Is Sugar free Good for me? (Part 1) Artificial Sweeteners

What’s wrong with sugar?

Sugar. Once revered and loved by all (sugar was once so valuable that it was used as a form of currency throughout parts of the world), sugar has now become the pariah of the nutrients we consume. Sugar, a member of the group of essential nutrients known as carbohydrates, is used by the body for energy to carry out various functions. The problem is that with the modern, highly processed diet, many people now follow, too much sugar is being consumed on a daily basis. This has been associated with the following health problems: obesity, heart disease, gum disease, tooth decay, diabetes, and cancer just to mention a few.  This change in the public’s perception of sugar, left food industry professionals scrambling for sugar substitutes, to maintain the flavor of their products. But are sugar substitutes any better?

Aspartame

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener found in many sugarless products ranging from NutraSweet and Equal to ice tea. It is created by combining the amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid, with methanol, which is a type of alcohol (that is considered toxic to humans). Aspartame has virtually few calories (4 calories per gram) and is much sweeter than sugar (meaning you need less of it to sweeten a drink). However, studies have found that aspartame (which contains the toxic chemical methanol)[i] has been linked with the following: brain lesions (aspartame in lab rats was found to cause holes or sores in their brains), insomnia, headaches, neurological, behavioral and mental disorders, cognitive impairment, brain tumors and cancer just to name some of the associated diseases/conditions.

Saccharin

Saccharin is an artificial sweetener derived from the chemical toluenesulfonamide which is found in coal/tar. It is found in Sweet’ N Low, sugarless beverages and many other food and drink products. Saccharin has been linked to metabolic syndrome, as it may impair the hormones responsible for satiety, which is the feeling of fullness you get, after eating a meal, or drinking a large amount of a beverage. Additionally, saccharin has been found in studies, to increase incidences of cancer of the bladder, uterus, ovaries, skin and other organs. In fact, because of the aforementioned studies, the FDA mandated that saccharin products carry a special warning label, about its possible negative health effects, which was later removed in 2000.[ii]

Acesulfame potassium

Acesulfame potassium is an artificial sweetener that is created from a potassium salt. It is used in over 4000 products, ranging from baby foods, to protein drinks. Similar to the other artificial sweeteners previously mentioned, this ingredient has been linked to cancer, metabolic syndrome, and allergies.

Sucralose

Sucralose is a sugar substitute, created by chemically altering sugar, by adding chlorine. It is found in products such as Splenda, and low calories desserts. In studies, Sucralose has been linked to damage to the kidneys, reproductive organs, and the thymus gland (responsible for your immune response), as well as migraine headaches, and inflammatory bowel disease (as it may affect bacteria found in your stomach.)

The FDA has ruled that artificial sweeteners are safe for human consumption, but with all the conflicting information about these chemicals, I would err on the side of caution and avoid these ingredients whenever possible.

Always Remember- Foods are like friends. Choose them wisely!

[i] Methanol can be changed by the body to formaldehyde- the chemical used to embalm the deceased

[ii] The FDA found that there was not enough scientific evidence of negative health consequences to mandate that saccharin products carry a warning label.

Sources of information for article are below:

1 Humphries, P, et al. “Direct and Indirect Cellular Effects of Aspartame on the Brain.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 62, no. 4, Apr. 2008, pp. 451-462

2 Abdel-Salam, O M E, et al. “Studies on the Effects of Aspartame on Memory and Oxidative Stress in Brain of Mice.” European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, vol. 16, no. 15, Dec. 2012, pp. 2092-2101.

3 Schardt, D. “Sweet Nothings: Not All Sweeteners Are Equal.” Nutrition Action Health Letter, vol. 31, no. 4, May 2004, pp. 8-11.

4 Katsue, Hiromi, et al. “Allergic Reaction Caused by Acesulfame Potassium in Foods.” Contact Dermatitis, vol. 71, no. 4, Oct. 2014, pp. 251-25

5 Cong, Wei-na, et al. “Long-Term Artificial Sweetener Acesulfame Potassium Treatment Alters Neurometabolic Functions in C57BL/6J Mice.” Plos ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, Aug. 2013, pp. 1-18.

6 Hull, Janet Starr. “The Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners.” Total Health, vol. 27, no. 1, Feb/Mar2005, p. 30

7 Shankar, Padmini, et al. “Review: Non-Nutritive Sweeteners: Review and Update.” Nutrition, vol. 29, 01 Nov. 2013, pp

Are pretty colored foods pretty good for you?

Why do companies use food coloring?

From beverages such as Gatorade, to foods such as salmon, companies have been using synthetic food coloring and dyes for years? But why you may ask? The answer is simple. Aesthetics. That’s right- beauty.  Food and beverage companies have conducted extensive research, and have found that people prefer to buy pretty colored foods and beverages, over their dull, bland colored counterparts. This is because our senses are attracted to bright vibrant colors. But is eating and drinking, artificially colored food and beverages, good for your health?

Why pretty colored foods are pretty bad for you?

Although artificially colored foods look visually appealing, they are not good for you. Numerous studies have found that artificial food colorings such as FD&C Blue No.1, and FD&C red #40 have been associated with numerous health problems including:

1 Triggering food allergies in people who are sensitive to these chemicals, which may cause rashes, asthma, inflammation, and other reactions, including immune system reactions (which may impair immune system function, making individuals more vulnerable to infections and disease).

2 Lowering sperm count and fertility in males. (No further explanation needed.)

3 Contributing to the development of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children, which affects their behavior and performance in school.

4 Identification as a potential cause of cancer (based on studies conducted on animals).

Due to the variety of health problems linked to the use of synthetic dyes, many countries in Europe have banned their use in food products( in particular those geared toward children). Additionally, products that do contain synthetic dyes, must carry special warning labels, advising of the potential health consequences, associated with their consumption. You may be asking yourself, why hasn’t the United States followed their European counterparts in this endeavor? The answer is simple. Money!!!  Artificially colored foods and drinks, generate billions of dollars for the companies that sell these products. Hence, to ban these products would be to potentially lose billions of dollars from the economy.  Why can’t these companies use natural coloring from plants? Once again the answer is money. Natural food coloring is more expensive (which would cut into the profits of these companies), and are limited, in regards to the range of colors that could be achieved, since they come from nature.

How can I avoid synthetic dyes in my food and drinks?

Read the labels on the products you buy. If you see scientific words/letters, followed by a color, (FD&C Blue No.1) that is an indication that the product you are buying contains artificial colors. Additionally, whenever possible, avoid buying overly processed foods, as they are more likely to contain synthetic colors (e.g.neon orange potato chips). Also use your senses. If a drink or beverage, has an unusual color, more than likely it contains a synthetic dye. Purchase foods and drinks, that have their natural color (i.e. orange juice should be orange not blue).  This will take some effort, but your health is worth it.

Always Remember- Foods are like friends. Choose them wisely!

Sources of information for article are below:

1 Nascimento Teles, Julia and Maria Lúcia Teixeira Polônio. “Knowledge of Nursing and Nutrition Graduate Students on the Consumption of Food Colorings and Their Adverse Health Effects. Revista De Pesquisa: Cuidado E Fundamental, vol. 8, no. 4, out-dez2016, pp. 5045-5053.

2 Cook, Doug. “Food Dyes and Hyperactivity.” Alive: Canada’s Natural Health & Wellness Magazine, no. 347, Sept. 2011, pp. 31-35.

3 Mosko, Sarah ‘Steve’. “Fooled by Food Dyes: From Cereal Bars to Salad Dressings, Artificial Food Dyes Are Everywhere. E, no. 2, 2012, p. 36.

4 Vojdani, Aristo and Charlene Vojdani. “Immune Reactivity to Food Coloring.” Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine, vol. 21, no. S1, 2015 Supplement 1, pp. 52-62.

5 Hersey, Jane. “Diet and Children’s Behavior: Are Food Dyes the Missing Link?.” Townsend Letter, no. 364, Nov. 2013, p. 27.

6 Lok, K.Y.W., et al. “Synthetic Colorings of some Snack Foods Consumed by Primary School Children Aged 8–9 Years in Hong Kong.” Food Additives & Contaminants: Part B: Surveillance Communications, vol. 4, no. 3, Sept. 2011, p. 162.

7 “Consumers, Activists Pushing Natural.” Candy Industry, vol. 179, no. 6, June 2014, pp. 40-41.

 

Why you can’t eat just one chip? Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

What is Monosodium Glutamate?

Monosodium glutamate is a chemical salt added to improve the flavor of food. Glutamate, which is MSG’s naturally occurring cousin, is found in the human body as an amino acid (especially in the brain, where it is found in high concentrations) and serves as a neurotransmitter, which is a chemical that either allows (which is the case with glutamate) or prevents nerve impulses from being sent from one neuron( a nerve cell) to another. Glutamate has been found to have a function in memory, and learning in humans.

What foods contain MSG?

MSG is widely used in Asian foods, to add a meaty savory flavor, that appeals to your 5th sense of taste( the other four are salty, sweet, sour and bitter) known as “Umami” which is Japanese for delicious. Foods such as Ramen noodles, and other Asian dishes, usually contain MSG. MSG is also used in the United States, in various seasoning products, such as “Accent” to impart flavor to foods. MSG is also commonly used in all types of processed or” junk” foods, ranging from potato chips to hot dogs. If you go down the junk food aisle of your local store and read labels, the majority of those products contain MSG.

Why you can’t just eat one chip?

According to research, MSG can affect your body’s natural biochemistry, causing you to overeat. It may stimulate production of  the hormone Ghrelin, which is responsible for  feelings of hunger, and your appetite. Hence, once you eat chips that contains this chemical, your body craves more (which is also due to the delicious flavor that hits your Umami taste buds). This in some instances leads to you eating an entire bag of chips in one sitting.

Why MSG is considered harmful?

Well as mentioned previously, MSG is commonly added to “junk “or processed food. Hence, continual over consumption of this type of food, can lead to obesity and all of its associated problems, including heart disease, atherosclerosis (hardening of blood vessels) diabetes, metabolic disorders, and more.

MSG has also been linked to:

1 Chronic headaches in individuals who may have an increased vulnerability to this chemical.

2 Elevated blood pressure which can lead to hypertension, strokes or heart attacks.

3 Kidney problems in individuals sensitive to this chemical.

4 Brain issues, including memory loss, and decreased cognitive function (because in high amounts MSG can be a neurotoxin.)

5 Liver issues, as the liver is tasked with the removal of this substance from the body.

Since glutamate is naturally occurring in meats and plants, I recommend that you avoid consuming extra amounts of this chemical in its artificial form,which can also be disguised as glutamate, glutamic acid and hydrolyzed protein on food labels. This may require some extra work on your part when it comes to grocery shopping, but it is well worth the effort.

Always Remember- Foods are like friends. Choose them wisely!

Sources of information for article are below:

1-Amudha, R. Christy and C. D. Lethi. “Protective Potential of Pterocarpus Marsupium on Brain in Msg Induced Obese Diabetic Mouse, Mus Musculus.” International Journal of Pharmacology & Biological Sciences, vol. 8, no. 1, Apr. 2014, pp. 9-17.

2“International Symposium on Glutamate. Proceedings of a Symposium Held October 12-14, 1998 in Bergamo, Italy.” The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 130, no. 4S Suppl, Apr. 2000, pp. 891S-1079S.

3-Obayashi, Yoko and Yoichi Nagamura. “Does Monosodium Glutamate Really Cause Headache? : a Systematic Review of Human Studies.” The Journal of Headache and Pain, vol. 17, 2016, p. 54.

4-Shimada, Akiko, et al. “Headache and Mechanical Sensitization of Human Pericranial Muscles After Repeated Intake of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG).” The Journal of Headache and Pain, vol. 14, 24 Jan. 2013, p. 2.

5-Sharma, Amod. “Monosodium Glutamate-Induced Oxidative Kidney Damage and Possible Mechanisms: A Mini-Review.” Journal of Biomedical Science, vol. 22, 22 Oct. 2015, p. 93.

6-Rogers, Michael D. “Further Studies Are Necessary in Order to Conclude a Causal Association between the Consumption of Monosodium L-Glutamate (MSG) and the Prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome in the Rural Thai Population…Insawang T, Selmi C, Cha’on U, Et Al: Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) Intake Is Associated with the Prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome in a Rural Thai Population. Nutr Metab 2012, 9:50.” Nutrition & Metabolism, vol. 10, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 14-16.

7 http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/its-the-umami-stupid-why-the-truth-about-msg-is-so-easy-to-swallow-180947626/

Preservatives that don’t preserve your Health- Sodium Nitrates/ Nitrites

What are preservatives?

Preservatives are chemicals added to food to prevent them from spoiling. In years past, salting and dehydration were used by our ancestors to preserve food. However, with advances in food sciences, chemicals were created, that greatly extended the shelf-life of food. This gave rise to the processed, and preserved foods that currently dominate the American, and western world diet.

What is sodium nitrate/nitrite?

Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite are salts that are added to meats such as bacon, hot dogs, salami and other deli or cured meats to inhibit bacterial growth (which can cause serious illnesses like botulism.) These preservatives enable meat to last for days, or weeks longer, when compared to meats, that do not contain these preservatives. Additionally, sodium nitrates/nitrites are used, because they give meat that pretty red color people find appealing, and add that “salty goodness,” people associate with bacon and deli meats.

Why should we avoid sodium nitrate/nitrite?

Although these preservatives are designed to make meat last longer, they have been found to have the opposite effect on human health.  Consumption of sodium nitrates/ nitrites have been linked to:

1 Cancer (in particular colorectal cancer) as the body converts these substances into carcinogens or cancer causing chemicals (especially when processed meats are fried or barbecued.)

2 Elevated risk of heart disease as these preservatives may cause hardening of the blood vessels or atherosclerosis.

3 Increased chances of developing diabetes as these preservatives affect the way your body processes sugar.

4 “Blue baby” syndrome (methemoglobinemia) in children who consume diets high in processed meats, as these preservatives affect the ability of the blood to carry oxygen, resulting in lower levels of oxygen, causing the bluish appearance of the skin, associated with this condition. This can result in a coma, or death, if not treated.

In order to safeguard the health of you and your family:

1 Avoid consuming processed meats whenever possible.  The less you consume, the better it is for your health.

2 If you do buy bacon or deli meats, buy organic, and nitrite/nitrate free products.[i]

The days of eating mystery meat are over. Make sure you know what you are eating, what it contains, and how it affect your health. What you don’t know can potentially hurt you and your health.

Always Remember- Foods are like friends. Choose them wisely! 

[i] (The nitrate/nitrite free products often times may have high salt levels, which is used as a preservative instead of the nitrites/nitrates. This can affect those with hypertension or heart disease.)

Sources of information for article are below:

1 Ibrahim, Saima. “Preserved Food Hazardous.” Economic Review (05318955) 41.3 (2010): 7-10. Military & Government Collection. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

2 Gilbère, G. “Casualties Of Progress: Highly Toxic, Disease-Promoting Ingredients That Are Legal In Our Food Supply.” Total Health 30.3 (2008): 42-43. CINAHL Complete. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

3 Palmer, Sharon. “Safety Of Preservatives Explored.” Environmental Nutrition 36.9 (2013): 1-6. Academic Search Alumni Edition. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

4 Erkekoglu, Pinar, and Terken Baydar. “Evaluation Of The Protective Effect Of Ascorbic Acid On Nitrite- And Nitrosamine-Induced Cytotoxicity And Genotoxicity In Human Hepatoma Line.” Toxicology Mechanisms And Methods 20.2 (2010): 45-52. MEDLINE Complete. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

5 Erkekoglu, Pinar, and Terken Baydar. “Evaluation Of Nitrite Contamination In Baby Foods And Infant Formulas Marketed In Turkey.” International Journal Of Food Sciences And Nutrition 60.3 (2009): 206-209. MEDLINE Complete. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

6 Asero, R. “Nitrate Intolerance.” Allergy 55.7 (2000): 680. Academic Search Alumni Edition. Web. 21 Feb. 2017

High Fructose Corn Syrup- What’s the big deal?

High Fructose Corn syrup this. High Fructose Corn Syrup that. You can’t turn on the television without seeing a commercial, showing some food company bragging that their product does not contain high fructose corn syrup. But why all the fuss?

What is High Fructose Corn Syrup?

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), is a chemically concocted derivative of corn starch, that was created in a laboratory, as a cheap alternative to sucrose or natural sugar. Companies that never used sweeteners, were now able to utilize an inexpensive, chemically stable, sugar alternative, to improve the taste of their products, which led to the High Fructose Corn Syrup explosion that saturated the food market.

Why should I avoid this ingredient?

HFCS has been linked to a litany of negative health effects on different parts of the body, including the brain, heart, liver, abdominal region, pancreas and the kidneys.  Additionally, HFCS has also been linked to variety of health problems including obesity, fatty liver disease, hypertension, and diabetes, just to name a few.

How can you avoid this ingredient in the food or beverage products you purchase?

As a rule of thumb, when you are buying food or beverage products, always begin by reading the labels.  Look for simple natural ingredients that you can pronounce, and that you recognize. This may seem tedious but as the old saying goes” Prevention is better than cure” and it is worth the extra effort to safeguard your health, as opposed to having to take expensive drugs, or undergoing costly medical procedures in the future.

Always Remember- Foods are like friends. Choose them wisely!

Sources of information for article are below:

1www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/childrens_bmi/about_childrens_bmi.html

2 2014Cynthia L. Ogden, Margaret D. Carroll, Cheryl D. Fryar,and Katherine M. Flegal,Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults and Youth: United States. 2011–NCHS Data Brief No. 219  November 2015

3  Sobel Linda L., Dalby Elizabeth” Sugar or High Fructose Corn Syrup—What Should Nurses Teach Patients and Families.” WVN 2014;11:126–132

4    Bell, Laura “Sweet Confusion: Does High Fructose Corn Syrup Deserve Such a Bad Rap?” Science News. May 16, 2013

 

 

Huh?Why?

Huh?,  is my reaction, every time I learn about something that is being put into our foods, beverages, or other products, that we use for our bodies, that have no place being there. Why?, ( which is a rhetorical question) represents the shock and dismay I feel, knowing that food, beverage, and cosmetic/toiletry companies (among others), put our lives at risk, by using preservatives, chemicals, and other substances, that are toxic, just for the sake of profits.

My personal health journey began, when I experienced severe headaches after eating hot dogs. After conducting research, I discovered that not only were hot dogs composed of meat scraps, fillers (fake meat substitutes) etc., but they contained preservatives, and chemicals, similar to those used in rubber cement. Huh? That’s right. The stuff you use to glue your art projects in school with, is similar to the stuff used to hold our beloved hot dogs together. On top of that, hot dogs contain dyes (which I talk about in my blog “Are pretty colored foods pretty good for you?”) and nitrates/nitrites (which I discuss in my blog post entitled “Preservatives that don’t preserve your health-Sodium nitrates/nitrites) that have been linked to cancer, and other health problems. Why use them you may ask?  Well, the nitrates and nitrites help hot dogs to last much longer (up to a year in the freezer as opposed to just weeks) and along with dyes, give hot dogs their pinkish-reddish color people find appealing (which equates to increased sales and profits for hot dog companies.) Apparently, I was allergic to these ingredients, which triggered my severe headaches.  If it were not for my body’s painful reaction to eating hot dogs, who knows if I would be still eating them today.

Another experience that led to my becoming more aware of the products I use, was my body’s reaction to solid deodorant.  After repeated use of solid deodorants, containing the active ingredient Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex, my arm pits would swell, and would hurt if touched. I could not understand why this was happening to me, but after conducting research once again, I discovered that I was allergic to this ingredient. Additionally, my investigation uncovered that this ingredient has also been linked with- you guessed it cancer. Due to my body’s extreme sensitivity to various chemicals, I became a chemical detective, which has drastically changed my life for the better.

As a health professional, I find it troubling, that many people still don’t really know, that the products they are putting inside, or on their bodies, can negatively impact their health. If people were only aware, of how much poisons they unintentionally exposed themselves to on a daily basis, I think their reaction would be Huh?(They really put that in my juice?) followed by Why?(Why would they put this in my juice knowing the potentially negative  consequences to my health?) In this blog, I will share what I have learned (and continue to learn), which in turn, I hope you will share with others, as we seek to become healthier versions of ourselves.