Monday, December 31, 2007

Sugar Substitutes & Your Health

Years ago, people didn't eat much sugar - as little as 10-15 pounds per year. And their health was much better for it. As time passed and sugar production became easier, people gave into their sweet cravings and began to overindulge. Today, the average consumption of sugar is a whopping 160 pounds! It's suicide in slow motion. Sugar addicts eliminate 11-20 years from their lifespan.

In her book,"Lick The Sugar Habit," author Nancy Appleton Phd., delineates how this sugar overconsumption wreaks havoc with our immune and endocrine systems, leading to chronic conditions including arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, asthma, and hypoglycemia, along with the usual suspects such as cavities and periodontal disease.
Click Here to read my review of her book and the 73 consequences of eating too much sugar.

If you are trying to lose weight or you would just like to avoid some of these diseases, avoid sugar or try to limit it to small amounts. There are also some healthier sugar substitutes out on the market that you might want to be aware of. I am not talking about Nutrasweet or Splenda. I make a few comments on these two products at the end of this post. These have their own particular problems. I'm talking about sugar substitutes that have few or no calories and will have little or no effect on your blood sugar levels. This is good news for diabetics. Some of these have been around for hundreds of years

Agave Nectar

Derived from the prickly blue agave cactus (the same plant that gives us tequila), agave nectar is gaining popularity. Despite its sweet taste, it has just 11 calories and four grams of carbohydrate (which is mainly inulin) per teaspoon. It is also a low-glycemic food - ranking just 19 on the glycemic index.

Because this golden syrup is composed primarily of fructose (92 percent), it is nearly 25 percent sweeter than table sugar (sucrose). That means you can use a lot less to achieve the same level of sweetness.

So go ahead and sweeten up with this safe, delicious, all-natural product. It can be used anywhere you would use sugar. If you use agave nectar for baking, the following adjustments are recommended:

For every cup of sugar, use 3/4 cup of agave nectar.
Reduce the liquids in the recipe by one-third.
Reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

Agave Nectar - gives you the sweetness without the sugar. Not recommended for people with diabetes but it will reduce the sugar impact levels on the blood by 50% over regular sugar. So, it is good in that way and will not cause most people to gain as much weight as regular sugars.

Stevia - the Natural Sweetener

Stevia is a green, leafy herb that grows in Central and South America. It was first discovered by modern explorers in the late 1800s in Paraguay, but it had been used by the natives for centuries before then. The official name of the plant is Stevia rebaudiana.

It's non-glycemic, contains no calories, and -- after hundreds of years of use -- has no known side effects. It might seem expensive by volume, but it's hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way. You can find stevia in any health food store.

Click Here for more links on Stevia

Sugar Alcohols

A sugar alcohol is a type of sugar that your body does not digest like "regular sugars" in the stomach. Instead, sugar alcohols get worked on in the intestines, and aren't digested into your blood stream. Sugar alcohols are commonly used in sugar free products and diet products because they are very slow to be absorbed and do not cause the "sugar rush / blood sugar spike" that normal carbohydrates cause. Many (if not most) people do not absorb sugar alcohols at all before they pass through the system. So in essence they can give great sugar flavors without having the fat-gaining effects of regular sugars. They act like fiber, but they taste like sugar. Some common types of sugar alcohols include maltitol, sorbitol and isomalt.

Xylitol - Artificial Sweetener
Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol substitute. It was first derived from Birch trees in Finland in the 19th century and was first popularized in Europe as a safe sweetener for diabetics that would not impact insulin levels.

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, including various berries, corn husks, oats, and mushrooms. It can be extracted from corn fiber, birch, raspberries, plums, and corn. Xylitol is roughly as sweet as sucrose but contains 40% less calories.

birch bark. It has an antibacterial character to it. They are using it in nasal sprays. If you spray a salty xylitol solution up into the nose, it will kill bacteria in the nose. Trident has been using it in their gum because it has been found to fight cavities as well as inhibit ear infections. Xylitol has a 5-carbon molecular structure that does not interact with oral bacteria. Since it doesn’t ferment, it never triggers acid production. That means it helps reduce tooth decay, inhibits plaque buildup, retards the loss of tooth enamel, and lowers infections in the mouth and throat.

Xytitol has a cooling effect on the tongue and has been used for over 25 years in various food items. It is not a ZERO calorie food. It scores only seven on the glycemic index, so it has a minimal effect on blood sugar and insulin levels (and can actually help prevent tooth decay).

And because it inhibits plaque buildup, xylitol also helps prevent heart disease. Here’s why: Plaque build-up creates a breeding ground for bacteria. The resulting inflammation leads to a breakdown of gum tissue. This breakdown allows bacteria to pass into your bloodstream. The release of oral bacteria into your bloodstream stimulates an immune response. This inflammatory response causes arterial blockages and blood clots, which can lead to a heart attack.

What’s more, xylitol is low-glycemic. It doesn’t need insulin to metabolize, and won’t cause fat gain like regular sugar. It’s perfect for diabetics, and is sometimes referred to as "diet sugar."
Xylitol is affordable and easy to find. Check your local health food store or find it on the Internet. Along with stevia, xylitol is one of the safest and best-tasting sugar substitutes.

While it is safe, one of the downsides of xylitol is that it is a sugar alchohol and that can cause loose stools and minor gastrointestinal upset. So if you are already having problems in that area, xylitol would not be good to take.

Luo Han Guo

Luo han guo is a member of the gourd family. It’s low glycemic, heat stable, has a mere four calories per teaspoon, and can be used in baking just like sugar. But the benefits don’t end there. New research suggests luo han guo may actually help reduce inflammation and enhance immunity, especially in people who have diabetes.

You’re likely to hear much more sweet talk about this up-and-coming ingredient. Look for Jarrow Formulas’ Lo Han Sweet at your local health food store.


Erythritol occurs naturally in some fruits and fermented foods. As a sweetener, it is made from corn via a natural fermentation process. And the properties of this great-tasting, natural sweetener are remarkable:

Erythritol is 80 percent as sweet as sugar. However, unlike sugar, which is high in calories, erythritol is almost calorie free.

It scores just over zero on the glycemic index. That means it is totally safe for diabetics and won’t affect your insulin levels.

It is granulated, just like sugar, so it can be easily substituted for sugar in recipes.
It is easy to digest - which means no gastrointestinal disturbance.

Quite simply, this is one of the best natural sweeteners to come along in quite some time, and you’ll likely be seeing it in more and more products.
One of the products that I have seen on the market is a product called Zsweet. Click here to go to their web page.


Splenda is actually "sucralose", and is made by in essence altering real sugar. Invented in a pesticide lab, this chemical is 600 times sweeter than sugar. To make sucralose, chlorine is used. Chlorine has a split personality. It can be harmless or it can be life threatening. In combo with sodium, chlorine forms a harmless ionic bond to yield table salt. When used with carbon, the chlorine atom in sucralose forms a covalent bond. The end result is deadly organochlorine, known simply as RNFOC (a Really Nasty Form of Chlorine). Unlike ionic bonds, covalently bound chlorines are a big no-no for the human body. They yield insecticides, pesticides, and herbicides - not something you want in your sports drink or your child's lunchbox. Chlorinated molecules, which are used as the basis for pesticides such as DDT, tend to accumulate in body tissues. Johnson & Johnson maintains that sucralose passes through the digestive system without any absorption or metabolization, but the FDA’s own research has shown that 11 to 27 percent of sucralose is absorbed in humans, while the rest is excreted unchanged in the feces. Tests performed by the Japanese Food Sanitation Council have found that as much as 40 percent of ingested sucralose is absorbed.

Additionally, as the FDA again acknowledges, sucralose may contain up to 2 percent of various impurities, such as heavy metals, arsenic, triphenilphosphine oxide, methanol, chlorinated disaccharides and chlorinated monosaccharides. Even if these "impurities" are within existing manufacturing guidelines, they are still all potentially dangerous to human health.

There have been no independent human tests regarding the long-term safety of this product. That's reason enough to be wary. But there was a study of its effect on rats that was published in the FDA's Federal Register. It showed that rats that were given sucralose experienced shrunken thalamus glands, enlarged livers and kidneys, reduced growth rate, reduced red blood cell count, aborted pregnancies, and diarrhea.

If you ingest Splenda in any amount, I urge you to read firsthand accounts of its harmful effects. There are more than 30 posted on Dr. Mercola's website.

Health and Aspartame Sweetener

Aspartame is the primary component in Nutrasweet, Equal, Spoonful and Equal-Measure. It is a neuroexitotoxin. Phenylalanine is a hidden danger to anyone consuming aspartame. Most consumers don't know that too much Phenylalanine is a neurotoxin and excites the neurons in the brain to the point of cellular death. Phenylalanine is 50% of aspartame, and to the degree humans consume diet products, Phenylalanine levels are reaching a dangerous peak. ADD/ADHD, emotional and behavioral disorders can all be triggered by too much Phenylalanine in the daily diet. This sugar substitute is common in many foods, but many doctors feel it causes serious mental slowdowns when taken over several years. Dr. Atkins in particular advised those on his low carb diet to stay away from aspartame and use other sweeteners instead.

Some people react to aspartame immediately, while others can take 10 to 20 years for the aspartame reaction to become noticeable. Problems attributed to aspartame include:

* anxiety and panic attacks
* problems concentrating and focusing
* loss of memory
* depression or irritability
* dizziness
* headache or migraine pain

The byproducts of sodas containing aspartame are all known poisons (that would slowly kill you): methanol, phenylalanine, and aspartic acid.


Audrey Taylor said...

I saw your comments about Splenda and felt compelled to respond. Since joining the Calorie Control Council – a non-profit trade association that represents the light food and beverage industry - I’ve spent the past year reading up on low-calorie sweeteners and fat replacers. Despite the online claims of many Splenda critics, the safety of sucralose (marketed as Splenda) is documented by one of the most extensive and thorough safety testing programs ever conducted on a new food ingredient. More than 110 studies of humans and animals, conducted across a broad range of areas, clearly indicate that sucralose does not cause any adverse health effects, including cancer, birth defects, tooth decay and more.
And while sucralose is derived from sugar through a process that substitutes three atoms of chlorine for three hydroxyl groups, it’s important to remember that chlorine is present naturally in many of the foods and beverages we eat and drink everyday – such as lettuce, mushrooms and table salt. This change produces a sweetener that has no calories.
For more information, visit,, and

Jeff Iversen said...

Audrey, thanks for "weighing in" on this controversial subject. There are always two sides to every story and one should never make up their mind unless they have heard both of them. After going to the Calorie Control Council web site, I can conclude that they represent the diet food and beverage industry and are ardent supporters of products like Splenda/sucralose, Nutrasweet/Aspartame, saccharin, neotame and acesulfame potassium.I could not hardly expect an objective opinion about the safety of Splenda from a group exhibiting such a conflict of interest.

If you go to the National Library of Medicine website and enter the word, "Sucralose," you will find that there are 86 published studies as of November 2006. Of these 86, only 15 look at safety and the other 71 are on topics that are totally unrelated.The longest human study to date is only 13 weeks long on 138 people. Of the 15 studies that were done on safety, 13 of them were actually funded by the manufacturer. Of the 15 studies, 7 were done on humans. Two of them were published in respected Neurological journals and case reports showed that there was a clear link between migraine headaches and the use of Splenda.

A recent review of 166 studies that were done on Aspartame show that 74 of them were financed by the industry. Of those studies, 100% of them found no problems from Aspartame. Of the 92 remaining independent studies, over 90% of them found several adverse effects from Aspartame.

The FDA has a track record of approving things way before their safety is proven. They approved a drug called Vioxx before proper human trials could be done. 55,000 people died of heart attacks before they pulled it from the market. If a company has deep enough pockets, they can get their product pushed through without much testing.

The FDA is relying on three animal studies concerning sucralose. Two done on rats and one done on dogs during the course of two years. This is the sum total of the toxicity data that they are relying upon to assure us of the safety of Splenda. There simply are not any long term studies done on humans to look at the toxicity and safety of Splenda. Like DDT, a portion of the sucralose that you ingest (around 15%)is stored permanently in your fat cells. This accumulates and never leaves you. The more you ingest, the more you accumulate.

So, make sure you get your information from a non-industry source. The objectivity could save your life. The only long term study going on right now is being done on the public. You are the only long-term human trial going on right now. I am opting out of this trial for now. I will just sit back and watch what happens to you. I hope you come out ok. I really do.

Billie said...

Thanks for sharing these alternatives. I myself prefer lo han and stevia. I stay as far away as I could from artificial sweeteners though. Your comment above is spot on. Also if I may add, here's a good report about the dangers of aspartame:

Hope someone else find this useful as I do :)