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THE DANGERS OF ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS

As the years have progressed we have become more educated about the dangers artificial sweeteners have on our health. Artificial sweeteners offer us an alternative to sugar. Sugar was in very bad fashion and an alternative was desperately wanted. With sugar being linked to so many illnesses and chronic diseases from obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, poor dental health, behavioural issues and blood pressure abnormalities an alternative seemed appealing.

So when did we start using artificial sweetener?

The additive as first discovered like so many other discoveries by accident. In 1879 two university students were on the search for a wonder drug but instead found a zero calorie coal-tar derivative, saccharin. This additive pack a powerful punch as it was 300 times sweeter than sugar! Just the fact that it is derived from coal-tar should have stopped the additive being added to food, unfortunately it didn’t.

By 1907 saccharin could be found in canned foods and it would go on to be banned several years later because frankly it’s not food and it simply shouldn’t have been used. In a very, very similar story to margarine due to the shortage of supplies in this case sugar during World War I it was deemed safe to use and that’s where our troubles began. I have written a very informative post about the history of margarine and butter and these two stories have crazy similarities, if you interested you can read BUTTER V MARGARINE here.

The next artificial sweetener to be introduced to food was cyclamate, this was approved by The Food and Drug Administration in the US in 1953. This was the artificial sweetener that was first added to soft drink to make it ‘diet’. A combination of cyclamate and saccharin quickly became the sugar alternative. It was sold in individual packets to sweeten coffee, it was added to canned food, packaged food, toothpaste, you name it, if it was sweet it was most likely artificially sweetened. The benefit to manufacturers was its incredibly low cost to produce. It was a fraction of what sugar cost at the time.

The history of legal battles, research and findings are intense from this point on. What we do know is the human body and brain respond to sweeteners in complex ways.

There are numerous artificial sweetners approved by the Australian Government:

  • Alitame
  • Acesulfame potassium
  • Aspartame
  • Advantame
  • Cyclamate
  • Neotame
  • Saccharin
  • Sucralose
  • Steviol glycosides and
  • Thaumatin

That’s many more than I ever thought!

Sugar it’s the natural alternative to these artificial options and at this point, it feels like the safest. Sugar can be a tricky beast though, sugar triggers the release of chemicals that set off the brain’s pleasure centre aka opioids and dopamine. Our brains love sugar it reacts in a similar manner to highly addictive drugs like heroin or cocaine. Over time we also develop a tolerance to sugar and it takes more to get that fix.

There’s also a couple of other issues with sugar according to Stephanie Dunbar, director of nutrition and medical affairs at the American Diabetes Association. The biggest thing is that there’s no nutritional value. Foods that tend to have a lot of sugar added, they don’t provide the satiety that you get from other more healthful foods, so people tend to consume more calories when they eat foods with more sugar in it.

More calories means weight gain. This means there’s a potential risk of heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and many more illnesses we do not want.

The reality is there are artificial sweeteners in so much of our food that is produced by food manufacturers and it’s hard to avoid. You can, however, minimise the amount you are consuming if you are concerned by having a diet high in fresh produce. Fresh fruit, vegetables organic meat and dairy from paddock to plate is a fabulous way to eat. Food can either be medicine or poison for our bodies. Nature gets it right and adds the right amount of sugar, it’s certainly the safest option by far!

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