Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial Sweeteners. By Ben Mathewson

According to Wikipedia, A sugar substitute is a food additive that duplicates the effect of sugar in taste, usually with less food energy. Some sugar substitutes are natural and some are synthetic. Those that are not natural are, in general, called artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are used in soft drinks, especially diet soft drinks and are popularly consumed because their lack of calorie content is seen as a good attribute for dieters and diabetics alike. (Wikipedia 2012:1-2).The discovery of Artificial sweeteners happened in 1879, where two researchers- Ira Remsen and Constantine Fahlberg were working on a derivative of Toluene in a laboratory, when one of the researchers accidentally spilled and ingested the product, discovering its sweet properties. As a consequence to this, In 1884, Fahlberg dropped his partnership with Remsen, patented saccharin and began mass producing it. (Mercola and Pearshall 2006:19-20). The five main artificial sweeteners available in order of their genesis are saccharine, cyclamate, aspartame, alitame and sucralose. The most ubiquitous sweeteners on the market are aspartame and sucralose, which this assignment will focus on.

Each of the artificial sweeteners are prepared in a different way. Nall notes that one method used to make modern saccharin begins with phthalic anhydride, an industrial compound used in creating plastics, which is converted into anthranilic acid. This acid is synthesized with several compounds, including nitrous acid, sulfur dioxide, chlorine and ammonia, which produces saccharin. Nall (1999:2). Aspartame is largely used in Nutrasweet, Equal, and chewing gum; Aspartame is a mixture of three components: By weight, 50% phenylanine, 40% aspartic acid, and Methanol, or wood alcohol comprises the remaining 10%. (Mercola and Pearshall 1996:19-20). Sucralose was also discovered by accidental ingestion. The experiment that was made involved taking sulfuryl chloride and adding it drop by drop to a sugar solution. The chemical reaction turned into a 1',4,6,6'- tetrachloro- 1',4,6,6',-tetradeoxygalactosucrose- the complete formula having molecules full of chlorine atoms. Subsequently the researchers replaced three hydrogen ions with three hydroxl groups on a sugar molecule resulted in an artificial chemical named 1,6 dichloro-1,6-dideoxy-beta-D-fructofuranosyl-4-chloro-4-deoxy-alpha-D-galactopyranoside. (Mercola and Pearshall 2006:71).

These non-caloric sweeteners may be useful for the diabetic and overweight, yet knowing the basic way these chemicals are made, it is questionable whether these products would be recommended safe by a naturopath or herbalist. The potential negatives outweigh any potential positive attributes present within the substance. The process by which these artificial sweeteners are made can lead to a number of toxic effects. For instance, in Sucralose independent studies have not yet declared the products interactions within the human body to be safe (Mercola and Pearshall 2006:95). One key problem with sucralose is absorbtion. Without complete absorption of a food product, the body holds on to the substance and becomes sick. Independent studies of sucralose show that not 100% of the ingested substance ends up in stools or urine, and leads to a possibility of sucralose bioaccumulation. In addition to this, Sucralose can cause liver toxicity, depletion of glutathione (which affects your ability to detoxify) Has mild mutagens, which can make hormones unstable; and can lead to maternal and fetal abnormalities (Mercola and Pearshall 2006:100) Most notably of all these reasons is that Chlorine, made in the form of a chlorocarbon is unstable and extremely dangerous. As Bowen (a biochemist), states in Mercola and Pearshall :

“Unlike sodium chloride, chlorocarbons are never nutritionally compatible with our metabolic processes and are wholly incompatible with normal human metabolic functioning...Any chlorocarbons not directly excreted from the body can cause immense damage to the process of human metabolism and eventually, our internal organs. The liver is a detoxification organ which deals with ingested poisons. Chlorocarbons damage the hepatocytes, the liver's metabolic cells, and destroy them”

Mercola and Pearshall 2006:78-79.

Now consider some of the dangers of Aspartame. One key thing about aspartame, just as other artficial sweeteners, is that it is not technically a food substance. In foods, amino acids are grouped together naturally with other amino acids, whereas Phenylanine and Aspartic acid are specifically isolated in Aspartame, and are therefore unable to be absorbed naturally by the body. This leads to excitotoxins in the brain being released and potential cell deaths. Mercola and Pearshall 2006:46. In addition to this, Phenylanine is a known carcinogen, which decomposes into DKP (also a known carcinogen), and formaldehyde, which according to Dohman, seeps into the tissues and forms crosslinks with proteins, preventing them from carrying out chemical reactions. Formaldehyde is also a neurotoxin, interferes with DNA replication and may cause cancer and birth defects. Dohman (1999:1). On a more practical level, Aspartame has been linked in independent studies to be with migraines, cancer, dizziness, depression, epilepsy, vision impairment, and even weight gain. (Mercola and Pearshall 2006: 56-61, De la plena 2010:206).

If you are a diabetic or struggling with obesity, it is advisable to minimise or avoid sugar altogether. The broadly good news is that not all sugars are created equal. However, certain products containing sugars are better for you than others. Although these sugars all naturally contain calories, they are all absorbed naturally into the body and contain nutritional content. Sugars which could be recommended as alternative sweeteners are Raw honey, Molasses and Stevia.

Raw honey is honey that hasn't been heated over 47 degrees, thereby keeping all of the naturally abundant enzymes. The heating of honey kills many (but not all) of the beneficial enzymes, yet it is a good general alternative and doesn't contain any known toxins. In fact, raw honey has been shown to contain natural remedies against food borne pathogens, growth promoting of beneficial gut bacteria, antibacterial properties for the mouth and throat, and the more raw and unprocessed the honey is, the more beneficial chemicals there are within. (Mercola and Pearsall 2006:207-208)

Molasses, while considered to be part of the waste process when processing sugar beets, often contains many rich minerals, depending on the method and strength of processing. If the molasses is milled from sugarcane, and coming from good soil, there will be some nutritional content. “Backstrap” - the darker molasses, has less sugar and the most nutritional content. Further, good quality molasses contains iron, manganese, calcium, zinc, copper, and chromium, with smaller amounts of potassium and magnesium. (Mercola and Pearsall 2006:212-213)

Stevia is another highly popular alternative to artificial sweeteners, and given that it originates from a plant source, the toxicological problems with the product can be minimal. The key difference is how it is processed. According to Miller, Dark Stevia Concentrate is a thick, dark brown liquid. It is produced by boiling the stevia leaves in water, cooking them without any chemicals or alcohol, until the proper thickness or concentration is obtained. (Miller 2009:1). Growing your own Stevia in an organic environment is clearly the best format for using this sweetener. As you move from these two methods, less of the plant's goodness is obtained.

In summary then, artificial sweeteners are sugar duplicates, made artificially. Commonly artificial sweeteners are used to help in weight loss or diabetics. There are five main artificial sweeteners with Sucralose and Aspartame being the most commonly used. Sucralose is an insecticide based sweetener which contains chlorocarbons and cannot be entirely ingested, which can lead to hormonal mutagens, fetal abnormalities and liver damage; Aspartame also has a number of dangers associated with it including cancer, fetal abnormalities and neurotoxins. Aside from eliminating sugar entirely, there are a few sweetener alternatives which contain beneficial nutrients within them- amongst them are most notably honey, stevia and molasses. These form a great alternative to ingesting something potentially harmful and may satisfy the ardent sweet tooth as well.

De la Plena, C. (2010). Empty Pleasures – The story of Artificial Sweeteners from Saccharine to Splenda. North Carolina: North Carolina Presss

Dohman (1999).
How Much Aspartame Is Dangerous?
accessed 2nd August, 2012.

Miller, B. (1999).
How is Stevia Processed?
accessed 2nd August, 2012.

Mercola J., & Pearshall, K.D. (2006). Sweet Deception: Why Splenda, NutraSweet and the FDA May be hazardous to Your Health. Nashville: Thomas Nelson

Nall, R. (1999).
How Is Saccharin Produced?
accessed 2nd August, 2012.

Wikipedia (2012). Sugar Substitute.
accessed 2nd August, 2012.

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