to certain increased health risks and diseases, especially weight gain, ironically, the reason many would consume these diet products in the first place is because they are trying to lose weight.

Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes that may be derived from naturally occurring substances, such as herbs or sugar itself. They are also known as intense sweeteners because they are many times sweeter than regular sugar.

One of the concerns with these artificial sweeteners is that the sweet taste that they provide does not equate to the energy or calories that they provide. However, we were created to relate the two. In a recent study by Yale University School of Medicine, researchers concluded that the difference between the sweet taste and the energy released from these products trigger greater metabolic response and leads to disruption of the metabolism. Let me explain it in a simple way, your body identifies the sweetness and based on that it determines how it should be metabolized. When the sweet taste equates to the energy/calories, the brain’s reward circuit is satisfied, satiated, or full. On the other hand, when the sweet taste does not equate the energy/calories, the brain’s reward circuit is not satisfied, satiated, or full. At this point, the body continues to signal that it needs more because it is not satisfied and so we want more and we eat more. This is the reason that diet foods have been linked to increased appetite and carb craving resulting in weight gain and not weight loss.

Other studies have also concluded that aspartame has serious health risks such as increase incidence of heart disease, dementia, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and certain forms of cancer. In one research, 60,000 women were followed for about 10 years and found that drinking just two diet drinks a day dramatically increased risk of early death from heart disease. It should be noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved aspartame in 1981 and has said that aspartame is “safe for the general population under certain conditions”. Many scientists have contended that the approval was based on suspect data and should be reconsidered.

Benefits of using Artificial Sweeteners

According to other studies, some of the possible health benefits associated artificial sweeteners include:

  • They don't contribute to tooth decay and cavities.

  • They may help with weight control as they have virtually no calories.

  • They may help with diabetes since they generally don't raise blood sugar levels because they are not carbohydrates.

What about Stevia

One last thing, I know that many of you may be wondering about Stevia, which is known as a natural, no-calorie sweetener, made from a South American plant and has been around for centuries. While Stevia has been found to be safer that other sweeteners, there is still some controversy. Over the years, the FDA has turned down several requests to use stevia in foods. The Agency cites a handful of studies suggesting that large amounts of stevia could be harmful. In one study, it showed where high doses reduced sperm production and might cause infertility in male rats; another showed that when female hamsters were fed large amounts of a stevia derivative, they had smaller babies. Other studies indicated that stevia might be carcinogenic and might disrupt metabolism.

Despite Stevia’s controversy, in recent years it has been used in almost 200 products around the world. If you choose to use Stevia, be aware that there are many types on the market. You want to get full, green leaf stevia or stevia that is ground and part of it is extracted. Be mindful that there are many brands that you should avoid because they are highly processed, may contain other chemicals and some come from GMO corn or add in GMO corn derivatives.

Healthier Sugar Substitutes

You might be thinking, she has given me all this information about artificial sweetener, what are some healthier sugar options that you can try. I got your covered. Here are a few that are healthier as long as you use them in moderation. It should be noted that these sweeteners are lower in glycemic index that regular sugar.

  • Pure Raw Honey - It is not just a sugar, it is actually a food, which contains amino acids, specific types of electrolytes and antioxidants, and antimicrobial compounds that good for you.

  • Dates - They are very high in fiber and potassium and other vitamins and minerals.

  • Organic Coconut Sugar - It is unrefined, vegan, non-GMO. Coconut sugar comes primarily from the coconut juice, which is full of potassium, electrolytes and nutrients.

  • Organic Grade B or C Maple Syrup – It contains 24 different antioxidants, which are beneficial for reducing free radical damage that can cause inflammation and contribute to the formation of various chronic diseases.

Personally, I do not use Stevia or any other artificial sweeteners and I do not recommend them to my clients, in fact, I highly discourage their use as I believe that they cause weight gain and other harm to the body. In my home, we use raw honey or maple syrup. I will be trying coconut sugar and dates.

Hopefully, this information will help you to make an informed decision whether you decide to consume diet products containing artificial sweeteners or not.

Source: Mayo Clinic, Dr. Mercola, Web MD, Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Axe

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