Life has not been sweet for those wanting to both satisfying sugar cravings and still follow a nutritious diet as part of their healthy lifestyle. Nutritionists and medical practitioners have warned for years that the American diet is far too heavy in refined sugars and this has put many at risk for obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease and some forms of cancer. On the other hand, though, three of the most popular artificial sweeteners – once thought to be the silver bullet for a healthy diet – have all come under fire for their unwanted side effects. That is why many are turning to stevia as a natural sweetener which will not carry the risks of artificial sweeteners. Read on to find out more.
The Big Three – Aspartame, Sucrose and Saccharin Under Fire
Few widespread ingredients in recent times have come under such heavy scrutiny or been so roundly panned as aspartame. Medical experts advise avoiding foods which contain this artificial sweetener, as its three main components (phenylalanin, methanol and aspartic acid) metabolize into toxins in the body. The neurological system seems particularly sensitive to these metabolites which excite the neurons into excessive firing and may lead to long-term damage or death of the cells. It also has been shown that the methanol in this sweetener forms into formaldehyde once the aspartame breaks down. In spite of this, it is still widely available in sodas, candy, yogurt, desserts and many other products.
Sucrose, the main element found in sucralose (Splenda), has also been called into question as a “healthy” alternative to sugar. Recent research out of Washington University’s medical school in St. Louis found that when obese (but non-diabetic) test subjects drank sodas contained sucralose, both their insulin levels and blood sugars both rose by an average of 20%. It is feared that these drinks, which are ironically often marketed for weight loss, could actually cause the onset of diabetes in this population.
The oldest of the artificial sweeteners, saccharin was discovered back in 1879 by a researcher from Johns Hopkins University who was developing products from, of all things, coal tar derivatives. The derivative was exceedingly popular and marketed under the brand name Sweet’N Low until it was discovered to cause cancer in lab rats and was subsequently banned by the FDA. While it has since been taken off this list of carcinogens, not everyone agrees with this change in status.
Stevia – The Natural Alternative
The jury is still out on the overall health risks associated with the use of artificial sweeteners. In the meantime, those wanting an alternative to these sweeteners and to refine sugar that is both healthy and safe will want to consider Stevia. Stevia First Corporation, based in Yuba City California is working on innovative ways to raise, process and distribute this remarkable plant, which is native to South America and whose leaves have long been used their for their sweetness. In doing so, they are hoping to provide a product to consumers that is natural, does not promote weight gain and avoids the harmful side effects of many artificial sweeteners now on the market.
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