The bitter truth about artificial sweeteners

The bitter truth about artificial sweeteners

What do you like in your coffee: sugar, cream or insecticide?

Crazy choice? Maybe... but sucralose--aka Splenda--is actually the product of research into insecticide. And while I don’t know if this stuff is any good against bugs, it certainly does have the potential to do a number on you.

In one new study on lab mice, rodents given sucralose had a higher risk of leukemia. The higher the dose, the higher the risk--and as a result, the Center for Science in the Public Interest downgraded sucralose from “safe” to “caution” in its newest guide to food additives.

I think they’re being optimistic, because we’re WAY past “caution” when it comes to this stuff--and as far as I’m concerned, sucralose is anything but safe.

Splenda was once marketed as “made from sugar,” as if that’s something to brag about (it’s not). But in reality, “made from a chemistry set” is a much more accurate description. In fact, sucralose is actually made with chlorine--and since chlorine itself is a potential carcinogen, that may help explain the potential cancer link.

Sucralose has also been associated with bloating, nausea, gas and other belly problems, and some people have complained of everything from memory loss to dizzy spells.

The people who make the stuff say Splenda is safe--which is a real hoot, when you consider the long-term human studies on their products. There aren’t any!

Think about that next time someone offers you this junk. And think about the studies we do have--like the recent research that finds sucralose causes blood sugar to spike and insulin to shoot up by 20 percent in obese people.

More insulin, of course leads to more hunger--specifically a craving for sweets--and next thing you know, your no-calorie “diet” sweetener causes you to eat more than ever. Not exactly a recipe for weight loss and good health, if you ask me--and riding the glucose/insulin roller coaster is a recipe for diabetes over the long run.

Avoid this stuff by avoiding yellow, since sucralose comes in yellow packets (and of course watch for it in ingredients labels). And while you’re passing on yellow, I’ve got a few more colors for you to skip--because when it comes to sweeteners, there’s...


Pass on all the little packets in diners, convenience stores, coffee shops and supermarkets, including:

BLUE: The blue packets usually contain the aspartame you already know and loathe. This junk has been linked with nearly 100 different symptoms and conditions--and the same team behind the new Splenda study found that it causes liver and lung tumors in male mice. It’s also been linked to migraines, memory loss, premature birth and even death.

PINK: Pink packets such as Sweet ‘N Low contain saccharin, and while it’s better than aspartame, it’s not by much. Saccharin was originally derived from coal tar, once had a warning label about cancer risk (removed much too quickly, in my opinion), and has been linked to both allergic reactions and spikes in insulin levels.

WHITE: This is plain old sugar--which can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, heart failure, brain disease (including dementia) and more. If there was ever something you should eliminate from your diet, it’s this.

BROWN: This is usually “raw” sugar, and its thicker, brownish lumps con people into thinking it’s more natural and therefore better. It’s neither--it’s just sugar. Same for “pure cane juice” and the other pricey organic sweeteners and syrups with names that make them sound healthier. They’re not.

Now, for many people, the top source of all these sweeteners is their drinks--usually soda and coffee. And if you’re a soda fiend, you need to make a clean break and skip it all--diet and regular.

If you want something with fizz, stick to plain old seltzer, maybe with a squeeze of lemon or lime.

If you’re a coffee drinker, I’ve got some better news: Coffee is both delicious and healthy, and a daily mug or three can help slash your risk of cancer, heart disease, dementia and more--so don’t give up the coffee. Just give up the sweeteners.

I know some of you can’t even imagine a cuppa jo without something to take the edge of the brew. If you’re one of them, you CAN do it--and I have a two-step plan that’ll break you of your sweetener addiction in just a couple of weeks.

Step One: Ditch the low-fat milk, milk substitutes and flavored non-dairy creamers and switch to fresh cream. Despite what you’ve heard, it’s better for you than the watered-down stuff--and it can help mellow out even the roughest cup of coffee in town.

Step Two: Whatever sweetener you use, cut back just a little bit tomorrow. In a few more days, cut it by a little more--and so on--until you’re down to zero sweeteners. Your taste buds will adjust and you’ll quickly learn to love coffee as God (or at least Juan Valdez) intended it.

Of course, that means giving up whatever double mocha drinks you’re getting from the local Charbucks--but that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice everything you love about coffee. You can make your own version of a mocha by adding some pure (unsweetened) cocoa powder. If you find it clumps in your drink, run it through a food processor or coffee grinder until it’s extra fine first.

Along with extra taste, the antioxidants in the cocoa pack some extra benefits--including heart and brain protection. Combined with the benefits of the coffee itself, that’s a potent brew that can’t be beat--and just about the best way to start your day.