The War On Sugar Gave Us Toxic Chemical Weapons
Sugar has been demonised for years now but still we continue to consume it like there’s no tomorrow. The health-conscious among us may choose to substitute artificial sweeteners instead but how wise is that? We may save ourselves some cavities but lab-created chemicals such as aspartame and saccharin can create a plethora of new diseases and chronic illnesses.
When sugar was first discovered it was used in its pure, natural form. As a wholefood, sugar cane is a complex carbohydrate containing essential trace minerals and can form part of a well-balanced diet. These days the crop undergoes such intensive processing that all the goodness is removed, rendering it a nutrient-deficient indulgence. The negative effects of too much sugar are well known; it rots teeth, creates mood swings and cravings, causes diabetes, feeds cancer and leads to obesity. So why do we love it so much?
We crave sugar because the brain needs glucose to function. A chocolate bar or sweet snack can give us a quick boost of energy while on the go. These ‘treats’ are readily available, relatively cheap and highly addictive. The brain reacts to sugar the same way it responds to cocaine; the reward centre in your cerebral cortex is stimulated but your body is unsatisfied so your brain cries out for more.
The first chemical sweetener, saccharin, was discovered by accident in 1884 but didn’t become popular until sugar supplies dwindled in the First World War. Cyclamate followed in much the same way in 1937 and was popular with dieting housewives in the 1950s and 60s. The two sweeteners are often blended together as they counteract each other’s unpleasant aftertastes. Both have been subject to controversy over the years and cyclamate is banned in the U.S. due to concerns about its carcinogenic properties. Saccharin (Sweet’N Low) is illegal in Canada.
Acesulfame-K is another widely used sweetener with similar properties to saccharin. While its use is approved in many countries, there are studies that indicate it is genotoxic and harmful to beneficial gut bacteria. Evidence shows that artificial sweeteners can cause insulin resistance, changes to metabolic function and weight gain – an undesirable and unexpected consequence for calorie-conscious dieters who choose sweeteners for the exact opposite outcome.
Aspartame, one of the most common sweeteners in the U.K., has 92 listed adverse effects. These health implications can be sudden and severe (blindness, seizures, brain damage, death) or slow and steady (personality changes, hearing impairment, depression, fibromyalgia, arthritis). It was known in the 1960s that aspartame causes neurological disorders and it has a tainted history of approval. When it was introduced to American consumers in 1983 there was a 10% jump in brain tumours within six months; a 30% increase in diabetes and a 60% increase in brain lymphoma.
In 1984, with former U.S. politician Donald Rumsfeld at the helm, pharmaceutical giant G.D. Searle manipulated aspartame research data to produce a favourable outcome. Some of the animals in the study developed tumours but instead of noting the results accurately, scientists removed the growths and the animals continued in the trial. Other animals died but were falsely recorded as surviving the study.
Participants in another experiment complained of feeling poisoned and the study had to be stopped. Aspartame is not recommended for those with mood disorders as it can aggravate psychiatric conditions and increase suicidal thoughts. One researcher said: ‘I know it causes seizures. I’m convinced that it also causes behavioural changes. I’m very angry that this substance is on the market.’
Aspartame is composed of aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methyl ester, which immediately converts to methanol, formaldehyde (which wreaks havoc with DNA) and formic acid. It breaks down into diketopiperazine (DKP), a known brain tumour agent. Phenylalanine can cause ADD/ADHD and irreversible brain damage, which is extremely concerning considering it is in so many drinks and sweets regularly given to children because their parents believe it is healthier than sugar.
Janet Hull, a leading expert on environmental toxicity, who cured herself of Graves’ Disease by removing aspartame from her diet, says: ‘If you go to the doctor and they cannot find the cause of your symptoms, it’s probably caused by your diet, environment or both.’ Her eponymous website hosts a wealth of information on toxic sweeteners and you’ll find numerous testimonies from people with all manner of seemingly untreatable illnesses who have benefited from her years of research.
Dr Betty Martini campaigns to remove aspartame from the market; she cites 12,000 cases of aspartame poisoning and speaks of many people whose symptoms disappeared when they stopped consuming it. On her website (mpwhi.com) you will find an article titled ‘Pilot Aspartame Alert’ by neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock. It’s an interesting read and references several pilots who died due to their heavy consumption of diet drinks. Blaylock warns of the serious consequences of flying an aircraft while under the influence and a contributor to the piece mentions pilots who have experienced ‘absent seizures, blackouts and serious errors in judgement’ due to their aspartame habits.
So what is the remedy if sugar is bad and artificial sweeteners are potentially worse? There are many natural alternatives on the market if you really can’t eliminate sweet treats from your life. There’s never been a better time to be healthy as new products emerge in a steady stream and homemade recipes are easy to access online. It may be a case of trial and error before you find something you like but it is worth persisting with. Fizzy drinks are difficult to substitute but perhaps try sparkling water with freshly sliced lemon and lime – it is natural and the citrus fruits have health benefits, too.
It’s about retraining your palette to accept new flavours. Coconut sugar is an excellent replacement in baking and hot drinks. Maple syrup, honey and agave nectar can be used when a drizzle or a glug is required. Stevia is good (but avoid the heavily processed stuff) and date sugar is about as natural as you can get. Failing that, try eating fruit more regularly to satisfy those cravings. Small changes work wonders to form long-lasting habits. You’ll thank yourself later.
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(c) Louize Small, April 2021
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