In my last article I touched briefly on the comparison between artificial sweeteners and sugar; and today I thought I would go a bit deeper into the different types of sweeteners, what to look out for, and the do’s and don’ts when reaching for something sweet.
Many of us think that artificial sweeteners are those little packets seen in coffee shops – an alternative to table sugar to add to your tea or coffee. However, the truth is, many of us consume these sweeteners on a daily basis. From a granola bar to protein powder; these are widely used in processed foods including but not limited to baked goods, sodas, juices and dairy products.
So how did these come to be? Let’s start from the beginning…
The first artificial sweetener to be created. It was discovered in 1879 in the Johns Hopkins University by a professor of chemistry who was working on coal-tar. For those who don’t know, coal-tar is the by-product when coal is carbonized to make gas. Fast forward the years and saccharin is now in dozens of food products. So what’s so bad about this sweetener? It has been said to cause several allergic reactions, skin rashes, headaches and diarrhoea. Not to mention the increased risk of bladder, vascular and lung cancer.
Saccharin is available commercially as “sodium saccharin”, “calcium saccharin” or “acid saccharin”.
Just like saccharin, this was discovered by accident as well. Except this time it was discovered by chemists who were trying to create an insecticide. In 1999, sucralose was approved as a general-purpose sweetener in the USA by the FDA. But did you know that once sucralose becomes ingested it is basically unrecognizable by the body as food? Some studies have indicated that with regular long-term use, your gastrointestinal system may absorb the chlorinated molecules of sucralose, which may lead to skin rashes, microflora imbalances in the gut, and potentially headaches and bladder issues.
Sucralose is sold under the brand name Splenda.
And saving maybe the worst for last….
This sweetener is made of aspartic acid and was accidentally created by a chemist who was initially testing an anti-ulcer drug. It is now considered by many to be the most dangerous sweetener. Studies with mice have shown chemical overstimulation of neural cells, leading to impaired memory and increased brain oxidative stress.
Aspartame is available commercially as “aspartame” and is often combined with sucralose. It is also sold under the brand names NutraSweet and Equal.
While I am warning you about the potential risks of the sweeteners discussed above, I am glad to say, that it is not all doom and gloom.
This natural sweetener wasn’t found in a chemistry lab. Instead, it is derived from the leaves of a South and Central American shrub that’s now grown all over the world, even as potted house plants. Stevia can be taken in its natural leaf form (added to tea) or dried and powdered. The process of drying the leaf enables steviol glycosides to be isolated – and this is where the ‘sweetness’ comes from. Evidence shows that stevia may also act as an insulin sensitizer that could aid glucose tolerance and clearance after a meal. The Japanese have even used stevia for decades to help people suffering from type 2 diabetes.
TIP TO CONSIDER: Some stevia sweeteners mix steviol glycosides with sucralose in the form of dextrose, or sugar alcohols. It is important to make sure you are only using pure unadulterated stevia.
We use stevia in its natural form of steviol glycosides in our Zupafood Range. We also use fruit extracts as a natural flavour boost to make them taste great.
For those of you who don’t know much about our Zupafood products, they are a fantastic pick-me-up packed full of Aquamin TG® calcium, green tea extract, Grape seed extract, Kiwifruit and other valuable nutrients. Click here to see the full Zupafood line. I have put together a simple guide you can use (alongside the other guides in the series) while doing the groceries. I hope you find it helpful!
What sweeteners did you use to consume (without knowing) and what are your favourite ones now? Share your thoughts below!
In good health.
- History of saccharin: http://todayinsci.com/F/Fahlberg_Constantin/FahlbergConstantin-Saccharin.htm
- For more on artificial sweeteners: http://www.sugar.org/other-sweeteners/artificial-sweeteners/
- For more on aspartame effects on memory and oxidative stress in mice: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23280025
- For more on damaged hypothalamic neuros in adult mice: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10802387
- For information on the safety of stevia:
- More on increase of insulin sensitivity by stevioside: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16278783