Category Archives: sweetener

Another reason to avoid artificial sweeteners — they may actually RAISE blood sugar

artificial-sweetenersSeems sort of counterintuitive, doesn’t it? The sweeteners that have been developed to help people control their weight and avoid diabetes that are featured in diet soda, yogurt and other foods can raise the blood sugar level instead of reducing it, according to new experiments in mice and people.

The provocative finding—made possible through a new avenue of research—is likely to stoke the simmering controversy over whether artificial sweeteners help or hinder people’s ability to lose weight and lower their risk of diabetes.

The research shows that zero-calorie sweeteners such as saccharin, sucralose and aspartame can alter the population of bacteria in the gut and trigger unwanted changes such as higher blood glucose levels—a risk factor for diabetes.

“The scope of our discovery is cause for a public reassessment of the massive and unsupervised use of artificial sweeteners,” said Eran Elinav, a physician and immunologist at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science and lead author of the study, which appeared Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Though many people consume artificial sweeteners instead of sugar to control their weight, the scientific evidence that they work is mixed. Some studies have indicated that the sweeteners can help lead to weight loss, while others suggest they contribute to weight gain.

One reason is that it isn’t clear whether people who consume artificial sweeteners are overweight because of what they eat—or whether overweight people are the ones who typically gravitate to such products.

Based on existing evidence, guidelines jointly published in 2012 by the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association noted that artificial sweeteners “when used judiciously…could facilitate reductions in added sugar,” and thus influence weight loss.

The new Nature study marks a significant advance because it brings together two separate areas of research—the role of sweeteners in raising blood sugar levels, and the complex workings of the vast colonies of bacteria that inhabit the gut. Individuals can have differing bacterial colonies in their gut, meaning people respond differently to what they consume.

In one experiment, the researchers found that mice whose diets included saccharin, sucralose or aspartame had significantly higher blood-glucose levels than mice whose diet included sugar, or no sugar at all.

They next wanted to test whether the fake sweeteners caused that metabolic change by altering the balance of microbes in the animals’ gut.
They transplanted bacteria from artificial-sweetener-fed mice or sugar-fed mice into other mice that were bred to have no gut bacteria of their own and that had never consumed a sweetener product. They found that the bacterial transfer from the sweetener-fed mice raised the blood sugar levels in the transplant recipients—suggesting that the gut microbes had triggered the higher sugar levels in mice fed fake sweeteners.

Was the same link true for people? Dr. Elinav and his colleagues examined the relationship between long-term consumption of artificial sweeteners and various metabolic measurements in some 380 nondiabetic people.

They found that the bacteria in the gut of those who regularly ate fake sweeteners were notably different from those who didn’t. In addition, there was a correlation between the sweetener consumption and a susceptibility to glucose intolerance, which is a disturbance in the blood glucose level.

Correlation, however, doesn’t necessarily mean causation. In the next experiment, seven volunteers who normally didn’t consume fake sugar were asked to consume products high in the sweeteners. After four days, four of them had significantly higher blood-sugar levels as well as altered populations of bacteria in their gut—an outcome similar to what was seen in mice.

“This susceptibility to sweeteners [can now] be predicted ahead of time by profiling the microbes in the people,” said Eran Segal, a co-author of the study and computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute.
The results need to be corroborated through a study with many more participants.

In a statement, the Calorie Control Council, a trade group that represents makers of artificial sweeteners and other food products, said the Nature study suffered from several limitations. It said the results from the mouse experiments may not apply to humans, while the human experiments had a small sample size. It said further research was needed.

FoodFacts.com has never had anything good to say about artificial sweeteners. Reports of negative health effects have far outweighed the marketed benefits. Research like this points straight to the idea that artificial sweeteners are not only unnecessary, but actually harmful — harmful enough that Dr. Elinav, the study’s lead author, stopped using them completely once he saw the results. That should certainly tell us something.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/research-shows-zero-calorie-sweeteners-can-raise-blood-sugar-1410973201
http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20140917/artificial-sweeteners-blood-sugar?page=2

What’s not a diet soda, but not a regular soda? Coming soon to the U.S. … Coke Life

0616_coke_life_970-630x420Soda drinkers have a bit of a problem these days. The widely held opinion used to be that diet sodas were a better choice than sugared sodas. Now, though, the artificial sweeteners in sugared sodas are linked to actual weight gain, instead of weight loss. Their sugary counterparts are under fire for contributing to the obesity crisis, in addition to the rise in diabetes and heart disease. Of course, for those of us who aren’t soda drinkers, both diet and regular sodas are the equivalent of chemical nightmares. But soda drinkers are having a hard time figuring out what to do. So much so that soda sales have steadily declined over the last 9 years. Consumers aren’t happy with soda choices and it’s beginning influence manufacturer decisions.

Coca-Cola, notably, is responding. There’s a new Coke on the horizon. Packaged in a green can that most of us aren’t yet familiar with, Coke Life is Coca-Cola’s answer to consumer concerns. Sweetened with stevia, this new version of regular Coke has been released in Argentina and Chili. This coming fall, it will debut in the U.K. It’s worth pointing out that this is the first new addition to Coke branded sodas in almost eight years.

Coke Life isn’t exactly a diet drink. It contains more than four tablespoons of real sugar and has about 89 calories per can—less than the 140 calories found in a can of regular Coke, but hardly something that will be championed by the quinoa crowd.

Instead, Coke Life is Coca-Cola’s answer to the two health concerns that have been hitting the company’s soda sales with a one-two punch: the anti-sugar movement, which rails against its full-calorie, full-sugar line of beverages, and the perception that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (found in both Diet Coke and Coke Zero) are unhealthy and can even contribute to weight gain.

These concerns have contributed to a steady nine-year decline in U.S. soda sales. Last year they slid even further—dropping 3 percent, or more than double the 1.2 percent they’d fallen the year before. (Soda is already down a further 2 percent this year.) Diet soda sales withstood the decline for a while; now they appear to be tumbling, too. Last year, Diet Coke sales in the U.S. dropped nearly 7 percent, according to Beverage Digest.

As soda sales have fallen, Coke has also found itself fending off health-policy experts and state governments pushing for increased regulation of sugary drinks and snacks. New York City’s limit on soda container sizes is currently making its way through state courts, and a California law that would add a warning label to cans saying, “Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay” has made it through the state senate, despite heavy lobbying by the local arm of the American Beverage Association (of which Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are members). In the U.K., where Coke Life will make its next debut, Coca-Cola has agreed to reduce the average calories in its sodas by 5 percent by the end of this year.

Coca-Cola has more than 100 years of experience fighting health crazes and government regulation campaigns. In 1906 the U.S. government sued the company in attempt to get it to abandon caffeine. (It lost.) In 1950, a Cornell professor named Clive McCay testified before a Congressional committee on food additives that Coke could eat through teeth. (Not true.) But so many drink choices are now available that Americans’ current move away from soda doesn’t appear to be temporary.

At the moment, Coke Life doesn’t have a U.S. debut date. Given the company’s heavy investment in stevia-based drinks—in 2007, Coca-Cola and Cargill teamed up to create Truvia, a consumer brand of stevia sweetener—it seems likely that the drink will soon see much wider release.

While Coke Life may in fact offer less sugar than regular soda and healthier sugar than both regular and diet soda, it still contains about 4 teaspoons of sugar in every can. That’s still too much when you consider the new recommendations of 6 teaspoons per day for men and 9 for women.

Step in the right direction? For some, maybe. But then there’s us. Here at FoodFacts.com, sugar is just part of our concerns — a big part, undoubtedly, but still only a part. At the end of the day, it will still be a Coke that’s sweetened differently. The changes in the ingredient list won’t go far enough. We’ll still be left with plenty of items on the ingredient list that we can’t bring ourselves to consume. Still soda. Still a problem.

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-06-17/cokes-new-low-cal-low-sugar-soda-is-designed-to-quiet-critics

Questions about the safety of sucralose

FoodFacts.com has never been a fan of artificial sweeteners. Most are controversial, have undergone insufficient safety testing and have been linked everything from gastrointestinal disturbances to cancer. We advocate for the avoidance of artificial sweeteners and the products in which they are contained, like diet soft drinks and low-fat, reduced-calorie food products.

Splenda (the brand name for sucralose) is now joining the list of artificial sweeteners with questionable health effects. While sucralose has been deemed “safe” by the Center for Science in the Public Interest for years, they are now downgrading it to “caution” after the release of an Italian animal study linking sucralose to a higher risk of leukemia. CSPI says it is waiting for the review of the study before deciding on the long-term safety grade it will finally assign for sucralose in its Chemical Cuisine guide to food additives.

The study that has called the safety of sucralose into question comes from the Ramazzini Institute in Bologna, Italy. Here, researchers fed 843 laboratory mice varying doses of sucralose daily from when they were fetuses until they died. Post-mortem examinations on the mice showed an association between the development of leukemia and lifetime sucralose consumption. The more sucralose the mice consumed, the higher their risk of leukemia.

Researchers noted that previous studies involving rats showed increases in liver and lung tumors in male animals consuming aspartame. These studies increased the health concerns regarding aspartame and have led consumers to switch from aspartame sweeteners to sucralose (Splenda). Splenda has been widely promoted as a safer alternative. Researchers believe that with this new link between sucralose consumption and leukemia, further study is urgently needed in order to assess cancer risk in humans.

The rise in rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes worldwide has led to an increase in the consumption of reduced-calorie food products and diet beverages. All of these products contain some type of artificial sweetener. They can even be found in over the counter medications. In addition, people are adding Splenda to their coffee, tea or homemade beverages like lemonade. It is often used in cooking and baking as well. The Center for Science in the Public Interest points out that while sucralose may prove to be safer than saccharin, aspartame and acesulfame potassium, this new study warrants careful scrutiny before we can be confident that the sweetener is safe for use in foods and beverages.

Everyone in the FoodFacts.com community is aware of the potential health effects of artificial sweeteners. This new information calling into question the safety of sucralose places yet another sweetener into the questionable category. While it’s understandable that there are many in the worldwide population who seek sugar alternatives based on health and weight concerns, it is so important for all of us to remain aware of the potential risks involved in the consumption of artificial sweeteners. Processed foods and beverages contain too much added sugar. And for those that want to avoid sugar, manufacturers have replaced it with too much artificial sweetener. We can continue to do our best to avoid both by reading nutrition labels and ingredient lists and making our best effort to prepare healthy, whole foods in our own kitchens.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262475.php

What you should know about High Fructose Corn Syrup

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At Foodfacts.com we strive to educate consumers on choosing the healthiest foods for personal well-being. A huge concern among our followers always resorts back to high fructose corn syrup, with good reason. We’ve heard conflicting reports on this sweetener in the media both opposing and promoting this ingredient. Therefore, we would like to help clear some confusion regarding this additive.
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Chemically, HFCS is very similar to table sugar. However, these two ingredients are processed very differently. High fructose corn syrup is originally derived from corn starch and then endures a lengthy process which basically blends together glucose and fructose. Unlike table sugar which naturally undergoes a chemical process to bond these two parts. Without human assistance; HFCS does not exist naturally. High fructose corn syrup is not squeezed out of a corn kernel.
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So far, we’re not too sure of health implications of this sweetener. It was introduced in the 1960′s and brought into food production in the late 1970′s. However, the Corn Refiners Association assures consumers that HFCS is “safe in moderation”, “natural”, and has the same amount of calories as table sugar. It’s true, they are equal in calories, but claiming it’s “safe in moderation” hasn’t been evidenced just yet. Also, there’s nothing natural about the long process HFCS goes through.
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Some adverse effects and symptoms that have been reported include weight gain, dental cavities, poor nutrition, and increased triglyceride levels, which increases the risk of heart attack. Research is still being done on both opposing and supporting parties to justify these negative health effects.

Some organizations such as the American Heart Association and MayoClinic suggest keeping consumption of any artificial sweetener to under 100 calories per day. Some people choose to avoid them altogether, which may be a safe choice considering the lack of evidence supported by research.

Make sure to read labels very carefully and make educated choices!