Health

The ‘Diet’ Dangers

It surprises me that marketing is still winning over the minds of consumers when it comes to ‘diet’ products. I am seeing patients, friends and family members opting for the ‘sugar-free’ options with the mindset of it being a healthier choice for their waistline. Clever marketing is also creating confusion,  making it harder than ever to sort between the healthy and health damaging food and drink options.

So how are these sugar-free products really affecting your health? Read on to find out more.

What do ‘diet’ products contain?

The food and drink items dubbed as ‘diet’ are free from sugar (sucrose), which you know is not a nourishing ingredient to be consuming. You can read more about how sugar effects your health over in this post. This is therefore the main selling power, when it comes to these food and drink products. But what isn’t explained is the indredients added in place of the sugar, to retain sweetness and continue to satisfy the sweet-toothed consumer (yes, you’re being tricked). Welcome to the world of artificial sweeteners.

Names of artificial sweeteners listed on food and drink labels include:

  • Saccharin (#954, Sweet ‘N Low, Necta Sweet)
  • Cyclamate (#952)
  • Aspartame (#951, Phenylalanine and aspartic acid) (Equal, NutraSweet)
  • Acesulphame Potassium, also known as Acesulphame-K and Ace K (#950, Sunnet, Sweet One)
  • Sucralose (#955, Splenda)
  • Neotame
  • Advantame 

Where You Will Find Artificial Sweeteners

When searching for food and drink items (to leave on the shelf), look for food and drink items that have claims of being ‘Sugar-Free’, ‘Diabetic-Friendly’, ‘Diet’, ‘Low-Calorie’, ‘Light’, ‘Low Carb’ and ‘Reduced Sugar’.

Common items & brand names include:

  • Sugar alternatives: Sweet ‘N Low, Sweet Twin and Necta Sweet, NutraSweet, Equal, Sunett, Sweet One, Splenda, Hermesetas Mini Sweeteners and Mini cubes, Sugarine Sweetener tablet, Sugarless liquid sweetener, Sucaryl tablets
  • Soft drinks: Coke Zero, Diet Coke, Coke No Sugar, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Bundaberg Diet Ginger Beer, Saxby’s Diet Ginger Beer, Schweppes Diet Ginger Ale
  • Fruit Juices, Cordial, Iced Teas, Electrolyte Drinks: Lipton Light Peach Iced Tea, Powerade Zero, Cottee’s Apple Raspberry No Added Sugar Cordial
  • Powdered Hot Chocolate: Nestle Mini Marshmallows
  • Supplements: Berocca, Sugarless tablets
  • Protein Powders: Aussie Bodies Protein Revival, Musashi 100% Whey, Musashi Bulk Protein Mass Gainer, Musashi High Protein,
  • Yoghurts & Probiotic Drinks: Sugar Free Yakult, Yoplait Light, Yoplait Forme’ Zero
  • Sauces:Heinz Reduced Sugar Tomato Ketchup
  • Canned fruit (in ‘light’ syrup)
  • Baked Goods (marketed for diabetics)
  • Jelly: Aeroplane Jelly Lite
  • Jam (marketed at diabetics)
  • Ice Cream (marketed as low carb and/ or for diabetics)
  • Chewing Gum & Mint: Wrigleys Extra Spearmint Gum, Mentos NOW Mints

Note: This is not a complete list, always read labels yourself to detect any further brands using artificial sweeteners 

The Health Impacts Of Artificial Sweeteners

Don’t be fooled into believing that artificial sweeteners found in most ‘Diet’ or ‘Sugar-Free’ foods and drinks are a healthier option than their sugar containing counterpart. Although empty in calories, artificial sweeteners have shown an association through studies to contribute to weight gain(2),type 2 diabetes(3), allergies, migraines and are strongly associated with cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s Disease. (4,5,6,7) I understand the bladder cancer connection is from a rat study, but would you risk your health just because they haven’t yet connected the dots in a human study? Not me.

Although sweet in taste, artificial sweeteners contain no calories, so the message of satisfaction (and the need to stall consumption) doesn’t register. Instead the sweet taste feeds your sweet craving and leads to an increased intake over time, contributing to blood sugar surges and over time insulin resistance.

Studies at the University of Washington have found that consuming any kind of sweetener- even the ‘fake’ ones that don’t contain any kind of sugar- can cause a blood sugar spike and continue a sugar addiction. Just the sweet taste can trigger insulin and metabolic responses.” Sarah Wilson warns in her popular recipe book I Quit Sugar For Life. (8 Pg 9)

Speaking with many patients over the years who I have helped wean off of diet drinks, describe their previous consumption as an addictive behaviour. Why do you think food companies love the stuff and will do anything in their power to keep their products legal?!

Yes, the FDA has dubbed most of them ‘safe’, but there is still so much we don’t know(1) about how artificial sweeteners effect the human body.

Go Natural For Your Health & Happiness

If you want to avoid the artificial nasties and the list of associated health conditions, do your own research and always read the labels to check ingredients of any packaged foods you’re adding to your shopping trolley. Even better, aim for a whole foods shop and for those times you’re feeling like sweets, make up your own treats using natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and rice malt syrup. Also say goodbye for good from all soft drinks and glam up sparkling mineral water with a drop of essential oil (lemon or wild orange are my favs) and 2-3 drop stevia liquid (for an emulsifier) per 500mls water.

It’s time to look beyond the clever marketing and take your health into your own hands. You can learn more about reading food labels over here.

What food items were you shocked to find artificial sweeteners on the ingredients list? Let us all know below.

Love, health & happiness,

Kasey

 

REFERENCES

(1) https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/artificial-sweeteners/

(2) Bellisle F, Drewnowski A. Intense sweeteners, energy intake and the control of body weight. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007;61:691-700.

(3) Fagherazzi G, Vilier A, Saes Sartorelli D, Lajous M, Balkau B, Clavel-Chapelon F. Consumption of artificially and sugar-sweetened beverages and incident type 2 diabetes in the Etude Epidemiologique aupres des femmes de la Mutuelle Generale de l’Education Nationale-European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97(3):517-23.

(4) Taylor JW, Weinberger MA, Friedman, L. Chronic Toxicity and Carcinogenicity o the Urinary Bladder of Sodium Saccharin in the In Utero-Exposed Rat, Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 1, June 1980: 57-75.

(5) Wagner MW. Cyclamate Acceptance, Science 168, 1970: 1605.

(6) Mercola, J. The Potential Danger Of Sucralose. 2000 (last updated on Dec 03, cited on Dec 1st 2015)

(7) Blaylock R. Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills. New Mexico: MD Health Press, 1996.

(8) Wilson, S. I Quit Sugar For life. Sydney: Pan MacMillan Australia; 2014

REFERENCES

(1) https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/artificial-sweeteners/

(2) Bellisle F, Drewnowski A. Intense sweeteners, energy intake and the control of body weight. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007;61:691-700.

(3) Fagherazzi G, Vilier A, Saes Sartorelli D, Lajous M, Balkau B, Clavel-Chapelon F. Consumption of artificially and sugar-sweetened beverages and incident type 2 diabetes in the Etude Epidemiologique aupres des femmes de la Mutuelle Generale de l’Education Nationale-European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97(3):517-23.

(4) Taylor JW, Weinberger MA, Friedman, L. Chronic Toxicity and Carcinogenicity o the Urinary Bladder of Sodium Saccharin in the In Utero-Exposed Rat, Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 1, June 1980: 57-75.

(5) Wagner MW. Cyclamate Acceptance, Science 168, 1970: 1605.

(6) Mercola, J. The Potential Danger Of Sucralose. 2000 (last updated on Dec 03, cited on Dec 1st 2015)

(7) Blaylock R. Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills. New Mexico: MD Health Press, 1996.

(8) Wilson, S. I Quit Sugar For life. Sydney: Pan MacMillan Australia; 2014

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Kasey Willson

Hi there :)

I’m Kasey, an Adelaide based Naturopath, Nutritionist, Writer & Speaker.

My aim is to create loads of health and happiness in your world, by providing you with exciting health information, so you can experience balanced hormones, thriving digestion and vibrant energy levels!

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