CHAPTER TEN-NON-NUTRITIVE SWEETENERS
Non-nutritive sweeteners need to be mentioned because when we eat low carbs we will come across these things. The most widely seen are Nutrisweet (also known as aspartame), Stevia (now being advertised heavily), Splenda (dextrose, maltodextrin, sucralose), Equal (dextrose, maltodextrin, aspartame), Sweet-n-Low and the like. They are referred to as non-nutritive because they provide a sweet, sugary taste to the foods we eat; yet they contain no nutrition such as carbs, protein, fat, vitamins or minerals. They may be placed in foods which have nutrients, but the sweetener itself is absent of any nutrition in and of itself. You will be bombarded with foods which contain most commonly the controversial aspartame. So what exactly is aspartame and why the controversy?
Aspartame is formed when we combine an amino acid, phenylalanine, with another amino acid called aspartic acid. (1) This new substance is about 100 times as sweet as table sugar. Since it does not contain any carbs it will not put weight on you and it cannot be used to make cholesterol or fat.
The controversy is the anecdotal reports of aspartame being associated with everything from multiple sclerosis to Gulf War Syndrome. I have read numerous internet reports sent by concerned people speaking of all the dangers inherent in aspartame. The only problem is that there is no factual scientific evidence that aspartame causes any problems, unless you are born with a deficiency in a certain enzyme (phenylalanine hydroxylase) and cannot break down the phenylalanine part of aspartame. Thing is, in the US, we check for a deficiency of that enzyme at birth so we should not be missing the absence of the enzyme unless the newborn is not checked.
But hold on, I told you that aspartame is a combination of both phenylalanine and aspartic acid; maybe it is the aspartic acid part causing the problems. Well, aspartic acid is also known as aspartate, which is simply an amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Without amino acids proteins cannot be built. If proteins cannot be built in our bodies, we die. When we eat proteins our bodies break down the protein into what made up the protein in the first place, that is, the amino acids. So our bodies are used to seeing these amino acids and we need them to survive.
The Internet reports I read blamed the many diseases aspartame allegedly caused on the presence of formaldehyde. In other words, the concerned citizens were stating aspartame was somehow creating formaldehyde and it was the formaldehyde which caused all the diseases.
Now while aspartame does break apart in solution, which limits its shelf life, and it is troublesome to cook with for the same reason; it does not break apart in any way to create formaldehyde. I suppose someone who had a little bit of chemical knowledge may have looked at the structure of aspartame and compared it to what formaldehyde looks like. The two at first glance look nothing like one another. But somebody wanted to find something wrong with aspartame so they continued to look.
Trouble is, the body does not break down aspartame in any way to form formaldehyde. It would take extreme heating in an attempt to create formaldehyde from aspartame and the heat it would take would cause everything to collapse into a bunch of single elements. Mainly carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. So, yeah, you would get a lot of gas from the explosion you created to do this, but you would not make any formaldehyde.
So basically even though there are look alike areas on aspartame that closely resemble formaldehyde our bodies cannot and do not break down aspartame to create formaldehyde. Our bodies break up aspartame into phenylalanine and aspartate, two amino acids our body's can handle. I may have failed to mention that phenylalanine is also an amino acid, but it is, and it too, is safe.
Some who have read of the dangers relating to aspartame may remember the soda can scenario. It was argued that formaldehyde was produced in the soda cans in the Gulf War due to the extreme heat of the desert. This seems somewhat logical until one realizes that the amount of heat needed to possibly create formaldehyde from aspartame would be so high the cans would explode. Then of course, you would not be able to drink the soda.
When one finally understands aspartame one can see that it is safe to drink or eat. It is not a dangerous sweetener and I consume it on a daily basis and I have not had an issue with it; and I have been eating and drinking products with aspartame for as long as I can remember. Actually, if you stop and think about it aspartame is found in just about every diet product out there. Millions and millions of people ingest it every day. Why have we not seen a statistically significant rise in all the diseases aspartame is reported to cause? Until I see some evidenced-based scientific data showing aspartame is dangerous, I will continue to eat or drink it on a daily basis.
Aspartame is found in a sweetener known as Equal. We have already discussed aspartame, but now we need to discuss the other ingredients in Equal, that is, the dextrose and maltodextrin. I get a little anxious when I find dextrose and maltodextrin in an ingredient list. This is because dextrose is just a fancy way of saying glucose and maltodextrin is glucose molecules attached together, but not long enough to represent a true carbohydrate. In biochemistry speak, it is a short chain carbohydrate Yes, both dextrose and maltodextrin have the potential to make cholesterol and fat as well as elevate blood pressure and sugar numbers. I will tell my patients if they are having a hard time with lowering their cholesterols, losing weight, lowering blood pressure, or are still seeing elevated blood sugars to avoid Equal to see what effect that has. If things correct themselves then they are told to stay off equal. If nothing happens then they are told they can continue with this sweetener.
As far as Splenda is concerned, it too, contains dextrose and maltodextrin so the same cautionary advice holds, but its last ingredient is a substance known as sucralose. Sucralose is claimed to be about 600 times as sweet as sucrose. (Ibid) Sucrose is commonly known as table sugar and contains both glucose and fructose combined together. Sucralose is an artificial sweetener, will not cause tooth decay, and can be used in baking. (Ibid) Our bodies do not treat sucralose as it does sucrose. That is, sucralose will not be broken down into glucose and fructose, therefore no cholesterol, fat, blood pressure or sugar elevations should be seen with sucralose. Of course, if one sees elevations to the above then one must stop their consumption of any foods which contain sucralose.
Now a word about saccharin. Yes, an experiment many years ago suggested saccharin caused cancer in lab rats. Problem is, they were giving these poor rats what would be equivalent to a few tons of the stuff for us over a short period of time. Heck, even water can kill us if we drink too much of it. And then the scientists found out that a mite, which infected the rats, was creating the cancer. I do consume saccharin, not so much on a daily basis, but I am certainly not convinced it causes cancer.
How many of you know about the mite, saccharin, and cancer link? I am thinking not many. Well, let us see, why did this not make it in the paper? Got me. All I can say is until you know the facts, you just do not know. Since I know the facts I am not afraid to consume foods containing these sweeteners.
Hope everyone enjoyed the first ten chapters of my book GENOCIDE:How Your Doctor's Dietary Ignorance Will Kill You!
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