This morning, like every other morning, my alarm clock went off at an always-feels-too-early 7am, and my dog jumped on me and licked my face. I sat up, sneezed 10,000 times (thank you Texas allergens) and dragged my feet over to the coffee maker. Four scoops in, four cups of water added, power on, and I grabbed a Splenda to put in the mug while it brewed to be extra efficient. Splenda in and coffee brewing, I then turned my attention to breakfast. What to eat this morning? I opened the cabinet, stared at the shelves for a little longer than necessary (no coffee yet = slow brain) and decided on oat bran for a change. I grabbed a bowl, measured out a 1/3 of a cup, sprinkled salt, added a splenda, and threw it in the microwave. Two minutes later, everything was set–coffee and bowl o’ bran–and I sat down to my email inbox. I ate my first spoonful of hot cereal, and upon tasting, realized it wasn’t sweet enough. In went another Splenda. Stir, stir, stir, then another taste test. Perfect! I turned to my left to check my phone, and noticed a nice little neat pile of three used Splenda packages.
Hmm. Is that bad?
Thinking ahead to the rest of my day, it was very likely that there was more Splenda in my future: one packet in a second cup of coffee, and one packet in a Greek yogurt. This would bring my total to five.
That all equates to about 3/4 of a tablespoon of the sweet stuff.
Did you ever stop to think about how much artificial sweetener you use in a day?
While no research has 100% proven that artificial sweeteners are harmful to humans, there are plenty of people I know who get back headaches from using them, or get nauseous even. I personally don’t see any affects, but I’ve also never really limited my intake, so I can’t be sure.What I do know, is that I currently use Splenda very frequently with almost no regard to he possible harm I could be doing my body. Probably not a good thing.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the four most popular sweeteners on the market in the U.S., and what their deals are (thank you, Wikipedia):
1. Splenda (sucralose): Splenda is the commercial name of a sucralose-based artificial sweetener derived from sugar, owned by the British company Tate & Lyle. Sucralose is approximately 600 times as sweet as regular table sugar, twice as sweet as saccharin, and 3.3 times as sweet as aspartame. The tagline “Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar” caused a lot of controversy in the sugar and sugar substitute industry, but got a lot of consumers to buy into it because it seemed to be more “natural”. All of the published studies I found pointed to no harmful affects in humans, however, when fed to animals at obscene quantities (the equivalent of 11,450 packets a day), their DNA started to breakdown, there was weight gain, and more (yeah… but that’s 11 thousand packets…). I then came across this website, that notes that “The inventors of Splenda admit around fifteen percent (15%) of sucralose is absorbed by the body, but they cannot guarantee us (out of this fifteen percent) what amount of chlorine stays in the body and what percent flushes out.” I then looked up affects of chlorine on the body, and while this study is based on chlorinated water, it’s still pretty interesting
Long-term risks of consuming chlorinated water include excessive free radical formation, which accelerates aging, increases vulnerability to genetic mutation and cancer development, hinders cholesterol metabolism, and promotes hardening of arteries.
Excess free radicals created by chlorinated water also generate dangerous toxins in the body. These have been directly linked to liver malfunction, weakening of the immune system and pre-arteriosclerotic changes in arteries. Excessive free radicals have been linked also to alterations of cellular DNA.42 Chlorine also destroys antioxidant vitamin E,2 which is needed to counteract excess oxysterols/free radicals for cardiac and anti-cancer protection.
2. Sweet’n Low (saccharine): an artificial sweetener made from granulated saccharin, dextrose and cream of tartar. Saccharin was first discovered in 1878 by Constantin Fahlberg, a chemist working on coal tar derivatives at the Johns Hopkins University. Fun fact: saccharine has been banned as a food additive in Canada (hmm), so Sweet’n Low is made from Sodium Cyclamate there (pure science).
3. Equal (aspartame): a brand of artificial sweetener containing aspartame, dextrose and maltodextrin. It is approximately 200 times sweeter than table sugar. Fun fact (and it’s also a weird fact): Aspartame was discovered in 1965 by James M. Schlatter, a chemist working for G.D. Searle & Company. Schlatter had synthesized aspartame in the course of producing an antiulcer drug candidate. He accidentally discovered its sweet taste when he licked his finger, which had become contaminated with aspartame, to lift up a piece of paper. There have been many studies on the harmful affects of this sweetener in particular, including the famous study that reported it as a cause of cancer in rats. If you scroll all the way down to the end of the wiki entry on aspartame though, the FDA claims it as one of the most well-tested food additives at all times. Which side are you on?
2. Truvia (stevia): This is the sweetner I know the least about, and was surprised by what I read on Wikipedia. Check it: Truvia is a stevia-based sugar substitute developed jointly by The Coca Cola Company and Cargill. Did you know Coca Cola was a major investor in the development of this? Extremely interesting. Read on: The claims that Truvia is a natual sweetener are disputed. The Truvia website claims that, to make Rebiana, “Dried stevia leaves are steeped in water similar to making tea”. However, the Coca Cola patent in fact refers to a 42 step process which involve the use of chemicals such as acetone, methanol, acetonitrile, isopropanol and tert-butanol. Cargill claims that the product is based upon an extract of the stevia leaf. This is also called in to question since only 1% of the ingredients is Rebiana, the other 99% comprises erythritol, a corn based sweetener.I had NO IDEA about that 1% part.
Personally, it’s a goal of mine to give up artificial sweeteners altogether. Most of the studies out there are funded by the investors themselves, leaving me no real option to trust. It’s extremely easy to publish a report that leans in favor of the outcome you’d like the public to see–trust me. And while I’m not calling all of these products evil either, I’m just saying the safest bet is to stay natural.
What’s your sweetener of choice? Do you prefer to go natural or artificial?