The United States has constantly been on some kind of health kick/diet fad over the past 50 years. Whether we’re being told to eat less fat, less carbohydrates, only caveman food, or stick to liquid foods, diets have always been promoted throughout the country, mostly due to a fear of being fat or becoming a fat person (GASP!). One thing that has resulted in our constant need to diet is the introduction of artificial sugars in our food supply.
Artificial sugars are those created in a lab – they stem from combining different chemicals to create a sweet result. They are not naturally occurring substances, and artificial sugars have been adopted by many food manufacturers in place of natural sugar in processed foods. Americans, on average, consume 165 pounds of added sugar each year. As dietitians, doctors, the Food and Drug Administration, and anyone else hoping to have some kind of say in how we should eat promote low fat diets, food companies and manufacturers continue to pump more and more sugar and fake sugar into processed foods to make them halfway palatable to the American public.
Fake sugars are marketed as an alternative to natural sugar – they promise zero calories and are “diet friendly.” But this is wrong. Research has shown aspartame worsens insulin sensitivity, and its been discovered fake sugars trick the mind, stimulate appetite, increase cravings for carbohydrates, and produce a variety of metabolic dysfunctions that promote fat storage and weight gain. Fake sugar (and sugar) consumption has also been linked to heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Sugar is a drug and essentially has the same chemical effect on the brain as cocaine. With this knowledge, the more sugar and artificial sugars companies pump into processed foods, the more people become addicted to them and seek them out on a regular basis, similar to people addicted to drugs.
Here are the top fake sugars used in the United States:
Also known as Sweet ‘N Low, Saccharin was discovered in 1878 at Johns Hopkins University by Ira Remsen. Studies in the early 1970s found a link between Saccharin consumption and bladder cancer in rats, which resulted in a 1981 Congressional mandate to have a warning on all foods containing Saccharin.
Also known as Equal, Aspartame is one of the most studied artificial sugars. Aspartame was approved by the FDA in 1981 and studies have found no convincing evidence it causes weight gain or cancer in humans, but the verdict is still out since most studies rely on moderate to low consumption. Studies have shown Aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives, which include seizures and death.
Known as Ace K, Sweet One, or Sunett, this fake sugar was first approved by the FDA in 1988, with little pre-market testing performed. There are some reports that it might be linked to cancer, but no studies have been performed to actually confirm this.
Neotame is the newest of the fake sugars. With a similar structure to Aspartame, and produced by the same company, Neotame was approved by the FDA in 2002 and is used in drinks, dairy products, frozen desserts, fruit juices, and pudding. Neotame is 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar).
Also known as Splenda, this artificial sugar is made from corn. Approved for consumption by the FDA in 1998, one study showed it could negatively impact the immune system but follow-up studies have been inconclusive. Some industry experts argue Splenda’s molecular structure is closer to a pesticide than a sugar.
Sugar as a whole should be avoided. Obviously fruits are delicious, and Americans shouldn’t deprive themselves of naturally occurring sugar in the forms of fruit, honey, and maple syrup. But even these items should be limited. As more and more Americans become overweight and obese, limiting and eliminating those items known to promote poor health should be the first priority. Bye bye fake sugars!
Do you think fake sugars are bad for you? Do you trust what the FDA reports on artificial sugars? Do you think the weight issues in the United States can be related to sugar consumption?