Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sugar is Sweet, Pretenders are Not!

If I had a "peeves" list, the ludicrous advice I've been hearing from licensed nutritionists in this city comes close to the top.

After one licenciado (licensed practitioner) showed alarming ignorance and arrogance in telling my sister-in-law (who has to learn all about milk allergy to take proper care of her daughter) that milk allergens are found in milk but not cream, another one had told her to add artificial sweeteners to Maria-Paula's formula powder which the little girl consumes regularly. This advice means that her tiny two year-old body is processing no small amount of saccharin daily.

Saccharin, the first widely available chemical sweetener, has been replaced by aspartame in most countries but is still an ingredient in some prepared foods, gum, toothpaste, and over-the-counter medicines. However, it is the main ingredient in the most popular, widely available brand of artificial sweetener in Argentina – Hileret.

Remember those carcinogen warnings on the side of products that contained saccharin? They no longer appear because industry testing showed that saccharin only caused bladder cancer in rats. What these industry experts performing such testing don't like to dwell on is that most researchers agree that in sufficient doses, saccharin is carcinogenic in humans. The question is: how do we know how much artificial sweeteners each individual body can tolerate?

Artificial sweeteners are not food which is why they carry very few calories. Instead, they are body toxins capable of causing possible irreversible cell damage which is why they are never a good idea for pregnant women, children or teenagers despite the reduced sugar content.

If you still decide it's worth all the risks, I can't say more than I urge you to find out as much facts as possible before ingesting these chemicals. Also pay attention to your body, your mood and your cravings. If you track your response to artificial sweeteners, it may surprise, or spook, you.

When I posted the dangers of aspartame
previously, I made a brief mention of Splenda which I am sure, given time, would reach our shores.

Splenda is the trade name for sucralose - a synthetic compound stumbled upon in 1976 by scientists in Britain seeking a new pesticide formulation.

It is true that the Splenda molecule is comprised of sucrose (sugar) — except that three of the hydroxyl groups in the molecule have been replaced by three chlorine atoms.

Manufacturers of products using Splenda are touting their products as "natural". Although the FDA has no definition for "natural", it didn't stop their press release on sucralose parroting the claim that "it is made from sugar" — an assertion disputed by the Sugar Association, which is suing Splenda's manufacturer, McNeil Nutritionals.

While some industry experts claim the molecule is similar to table salt or sugar, other independent researchers say it has more in common with pesticides. That's because the bonds holding the carbon and chlorine atoms together have more characteristic of a chlorocarbon than a salt — and most pesticides are chlorocarbons. Well, are you all that surprised when the scientists who discovered Splenda had the intention of making pesticide?!

The inventors of Splenda admit around 15% of sucralose is absorbed by the body, but they cannot guarantee us (out of this 15%) what amount of chlorine stays in the body and what percentage flushes out.

Yes, one may argue just because something contains chlorine doesn't mean it has to be toxic. So, is Splenda safe?

The truth is that we just don't know because there are yet to be long-term studies of the side effects of Splenda in humans. However, observational evidence already shows side effects including skin rashes/flushing, panic-like agitation, dizziness and numbness, diarrhea, muscle aches, headaches, intestinal cramping, bladder issues, and stomach pain in some consumers.

Meanwhile do you and your family really wish to serve as test subjects in the latest artificial sweetener experiment?

If this sounds familiar, it should: we went down the same path with aspartame. Almost all of the independent research into aspartame found dangerous side effects in rodents. However, the FDA chose not to take these findings into account when it approved aspartame for public use.

the course of 15 years, those same side effects appeared increasingly in humans. Not in everyone, of course; this reason and other mildly worded research reports are where the industry experts, lobbyists and Donald Rumsfeld (former head of Searle which manufactures aspartame) found their necessary loopholes.

story of Aspartame has been an illustration of the dark side of Corporate America; how a scientific discovery turned into a commercial jackpot for some and then a legal and political labyrinth which has entangled all the innocent users since.

Meanwhile, if we don't let ourselves or the precious little ones become addicted to the taste of refined sugar, we don't have needs for a substitute; thus, life becomes much simpler and ironically, sweeter.

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