Which Sweeteners Are Healthy?
Which sweeteners are healthy to eat? Do some sweeteners cause cancer? There are many questions around natural and artificial sweeteners that we will touch on in this article. While many of the illnesses associated with cane sugar are still major health concerns especially in the United States, high fructose corn syrup is now the reigning king of junk food. Sodas, juices and other beverages and foods targeted to young children are now replete with high fructose corn syrup. As with many market forces, this new ascendance of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has to do with cost. HFCS has become cheaper to grow and incorporate into processed foods than cane sugar. Aside from cost, other factors, such as how easily it blends into foods has made it popular in the processed food industry.
Damage Caused By HFCS & Cane Sugar
Unfortunately, the health problems associated with HFCS are as bad or worse than regular cane sugar. Both have enormous health problems associated with them, and damage to all the major organs have been noted with ingestion of both. We can see some of the obvious damage caused by sugar since almost everybody has noted a child’s behavior becoming bad after sugar ingestion.
However, on a more subtle level, sugar causes damage to the pancreas, the large intestine, the immune system, and other organ systems. For both sweeteners the white blood cells, which are the fighters of your immune system are inactivated after sugar ingestion, anywhere from 5 to 24 hours.
Both sugar and high fructose corn syrup cause accelerated aging, because of the oxidative damage to the cells and tissues of the body. If you are going to a spa or cosmetic surgeon to turn back the clock, then treating yourself with sugar or high fructose corn syrup afterward, you are rushing the clock forward again.
The insulin released by sugar or fructose ingestion also cakes a relentless plaque on the cardiovascular system, leading to heart disease. In fact, the three major killers of our time, heart disease, cancer and diabetes, are all related to consumption of these sweeteners.
Health Problems Caused By HFCS
And all of these health problems apply to high fructose corn syrup. However, HFCS has its own harmful effects. Fructose even more than sucrose interferes with copper metabolism, so that copper deficiencies result. This creates abnormalities in the heart and liver particularly. Copper deficiencies are increasingly common with the standard American diet. This is compounded by the fact that people no longer eat organ meats. Liver with onions was a staple back in the 60’s when I was growing up, yet it is a rarity in today’s diet. Liver is by far the best source of copper in food.
Fructose also interferes with your cells’ uptake of insulin, just as happens in Type 2 Diabetes, which is the common kind of diabetes. Just as in diabetes, a fructose consumer must then pump out ever more insulin, which creates health problems everywhere in the body as it lays down a thick plaque in your arteries. This is why you may know of diabetics who have gone blind or developed kidney disease, or have had one extremity or another amputated. The reason is that the eyes, the kidneys and the fingers and toes are extraordinarily sensitive to blood flow and cannot function without a plentiful supply. Sooner or later, insufficient blood to these areas produces cellular death and the loss of the organ.
Fructose also is even worse than sugar regarding its depletion of minerals in the body. Magnesium is quite deficient in our society, the second most common nutrient deficiency after folic acid. Yet fructose leaches out magnesium and iron among other minerals. As a result of magnesium loss, headaches, constipation and muscle cramps may occur.
Abnormalities in the liver have been seen in animal experiments. Those fed high levels of fructose developed cirrhosis and fatty liver, which is the same liver pathology resulting from years of alcoholism or long-term use of most pharmaceuticals.
Heart disease is also a problem. HFCS has been tied to elevated blood cholesterol and has been shown to contribute to blood clots.
As you probably already know, two of the most devastating, non-traffic accident events that can happen to you, namely stroke and heart attack, are the result of a blood clot ending up in the wrong place. In a stroke, a blood clot has broken loose and traveled through your bloodstream, lodging in a narrow vessel in the brain, and cutting off all life in that part of the brain, downstream from the blood clot. In a heart attack, the same thing is happening, but the clot gets stuck in a small blood vessel in the heart, which kills that part of the heart. So much for sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
Aspartame, Splenda And Sucralose
The artificial sweeteners, Aspartame, Splenda and Sucralose all have their origin in pesticide or military applications as chemical warfare, and should not be even remotely considered appropriate for entry into the body.
Unfortunately, aspartame is now the sweetener of choice in not only “diet” foods and sodas, but also most chewing gum and other products marketed to children for their ingestion. These products should never even be considered for adults or children. They have been tied to neurological disorders, from Parkinson’s to Multiple Sclerosis, simply because they are neurotoxins (nerve killers).
The history of Splenda would be comical if it did not have such sad results in our population. While studying a neurotoxin one day in a lab, the senior researcher called out to the junior researcher “test it,” and the novice thought he heard “taste it” and called back “It tastes sweet.” The senior researcher came rushing in. “What? Are you crazy? I said test it, not taste it.” “But it’s sweet.” “Really? Let me have some of that.” So the senior researcher tastes it, smiles and a new chapter in synthetic foods begins. The full story of this episode appeared in The New Yorker magazine over a year ago.
Honey, unfortunately, isn’t much better at all. It is 82 percent sugar, and its glycemic index is either 83 or 124, depending on which glycemic table you look at. It is metabolized as sugar is, with the extreme highs and lows of unstable blood sugar, insulin flooding then crashing, and following the sickeningly familiar cycle of diabetes pathogenesis.
Stevia – The Healthy Sweetener
I can only answer with one word: stevia.
First I have to say that there is no stevia interest group or trade association or anybody else that would even want to bribe me to say this. Stevia is a South American plant that will grow all the way up to Canada, and even in arid conditions if it gets enough water. It will grow even at 110 degrees, and dies back if the weather goes below freezing. The sweetener is basically the crushed plant leaf, so there is no extra processing. Those same leaves can be put into a tea ball and steeped 30 minutes in warm water to create a liquid stevia extract – easy, fast and non-messy.
For those of you without stevia plants in your backyard, stevia is sold by a number of brands in most major health food stores. It comes in the powdered extract as well as liquid. Personally I recommend the liquid as being more manageable because the powder gets airborne so easily that you will know and taste it easily if someone nears you pours it into food.
Stevia has a centuries-long history of safe use by native South American peoples. Hundreds of tests have now been performed around the world, and it has been found to be absolutely non-toxic. It is now among the most common sweeteners in Japan and several South American countries, and has been increasingly so for the last 20+ years.
Stevia may actually even be good for the teeth, which would be a radical first for a sweetener, because it has been shown to inhibit the development of plaque. Stevia also has zero glycemic index. It won’t monkey with your sugar or insulin as the other sweeteners do.
The nutritive value of stevia is however negligible. After all, it only takes 2 to 6 drops of the liquid extract to sweeten a cup of coffee or tea. So even though there are phytonutrients, that is naturally occurring nutritious biochemicals in the plant that have nutritional benefit, you would not be able to stand eating even a whole leaf. At 200 times sweeter than sugar, it’s just too darn sweet!