Fantasy vs. Reality in Weight Loss
Artificial isn't Always Bad, All Natural isn't Always Good
Losing weight is tough if you know what you're doing. But it's nearly impossible if you don't understand the difference between fantasy problems and reality. That fact was driven home during a recent meeting I had with a new client.
Every person goes through a consultation before they start training with us so we can figure out what type of program they may need. Before I started, I offered him an espresso. He accepted and I pointed to the wall of condiments we have so he could finish it off. Then he said, "I see you have artificial sweeteners."
"Of course," I said, "we have Splenda, Equal and Sweet 'N Low. But we also have real sugar, sugar in the raw and Stevia... whatever you'd like."
That's when he told me all the bad things about artificial sweeteners. How they cause cancer, autism and that they're responsible for the dramatic increase in diabetes. He said he only uses honey and Stevia because they're natural and so much better for you. This new client was convinced most of the health-related problems America is dealing with could be found in those pink, yellow or blue packets.
If only it were that easy. Then I could simply tell people to avoid artificial sweeteners and their lives would completely turn around. It's convenient to believe that anything artificial is bad, because it feels like it should be true. But the facts, based on actual clinical research, tell a different story.
Now I'm not going to go into detail about every artificial sweetener out there. If you want the finer points, you can skip to the bottom of this article for details. But the simple reality is that the big three, Sweet 'N Low, Equal and Splenda, have gone through literally thousands of tests and clinical trials over decades. It's been proven, time and time again, that they do NOT cause cancer, diabetes or autism.
There real problem with artificial sweeteners has to do with appetite.
Researchers now know that our stomachs have taste buds. Artificial sweeteners make our stomachs think they've eaten something sweet, which means calories. Eat or drink something with artificial sweeteners and our bodies start preparing for those sugary calories.
That's OK if the artificial sweeteners are in food, because the food provides some calories to help satisfy the ramped up demand the sweet taste started.
The problems happen if you're JUST drinking a zero-calorie soda. After about 30 minutes your body starts to crash because the "sweet calories" you were expecting for energy never appeared. That makes you feel more hungry and tired than when you first drank the soda.
Artificial sweeteners generally won't hurt you directly, it's the cravings they set off that cause many of the problems. The hunger trigger isn't limited to the big three either. It also happens with Stevia, Purvia, Truvia and every other non-nutritive sweetener.
I needed to learn the real reason my client was 70 pounds overweight. As the consultation continued, the true villains emerged.
Every day he had breakfast at a local "all-natural" diner. His regular meal had over 1,120 calories on his plate and he drank another 223 calories (and 41 grams of sugar) in a tall orange juice. For lunch, he was eating a 1,405 calorie vegan wrap. Most dinners had him packing away another 900 plus calories in frozen meals. All that was before adding in any snacks he ate to tide himself through the day.
On top of the food, he was taking in over four times the recommended daily amount of sugar by drinking three "real" full-sugar sodas for a total of 269 more calories. (Remember, he thought full-sugar was better than those supposedly cancer-causing artificially sweetened diet sodas.)
Every night he was downing another 400 calories in light beer. On the weekends he would visit his favorite bar and drink four or five beers during happy hour and add another 1,200 calories to his weekly total. As the effects of the alcohol sank in, he tended to order more side dishes that boosted his calorie intake even more.
My new client was eating over 4,300 calories on weekdays and more than 5,000 calories on weekends! All from restaurants that featured natural and vegan foods so he assumed they were healthy. They might have been balanced meals, but only if he had cut the serving sizes in half.
The average person should only eat between 2,000 and 2,500 calories a day.
Here's the real shocker. While clinical trials over several decades have shown that artificial sweeteners do NOT cause cancer, all that excess weight from food and alcohol DOES. A quarter of all pancreatic cancers, a third of all kidney cancers and fully half of all uterine and esophageal cancers are caused by too much body fat. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 30% of all cancer cases could be prevented if we just slimmed down.
I began to teach my client how to monitor the food and drink he was putting in his body. He kept his meals to around 600 calories each, with a couple of snacks limited to no more than 200 calories. He also started ordering a bottle of water after every beer during happy hour to cut out empty calories.
I taught him to focus on the real problems, all the calories in his food and drink, not the packets of pink, yellow and blue sweetener. Are your diet plans based on reality? If you're not losing weight, it might be time to make a change.
Want details on the big three artificial sweeteners?
Sweet 'N Low, Equal and Splenda.
(Technically called Saccharin, Aspartame and Sucralose.)
The problems really began with a flawed test of saccharin and government overreach.
Saccharin (Sweet 'N Low)
Saccharin was discovered by Ira Remsen and Constantin Fahlberg of Johns Hopkins University in 1879. There were concerns about the safety of saccharin almost since it was introduced to the public.
Nothing substantial as far as scientific research emerged until a study was released in 1977 that showed an increased rate of bladder cancer in rats that were fed large doses of saccharin. As a direct result of that study, Canada officially banned saccharin and the FDA proposed a ban. The ban was met with strong public opposition because, at the time, saccharin was the only artificial sweetener available in the U.S. (Cyclamate had just been banned.)
Congress stepped in and placed a moratorium on the ban, but they required that all saccharin-containing foods display a warning label stating that saccharin may be a carcinogen.
Of course, those labels are no longer on foods. As researchers started looking at the experiments, they realized the rats were given doses of saccharin hundreds of times higher than would ever be taken in by humans. The syringes used in the experiments were considered suspect when it was discovered the rubber plungers corroded and bits of them might have gone into the rats. Even the rats themselves were a bad choice for testing cancers when it was found out that they developed cancer spontaneously when injected with nothing more than pure water!
In 1991 the FDA formally withdrew its proposal to ban saccharin. Nine years later, in 2000 Congress finally repealed the law requiring warning labels on products containing saccharin. Saccharin is the most tested of all the artificial sweeteners, with over 2,300 studies (and counting) done so far.
On December 14th, 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially removed saccharin from their list of hazardous substances. The EPA press release stated:
"In the late 1990s, the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer re-evaluated the available scientific information on saccharin and its salts and concluded that it is not a potential human carcinogen. Because the scientific basis for remaining on EPA's lists no longer applies, the agency has removed saccharin and its salts from its lists."
A generation of people grew up with those warning labels on every packet. Labels that were put there because of a failed test and a government-mandated mistake that took over three decades to correct. It's no wonder so many people think Sweet 'N Low causes cancer!
James M. Schlatter discovered aspartame in 1965 while working for G. D. Searle & Company. He was synthesizing aspartame in the process of working on an anti-ulcer drug candidate. It is 160 to 220 times sweeter than sugar and was first approved by the FDA in 1981 for use in foods.
There is a problem with aspartame. While it's not an allergen, some people with the genetic disease phenylketonuria (PKU) and pregnant women with hyperphenylalanine (high levels of phenylalanine in their blood) have a problem with aspartame. They are unable to effectively metabolize the amino acid phenylalanine, one of aspartame's components.
High levels of phenylalanine in body fluids can cause brain damage. That's why the FDA has ruled that anything that contains aspartame must include a warning to phenylketonurics that the product contains phenylalanine.
If you're looking for a villain in artificial sweeteners, this one would be it. For people who are phenylketonurics, Equal poses a real danger. Think of aspartame like peanuts. If you have a peanut allergy, you really should stay away from anything with peanuts in it. The same thing is true if you're sensitive to phenylalanine. For the rest of us? Go ahead and use it.
In 1976 Leslie Hough and Shashikant Phadnis were testing chlorinated sugars as chemical intermediates. One day Phadnis was told to test the powder, but he mistakenly thought he was supposed to taste it. So he did. The compound was incredibly sweet, about 600 times sweeter than sugar. Hough and Phadnis spent the next year working with the company Tate & Lyle until they came up with what would become known as Splenda.
Canada was the first to approve Sucralose for use in 1991, followed by Australia in 1993, New Zealand in 1996, the United States in 1998 and the European Union in 2004. By 2006 it had been approved for sale in over 60 countries.
More than 110 studies were conducted to identify toxic effects including carcinogenic, reproductive and neurological effects. None were found and sucralose was deemed safe for human consumption. Some of the pre-approval tests on sucralose DID show potential toxicity, but in the 18 years since it's been available for sale in America, no clinical trials have shown any short or long-term harm for people who consume this product.
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