Diabetes is skyrocketing. A recent report from the New York City Health Department indicates one person dies every 90 minutes from diabetes-related causes. Why is this happening?
Dr. Robert Lustig is a specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. As reported in a New York times story by Gary Taubes, Is Sugar Toxic?, Lustig asserts that sugar is a “toxin” or a “poison.” And he is referring to not just sucrose — but also high-fructose corn syrup,
If Dr. Lustig is right, then our excessive consumption of sugar is the primary reason that the numbers of obese and diabetic Americans have accelerated. He also contends that sugar is also the likely dietary cause of other chronic ailments considered diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension and cancer.
Dr. Lustig calls sugar a chronic toxin, rather than an acute toxin, which means “not toxic after one meal, but after 1,000 meals.” He contends we can eat 100 calories of glucose (from a potato or bread or other starch) or 100 calories of sugar (half glucose and half fructose), and they will be metabolized differently and have a different effect on the body. Mark Bittman reports that scientists have been insisting in recent years, all calories are not created equal. By definition, all calories give off the same amount of energy when burned, but your body treats sugar calories differently, and that difference is damaging.
In animals, or at least in laboratory rats and mice, it’s clear that if the fructose hits the liver in sufficient quantity and with sufficient speed, the liver will convert much of it to fat. This apparently induces a condition known as insulin resistance, which is now considered the fundamental problem in obesity, and the underlying defect in heart disease and Type 2, diabetes. It might also be the underlying defect in many cancers.
Artificial Sweeteners – No Benefit!
Mark Hyman, MD, author of The Blood Sugar Solution also posits that insulin imbalance is the major cause of weight issues, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia and many other diseases. “Craving sugar and refined carbohydrates and having low energy is not a natural state of being human, it’s a sign we are out of balance” says Dr. Hyman. And he shows that diet products and artificial sweeteners not only undermine our health, but make us fat.
Dr. Hyman analyzed the data and the results indict diet drinks. “Those who consume diet drinks regularly have a 200 percent increased risk of weight gain, a 36 percent increased risk of pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome, and a 67 percent increased risk of diabetes,” he shows. People who drink two diet drinks a day have five times the increase in waist circumference as people who do not drink diet drinks.
A study in the Journal of Behavioral Neuroscience has shown conclusively that using artificial sweeteners not only does not prevent weight gain, but induces a whole set of physiological and hormonal responses that actually make you gain weight. We’re surrounded by low-calorie, “health conscious foods” and diet soft drinks that contain sweeteners. As a result, the number of Americans who consume products that contain sugar-free sweeteners grew from 70 million in 1987 to 160 million in 2000.
Dr. Hyman points our that, at the same time, the incidence of obesity in the United States has doubled from 15 percent to 30 percent across all age groups, ethnic groups, and social strata. And the number of overweight Americans has increased from about 30 percent to over 65 percent of the population. The fastest growing obese population is children.
Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners
The FDA has declared artificial sweeteners safe, a claim that is echoed by the health establishment.
Yet artificial sweeteners have been implicated in our most dread diseases, including Alzheimer’s, lymphoma, Parkinson’s and anxiety. Sweeteners are made from chemicals, some of which are known to be harmful if not toxic. A recent scientific review issued by the European Food Safety Authority of more than 20 separate research studies found that aspartame, one of the most common artificial sweeteners, causes a range of illnesses including birth defects and cancer. Sucralose (Splenda), saccharin and various other artificial sweeteners have also been linked to causing cancer.
Since there is a difference of perception regarding the safety of these chemicals, you will have to decide for yourself.
Aspartame, marketed as Nutrasweet and Equal, is found in foods labeled “diet” or “sugar free”. Aspartame is believed to be carcinogenic and a neurotoxin. It is believed that it erodes intelligence and affects short-term memory. It has been implicated in causing brain tumor, diseases like lymphoma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue, emotional disorders like depression and anxiety attacks, dizziness, headaches, nausea, mental confusion, migraines and seizures.
Aspartame is used in diet or sugar free sodas, diet coke, coke zero, jello, desserts, sugar free gum, drink mixes, baking goods, table top sweeteners, cereal, breathmints, pudding, kool-aid, ice tea, chewable vitamins, toothpaste
Aceslulfame-K is a potassium salt containing methylene chloride, a known carcinogen. Long term exposure to methylene chloride can cause nausea, headaches, mood problems, impairment of the liver and kidneys, problems with eyesight and possibly cancer. Acesulfame-K may contribute to hypoglemica. Acesulfame-K has undergone the least scientific scrutiny. Early studies showed a potential link between the sweetener and development of multiple cancers in laboratory animals.
Sucralose is a synthetic additive created by chlorinating sugar. Manufacturers say the chlorine in sucralose is no different from that in table salt. But the chemical structure of the chlorine in sucralose is almost the same as that in the now-banned pesticide DDT. It has been implicated in head and muscle aches, stomach cramps and diarrhea, bladder issues, skin irritation, dizziness and inflammation. Research has shown sucralose can cause shrinking of the thymus gland, an important immune system regulator, and liver and kidney dysfunction. A recent study by Duke University found sucralose reduces healthy intestinal bacteria, needed for proper digestion, and can impact the effectiveness of prescription and other drugs.
Saccharin is a sulfa-based sweetener; its primary ingredient is benzoic sulfimide. For those with sulfa allergies, saccharin may cause nausea, diarrhea, skin problems or other allergy-related symptoms. Early safety studies of saccharin showed the sweetener caused bladder cancer in rats. The FDA recently lifted the requirement that saccharin be labeled as a probable carcinogen on food packaging.
About Paleo sweeteners… I love honey, a true Paleo sweetener, however I don’t use it much because it is extremely high in sugar and carbs, much like cane sugar! Honey will give you a nice big blood sugar spike, and that’s not how I want to start my day. I stopped using Stevia when I discovered it is highly processed with chemicals, which is not Paleo at all. I occasionally use unprocessed green powdered stevia, however many people dislike its strong aftertaste. I have discovered other natural sweeteners that work and you will find them in by recipes.
If you have a sugar or artificial sweetener habit, consider a new approach. Give your taste buds a new opportunity to taste the wonderful range of tastes, beyond the overwhelming sweetness of prepared foods. Renew your sweet taste buds by reintroducing fruit and vegetables in their whole form.
And try the wonderful recipes in Paleo Desserts. A taste adventure awaits you.