Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pink, Blue, and Yellow: The Rainbow of Table Top Sweeteners

I almost dubbed this post 'The Eh, The Bad and The Ugly', but I was afraid some might think it was about the Kardashians. Instead, let's look at some other chemically enhanced and processed products.

I've really been dreading doing this post because it almost seems pointless. I mean, we all know that the white stuff in the colorful packets on the restaurant table are evil. For quite some time, I've been reaching for the little white one first or the brown 'Sugar in the Raw' if available. At least they're something my great-grandparents would have recognized. And, to be honest, I've never understood the attraction of the others. Splenda, I kind of get as we've been sold the line that it's like sugar because it comes from sugar, but Equal and Sweet 'n Low? Ew. Sweet 'n Low is so bitter, I can't even begin to stomach it. Equal has always given my sister nasty migraines so I've steered clear of it for years. First, because I didn't want to accidentally expose her to it and later because I really didn't want to consume something that can make people that sick. Splenda was only kicked to the curb in the last year. I still have a huge box of it I keep on hand for company.

What's unfortunate is that though we 'know' these things aren't good for us, I bet few of us could articulate a solid argument as to why. Just last week over lunch, a coworker declared that it doesn't matter what sweetener you consume because the body treats all sugars the same. It was a mind-numbingly blatant denial of the obvious, but I couldn't give a good coherent response. I'd like to fix that today by giving a 'Top 5 Reasons to Avoid' each of these sweeteners. I see no reason to belabor the fact that it's bad for you with a great deal of prose. Let's just hit some factoids and move on with our lives, mkay?

Top 5 Reasons to Avoid Sweet 'n Low (aka saccharin, Nasty Stuff in the Pink Packet)

  1. Sweet 'n Low is a combination of saccharin and dextrose. Dextrose is a Frankenstein derivative of corn. Don't get me started on corn. It should only be slathered in butter straight off the grill. Otherwise, keep it out of my food.
  2. Though saccharin is 300 to 500 times sweeter than sugar to humans, its sweetness is unrecognized by bees or butterflies. It is believed the sweetness we detect is due to the shape of the molecule which fits the taste bud receptors responsible for sweetness. In other words, if your body says get me something sweet, you could eat a truckload of this stuff and your body will still want something sweet.
  3. Saccharin was first discovered back in the late 1800's by gentleman investigating chemicals for coal tar. Yeah, let that sink in for a bit. I found a reference to the fact that saccharin was based on metal corrosion inhibitors (I previously had a link to the article here, but required to remove it by Google via the article publisher), but I dismissed it. No way it's that bad. Then I discovered the the only US manufacturer of saccharin also manufactures, you guessed it, metal corrosion inhibitors. I can't find any other reference to a direct link, but it certainly doesn't look good.
  4. Saccharin may cause an allergic reaction as it is a sulfonamide. Rare, but I'll give real sugar credit in that I've not seen a claim that it causes allergic reactions.
  5. It has absolutely no benefit to the body other than to make things taste sweet. Shouldn't everything you put in your system do it good?
Top 5 Reasons to Avoid Equal (aka aspartame, Nasty Stuff in the Blue Packet)

  1. Equal is a combination of aspartame and dextrose. See my rant above.
  2. Also like saccharin, aspartame must fit the human taste bud receptors to be recognized as sweet. See second rant above.
  3. The body breaks aspartame down into other compounds including phenylalanine. Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid that we get from our diet. No big. However, consuming excess amounts, from say drinking diet colas all day, can aggravate sleep and anxiety disorders.
  4. This is purely anecdotal, but I have know two people personally who cannot tolerate aspartame as it causes severe headaches. I've seen one of them suffer first hand and it was painful to see. If it causes that kind of visible pain, what might it be doing that is less detectable but still detrimental to health long term? Call me paranoid, but I don't see where it's worth the risk.
  5. Again, there is no benefit to the body with aspartame, so why consume it?
Top 5 Reasons to Avoid Splenda (aka sucralose, Nasty Stuff in the Yellow Packet)

  1. Splenda is made by replacing three hydrogen-oxygen groups in the sucrose molecule with three chlorine atoms. Uh huh, chlorine. To be fair, the chlorine does not accumulate or break down in the body, but still, it's not something I would prefer to consume.
  2. Splenda was shown to decrease the presence of good gut bacteria in a study of rats. Reduced beneficial microflora can lead to ever increasing cravings for real sugar as candida spreads.
  3. Splenda contains maltodextrin which can skew glucometer readings for diabetics.
  4. Again, anecdotal, but there are widespread reports across the internet as the severe side effects brought on by the ingestion of Splenda. However, I've never met anyone who suffered from it.
  5. I'm a broken record here, but there is no benefit to the body with sucralose, so why consume it?

Well, I learned a great deal from this exercise. I do think I can stand by my decision to go with Splenda if forced to make a choice. All things considered, however, I'll drink my coffee black and skip them all together from here on out.

Thanks for reading!


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