Half of North Americans use a drink linked to dementia on any given day.
Both sugary and artificially sweetened ‘diet’ drinks are linked to dementia by two new studies.
People who drink sugary beverages tend to have poorer memories, smaller brains and a smaller hippocampus (an area vital for learning and memory).
Diet sodas, though, don’t seem much safer.
A follow-up study found that people who drink diet sodas are three times more likely to develop dementia and stroke, compared to those who drink none.
Both studies show associations, so it doesn’t prove cause and effect.
Professor Sudha Seshadri, who led the research, said:
“These studies are not the be-all and end-all, but it’s strong data and a very strong suggestion.
It looks like there is not very much of an upside to having sugary drinks, and substituting the sugar with artificial sweeteners doesn’t seem to help.
Maybe good old-fashioned water is something we need to get used to.”
Excess sugar intake has long been linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Its effect on the brain is more of an unknown (although what are the chances it’s going to be good for us?!)
More surprising is the link between diet sodas and dementia.
The researchers suggest it could be down to the artificial sweeteners used.
Sugar is toxic to the brain
This is certainly not the first study to link sugar intake with dementia.
A recent study linked excess sugar intake with Alzheimer’s disease.
It suggested that too much glucose (sugar) in the diet damages a vital enzyme which helps fight the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
High blood sugar levels have also been linked to memory problems.
The researchers in this study think that sugar could have a ‘toxic’ effect on the brain.
The Stevia plant with its ‘sweet leaf’ is a sugar substitute and also incredibly good for you. Unlike sugar, it doesn’t create an insulin response and actually nourishes the pancreas, which helps regulate blood sugar. The leaf is 30 times sweeter than sugar, while extracts are 300-400 times sweeter. This is good for the sugar addict as it will give sweetness without all the negative effects of sugar.
5 SWEET BENEFITS OF STEVIA
Excellent for Diabetics
Type 2 diabetic patients who took 1 gram of stevioside (present in the plant Stevia) with a meal had an 18 percent reduction in blood sugar according to this study. A study that compared Stevia, regular sugar and aspartame, showed that Stevia lowered blood sugar and insulin levels after a meal.
Note: Artificial sweeteners often raise your blood sugar levels even more than sugar.
Reduces Risk of Pancreatic Cancer
Stevia has sterols and antioxidant compounds (kaempferol, quercetin, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, isoquercitrin and isosteviol) in it and studies have found that kaempferol can reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by 23 percent.
Helps Lower Bad Cholesterol and Increase Good Cholesterol
A study in 2009 found stevia helps lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. Research also noted that the subjects had no adverse side effects from the Stevia on their health.
Breast Cancer Reduced
This 2012 study found that stevioside helped to decrease specific stress pathways that create breast cancer growth.
Great for Weight Loss
Stevia has no calories or carbohydrates.
Consuming added sugars has been shown to contribute an average of 16 percent of the total calories in the American diet. This high sugar intake has been linked to weight gain and adverse effects on blood sugar.
3 Extra Benefits:
Fights Cavities: The ‘sweet herb’ is antibacterial, and unlike sugar, it does not feed oral bacteria and is recommended by the National Center for Biotechnology Information to be helpful in preventing cavities. Stevia extracts were linked to less acidic plaque, which is good for cavity prevention.
Skin Care: The antibacterial properties help with acne. I have experienced a pimple disappearing soon after using stevia on it.
Fights Yeast Infections: Stevia does not feed candida or other yeast and is slightly antibacterial and anti-fungal.
Can One Be Allergic to Stevia?
The European Food Safety Committee after reviewing the Stevia literature stated that there was no cause for concern for allergic reactions to the Stevia plant. Also, the FDA declared that stevia was safe in foods and beverages.
Some Stevia extracts are so isolated that they have a bitter taste and so other artificial sweeteners have to be added.
Some commercial Stevias have been extracted solely with alcohol solvents (usually the white powder form). This alcohol solvent leaves the sweet taste of the Stevia but can take away some of the health benefits.
Highly processed “Stevia,” such as Truvia, is not real Stevia by the time it goes through refining. Chemical solvents are added during the refining process which includes acetonitrile, found to be toxic to the liver and a carcinogen.
“There’s a lot of processed food in North America,
and I know that can make some tourists
who are used to fresh food feel sick.” – Wolfgang Puck
Wolfgang Puck is a famous chef and restaurateur that was born in Austria. As a foreign-born food expert, Puck is knowledgeable in regards to the prolific presence of processed food that is unique to the United States and other countries. He is one among many experts that testify to the harmful nature of food that undergoes processing.
As a reference, processed food is defined as “any deliberate change in a food that occurs before it’s available for us to eat.” This rather ambiguous definition doesn’t identify what makes some (not all) processed foods harmful. Mechanical processing – the physical actions required to grow, harvest and produce foods – doesn’t alter the nature of food and isn’t harmful.
Chemical processing – altering the chemical makeup of foods through additives and other artificial substances – can indeed be harmful to one’s health. Artificial substances include sweeteners, preservatives and other elements. The inherent risk of such substances is a public safety concern in many countries, and for legitimate reasons.
HERE ARE NINE REASONS TO STOP EATING PROCESSED FOODS IMMEDIATELY:
1. PROCESSED FOODS CONTAIN DISPROPORTIONATE AMOUNTS OF SUGAR OR CORN SYRUP
Foods that contain sugar essentially contain empty calories. In other words, these calories provide no nutritional value. Studies have shown that these empty calories can have a harmful effect on the metabolism and cardiovascular system. The diabetes epidemic also strongly correlates with sugar consumption. Corn syrup, particularly of the high fructose variety, has been found to increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity, dementia and liver failure.
2. PROCESSED FOODS CONTAIN TOO MANY ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS
Many ingredients listed on the labels of processed foods cannot be properly read. This is because these ingredients are chemicals, and most chemicals have unpronounceable names. Many additives and preservatives contribute to potentially harmful physical effects, from common fatigue to heart disease.
3. PROCESSED FOODS ARE HIGH IN REFINED CARBOHYDRATES
Refined carbohydrates are sugars and starches that have been modified (refined). The problem is that this refinement process empties the food of its nutritional value, including its fiber content. Of course, many sugars and starches contribute to a number of adverse health conditions.
4. PROCESSED FOODS ARE USUALLY LACKING IN NUTRIENTS
The processing of food often empties the food of its nutritional value. Even though many of these foods are infused with synthetic (read: artificial) nutrients, the quality of nutrition derived from such is far superior compared to whole, unprocessed foods.
5. PROCESSED FOODS ARE LOW IN FIBER CONTENT
Fiber has many different roles to play in the development and maintenance of a healthy body. Primarily known to aid digestion, fiber also helps to: produce healthy bacteria, slow the absorption of carbohydrates, and create feelings of satiety.
6. PROCESSED FOODS HARM METABOLIC FUNCTION
Because of the chemical makeup of processed foods – absence of fiber, nutrition, satiety and sustenance – our digestive system and metabolism operate poorly. The cumulate effects result in more food consumed and less food energy expended. In other words, we eat more stuff and burn less fat and calories as a result of eating processed foods.
7. PROCESSED FOODS CONTAIN PESTICIDES
To grow and harvest GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms), farmers must use pesticides and herbicides to preserve the area where they are grown. Often, these pesticides and herbicides will penetrate both the soil and the crop itself. Needless to say, chemicals designed to eradicate insects and vegetation are not well-received by the human body. These chemicals have been linked to an assortment of functional and developmental problems, including cancer.
8. PROCESSED FOODS CAUSE INFLAMMATION
Various studies have shown that artificial ingredients such as processed flours, vegetable oils and refined sugars can cause or worsen cases of inflammation. Inflammation has been linked to a variety of maladies including dementia, respiratory problems and neurological disorders.
9. PROCESSED FOOD IS OFTEN HIGH IN TRANS-FAT OR VEGETABLE OIL
Hydrogenated oils such as vegetable oil often contain an excessive amount of Omega-6 fatty acids, which has been linked to inflammation and oxidation issues. Studies have demonstrated that these substances carry and increased risk of heart disease.
A lifelong friend of mine suffered from debilitating anxiety for years. It was hard to watch her have panic attacks, knowing that people did not understand her behavior. Although anxiety disorders are the most common mental health illness in the United States, only about one-third of affected individuals receive some form of treatment.
From a young age, I read books every chance I got. Taking a particular interest in the human brain, it was only natural that I would go on to study psychology and neuroscience at a university. Focusing on both mental health and nutrition, I quickly realized how one’s diet influenced brain health and overall well-being — my attention shifted and this connection has been the focal point of my research ever since.
Anxiety and food — what’s the connection?
Anxiety disorders are complex and although various factors play a role, chemical imbalances within the brain cannot be ignored. It’s been found within a number of studies that a diet high in sugar and processed foods actually damages the brain, worsening symptoms of both depression and anxiety.
While focusing on mood, the neurotransmitter serotonin influences symptoms of poor mood and restlessness, as well as dopamine and GABA. Of course, serotonin imbalances are prominent in the brain, however, 95 percent of your body’s serotonin is produced within your gut. Meaning, poor nutrition not only affects digestion, but also mental health.
Unlike nutrient-rich whole foods, which offer a range of vitamins, minerals, fiber and probiotics, the following foods may actually contribute to feelings of anxiety.
It’s no secret that the standard Western diet is packed with sugar — in fact, it’s estimated that Americans eat an average of 22 teaspoons per day. Too much glucose in the blood is actually toxic and is a driving force behind a range of health conditions, including diabetes, fatty liver disease, cancer and yep — poor mental health.
Within one study, published in Life Sciences, a diet high in sugar was shown to increase symptoms of anxiety. Others have shown that a high-sugar diet directly influences dopamine, decreasing the activity of D2 receptors. With the being said, the large majority of research has focused on sugar withdrawal and its effect on anxiety-like behavior.
When rats were withdrawing from a liquid high-sugar diet, for instance, increased anxiety levels followed when placed in a maze. Within the amygdala of their brains, CRH also increased — a hormone and neurotransmitter that is related to stress responses. This has led to not only further anxiety research, but has provided key clues regarding food addiction as well.
2. Hydrogenated oils and fried foods
Fried, fatty foods and trans fats have been linked to a range of health issues, including rising cases of heart disease and colon cancer. Not only are foods fried in hydrogenated oil, but these trans fats are also found in baked goods, margarine and many other processed foods. Researchers suggest that a diet high in hydrogenated oils may lead to neuromotor and neuropsychiatric diseases.
Within one study, published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, it was found that rats who were fed trans fats for a prolonged period of time exhibited increased feelings of fear and anxiety. In comparison to rats fed a standard diet, those who consumed hydrogenated vegetable fat displayed a reduction in exploratory and locomotor activities.
3. Caffeinated drinks
Although you may first consider coffee, which actually offers a range of key health benefits, caffeine is a stimulant and when consumed in high enough doses, you may increase stress-related symptoms of anxiety. In terms of their overall effect on your health, beverages such as soda and energy drinks are highly damaging.
Not only do they expose you to high levels of sugar, but when consuming too much caffeine, you can increase cortisol levels while influencing neurotransmitter balance. Within one study, published in Depression and Anxiety, energy drink consumption was significantly correlated with increased anxiety in young male adults.
4. Deli meats
A clear connection has been made between deli meats, hot dogs and worsening health. The majority of research has focused on cancer, since processed meat is considered to be a potent multiorgan carcinogen. Packed with sodium, preservatives and nitrates, these questionable meats have been linked to an increased risk of depression and anxiety — they may also trigger headaches in some individuals.
5. Fat-free options
Companies have marketed their products as “fat-free” so that consumers believe that they’re making healthier choices. Just like carbs, fat has falsely gotten a bad rep. Remember, it’s the type of fat that you need to be concerned about. Although society has become obsessed with a low-fat diet, rates of obesity, diabetes and mental health issues continue to soar.
Considering approximately 60 percent of your brain is made up of fat, you need to consume healthy sources within your diet, including the omega-3 fatty acids known as EPA and DHA. A lack of beneficial fats has been shown to cause mood impairment, while an increase in unhealthy fats leads to inflammation of the brain. The next time you pick up a fat-free option, look at the ingredients and in particular, focus on its sugar content.
Although sugar has been linked to a variety of diseases time and time again, foods that contain artificial sweeteners are just as damaging — if not worse. Containing phenylalanine, a known neurotoxin, artificial sweeteners have been shown to deplete serotonin levels, triggering symptoms of anxiety, mood swings, paranoia and panic attacks.
Diet soda is a classic example, as consumers often think it’s a healthier choice because these options contain zero sugar, fat or calories. Studies have shown that an increased consumption of diet soda, which contains aspartame, leads to issues with emotional ability, particularly mood swings and anxiety.
There’s nothing wrong with a glass of red wine with dinner every once in awhile, in fact, it’s been shown to support positive heart health due to its resveratrol content. With that being said, regular drinkers often experience lower levels of serotonin, leading to symptoms of anxiety.
In order to alleviate their symptoms, they often drink more, leading to a rather vicious cycle. Although alcohol influences key neurotransmitters, the withdrawal of alcohol can be more problematic. Alcohol-induced anxiety can last for hours after drinking, increasing one’s risk of dependence.
At the end of the day, the worst possible thing you can do about your symptoms of anxiety would be to do nothing at all. By eliminating the foods above, you will instantly boost your health, both physical and mental. In addition to a more nutritious diet, focus on beneficial herbs, try yoga, meditation or Reiki, keep a journal, exercise and get enough sleep. You no longer have to live with anxiety. Take action — starting with your grocery list.
Do you find yourself angry and irritable more often than you’d like? Does your mood swing out of control at certain times of day? While larger issues could be at play, the cause of your increase in agitation and aggression could be your diet. Let’s take a look at the foods that are most likely responsible for an increase in aggression:
Studies have shown that consumption of trans fats interrupts fat metabolism in the brain, leading to aggressive behaviors. To be specific, trans fats interfere with omega-3 fatty acid metabolism. Since the standard American diet already lacks in omega-3s (in favor of omega-6s), this throws the body way out of whack, which manifests as anger and anxiety. Additionally, trans fats cause inflammation in the body, which isn’t going to do anything to improve your mood. Ditch the Crisco and opt for whole foods instead.
Liquid stimulation! Coffee is one of the most stimulating foods you can put into your body, which can be both beneficial and detrimental. When you drink too much coffee (an amount which is different for everyone since we all tolerate coffee differently), it can induce an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels. This is because caffeine blocks calming adenosine receptors, which allows other, more active and energetic neurotransmitters to take hold and flood you with energy. Unfortunately, because of this, too much coffee can turn small annoyances into high agitation and crankiness. That being said, too little coffee when you’re addicted can lead to withdrawal crankiness as well. Try to nix your addiction to coffee and enjoy caffeine as a treat every other day to keep your moods more stabilized.
Too few carbs
We all know that dieting can make you more cranky and aggressive than usual. Ridding yourself of an addiction to certain foods can be a good thing, but if you aren’t giving your body the nutrients it needs, you’re not going to feel great. Consuming too few carbohydrates, as is common in some Paleo dieters, may cause your mood to steadily deteriorate. Some of us, especially some women, may not thrive on ultra low-carb diets. Pay attention to your energy levels. If you’re low-carb and you feel sluggish, cranky and tired all the time, you probably aren’t eating enough carbohydrates. Your bad mood is your body just trying to tell you what it needs.
Too much sugar
Have you ever eaten a giant cookie and felt absolutely horrible afterwards? Have you, as is natural when you are feeling horrible, become steadily crankier with those around you? Yeah, that’s because you’ve consumed way too much sugar. This is especially apparent in children. Ever notice the post-sugar crash tantrum? Spikes in insulin levels directly affect our moods. Regulating your blood sugar by avoiding excess sugar and eating foods rich in protein, fat and fiber can help to regulate aggressive moods.
For some people, an unfortunate side effect of artificial sweeteners is anger and aggression. While the mechanism that causes this isn’t exactly clear, agitation is clearly associated with artificial sweetener consumption in some. If you’re going to eat something sweet, opt for natural sweeteners, like honey or maple syrup, instead of filling your body with artificial replacements.
While the aforementioned foods can be anger-inducing, certain foods can have a calming effect on your outlook and behavior. Mango and lemon both contain a compound called linalool, which promotes lower levels of stress and anxiety when inhaled. Many teas are also extremely calming, especially those lacking caffeine, like chamomile. And, of course we cannot forget—drumroll—dark chocolate. One bite of good chocolate makes you realize that the universe isn’t so bad after all.
Overall, keeping a consistently healthy, wholesome, moderate diet will help to keep your moods balanced. Pay attention to what you eat. If you feel consistently off when you eat a certain food, try not eating it for a while. Your diet should make you feel good, not grumpy.
Sure, the idea of getting your sugar fix without the calories always seems enticing, but new research suggests that Splenda—an artificial sweetener recently considered safe—may contribute to serious health problems like cancer.
The study, published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, found that mice fed sucralose daily throughout their lives developed leukemia and other blood cancers. In response to the findings, the Center for Science in the Public Interest—a nutrition watchdog group that assesses the safety of food additives—has now formally recommended that consumers avoid the sweetener. That’s a big deal, considering that until 2013, they’d rated the additive as “safe.”
Though the lab behind the study has been criticized in the past, the CSPI says this new evidence is especially powerful because it was funded without special interests in mind. “For most food additives, the safety studies are conducted by the manufacturers who have financial incentives,” says Lisa Lefferts, MSPH, senior scientist at the CSPI. (Here’s why industry funding in nutrition studies is such a huge problem.)
Granted, the doses of sucralose used in the study were equivalent to someone drinking at least 10 cans of diet soda per day—tough for anyone to do, but not totally out of the realm of possibility if you’re consuming artificial sweeteners from multiple food and drink sources. “And even if you consume less, that doesn’t mean there’s no problem,” Lefferts says. “When something causes cancer at high doses, it generally causes cancer at lower doses, the risk is just smaller.”
But even if you discount this new mouse study, you’ll still find plenty of reasons to skip out on sucralose. A growing body of research shows that artificial sweeteners may actually cause weight gain, not weight loss. One study found drinking diet soda was linked to increased belly fat; in another, each daily can was associated with a 41% jump in obesity risk. Sucralose has even been shown to mess with your blood sugar and insulin levels, causing spikes and dips that could lead to cravings later on.
The bottom line: the scientists at the CSPI firmly believe you should steer clear of sucralose. But that doesn’t mean you should start shoveling spoonfuls of regular table sugar, either.
Drinking diet soda could cause weight gain, research suggests
CBC News Sep 17, 2014
Artificial sweeteners may set the stage for diabetes in some people by hampering how their bodies handle sugar, scientists say.
Artificial sweeteners may exacerbate, rather than prevent, metabolic disorders such as Type 2 diabetes, a study suggests.
Calorie-free artificial sweeteners are often chosen by dieters in part because they are thought not to raise blood sugar levels.
In Wednesday’s issue of the journal Nature, researchers report that artificial sweeteners increase the blood sugar levels in both mice and humans by interfering with microbes in the gut. Increased blood sugar levels are an early indicator of Type 2 diabetes and metabolic disease.
The increase in consumption of artificial sweeteners coincides with the obesity and diabetes epidemics, Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and his co-authors said.
“Our findings suggest that non-caloric artificial sweeteners may have directly contributed to enhancing the exact epidemic that they themselves were intended to fight.”
Link to gut bacteria
The study included a series of experiments.
Mice whose drinking water was supplemented with artificial sweetener developed glucose intolerance compared with mice drinking water alone, or water with just sugar in it. The effect occurred both in mice fed normal chow and those on a high-fat diet.
When antibiotics were used to kill off gut bacteria, the artificial sweetener effect on glucose intolerance in mice fed either diet was restored to normal.
Taken together, the data indicate that artificial sweeteners “may contribute to, rather than alleviate, obesity-related metabolic conditions, by altering the composition and function of bacterial populations in the gut,” Cathryn Nagler and Taylor Feehley of the pathology department at the University of Chicago said in a journal commentary.
In the human part of the research, gut bacteria were analyzed from 381 non-diabetics averaging age 43 who were participating in an ongoing nutrition study. They found differences in the gut bacteria among those who consumed artificial sweeteners compared with those who did not.
Artificial sweetener consumers showed “markers” for diabetes, such as raised blood sugar levels and glucose intolerance.
More research needed
In the final portion of the study, seven human volunteers who didn’t normally consume artificial sweeteners added it to their diets for seven days. After four days, blood glucose levels rose and the makeup of their gut bacteria changed in half of the participants, just as in the mice experiment.
To confirm the findings, the researchers also transferred feces from people who consume artificial sweeteners into mice that were bred to have sterile intestines and never consumed it before. The mice who had saccharin became glucose intolerant, which suggests that the artificial sweetener caused the unhealthy effect.
It could be that artificial sweeteners lead to an expansion of bacterial species that extract energy from food that often gets stored as fat, contributing to obesity, Nagler said. It’s also possible the sweeteners could suppress the growth of other bacteria that seem to stave off insulin resistance, she said.
The commentators suggested studies to identify specific bacterial populations that promote resistance to weight gain or improve glucose tolerance could be useful as treatments.
Other experts who were not involved in the research called the findings intriguing, but noted that the human findings in particular were very preliminary in terms of considering changes to nutrition recommendations.
“This research raises caution that [non-caloric artificial sweeteners] may not represent the ‘innocent magic bullet’ they were intended to be to help with the obesity and diabetes epidemics, but it does not yet provide sufficient evidence to alter public health and clinical practice,” said Nita Forouhi, program leader at the Medical Research Council’s epidemiology unit at Cambridge University.
The Glycemic Index is an indication of how quickly a specified amount of food will cause a rise in blood sugar level. The amount of food is the portion that contains 50 grams of carbohydrate (200 calories from carbs). So it is really an indication of how one carb compares to another.
Certain foods cause a spike, or rapid rise, in blood sugar level. This spike causes an insulin response and may over time lead to health problems such as diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and other issues. Maintaining a more even blood sugar level appears to be beneficial in many ways.
Only foods that contain carbs cause this spike, proteins and fats do not. They provide calories but do not cause an immediate rise in blood sugar levels. Meat and eggs contain no carbs at all, they can be considered to have a zero glycemic index. However this is not strictly true as the test cannot be carried out on them: no amount of eggs will give the required 50 gm of carbs.
The test is carried out on volunteers who have been fasting for a period of time. They are fed a portion of food containing 50 gm of carbohydrate and their blood sugar level monitored over a 2 hour period. This data is drawn on a graph and the area under the curve measured, the larger the area, the higher the glycemic index (GI). Glucose is used as the standard with a value of 100 and all other foods are compared to this.
Many factors influence the GI for foods. The index of the carbs available, the amount of non carb food in the serving, and the amount of fiber and ash (yes ash!) present. Protein and fat in the food will tend to lower the GI because they reduce the body’s ability to digest the carb quickly. Soluble fibre (inulin) has the same effect, insoluble fibre (bran) does so to a lesser extent.
The irony here is that a serving with more calories can have a lower GI, but exactly the same type and amount of carbs. This also shows the danger of consuming significant amounts of refined carbs (even fruit juices) on their own as they can produce a rapid blood sugar spike. Again balance is best in all things.
One might assume because of this that the answer is to avoid all carbs, and certain diets (Atkins for example) do go in this direction. However the body needs a good balance of protein, fat and carbs for health. So the answer appears to be the correct choice and amount of carbs. The Glycemic index and the Glycemic Load are useful tools in the achievement of this end.
The glycemic load (GL) is the glycemic index multiplied by the amount of carbs in the serving. So in a way it represents the actual effect the serving of food will have on blood sugar level.
The Glycemic Index on it’s own can be a little misleading because portion sizes are not taken into account. Foods that contain low quantities of carbs can still score highly because large amounts are required for the test.
To produce the required 50 grams of carbs about 12 carrots are necessary but only 3 slices of bread. So the GI for carrots is almost 50, for bread it is 70, not a huge difference. In reality nobody eats 12 carrots at a sitting.
This is where the glycemic load comes in. The GI for carrots is 50, the amount of carbs per serving is 4. So the GL is 2 (50 by 4 divided by 100). The glycemic load for a serving of bread is 10. This is a much more realistic indication of the effect carrots and bread have on blood sugar levels.
Rating System for Glycemic Index:
Below 55 – low GI.
56 to 69 – medium GI.
Above 70 -high GI.
Rating System for Glycemic Load:
Below 11 – low GL.
11 to 19 – medium GL.
Above 19 -high GL.
For sweeteners the glycemic index is useful as in most cases they consist of pure carbohydrate. Thus the GI offers a fair comparison between them. Natural sweeteners can contain soluble fiber and other substances that tend to slow metabolism and reduce the effect of blood sugar.
Glycemic Index for Sweeteners
The glycemic index for sweeteners is a function of three things:
1. The amount of carbohydrate present.
2. The type of carbohydrate present.
3. The presence of other substances (soluble fiber for example) that slow metabolism of carbohydrates.
Glucose has a glycemic index (GI) of 100 and fructose is 25. Sucrose (Ordinary sugar) which is made up of a combination of these two has a GI of 65.
The search for a low GI natural sugar based sweetener is somewhat futile as they all contain combinations of the above, or similar sugars.
Barley Malt Syrup
Coconut Palm Sugar
Brown Rice Syrup
Luo Han Guo
Although fructose has a fairly low GI, it has other harmful effects and must be considered unsafe to take in large quantities. Agave Syrup has a low GI because it is mainly fructose. Agave has been delisted and banned by the Glycemic Research Institute of Washington DC because serious side effects were observed in clinical trials.
Coconut Palm Sugar contains mainly sucrose and one would expect a GI of about 65. However it scores well in the glycemic index for sweeteners list. Tests have indicated a GI of only about 35. This may be partly because of other substances in it such as soluble fiber. However, the testing was very limited. More testing may well produce a higher GI.
Yacon Syrup, scores best in the Glycemic Index for Sweeteners that are sugar based. It derives it’s sweetness from Fructo-oligosaccharides, a type of sugar with a very low GI. It is probably the only truly raw, organic, natural, low calorie, and low glycemic sweetener available.
Sugar alcohols tend to have very low GIs. In particular Erythritol has a GI of only 1, and it is a safe low calorie sweetener that occurs naturally in some fruits and mushrooms. While many of the other sugar alcohols also have low GIs they can have side effects such as abdominal cramping if taken in even moderate quantities.
Both the natural zero calorie sweeteners such as Stevia, and the artificial ones such as Saccharin have no glycemic index. They do not raise blood sugar at all. This brings up another issue: The human body is programmed to react to the taste of sweet things.
Studies have shown that insulin is secreted by the pancreas soon after the sweet taste is experienced on the tongue, whether the substance contains calories or not. The body is fooled by the zero calorie sweetener. It expects glucose to hit the bloodstream and it gets none. This may result in increased appetite soon after.
Some studies have indicated that zero calorie sweeteners do not help reduce weight, and this may explain the reason. However this does not take into account several useful aspects of zero calorie sweeteners:
1. They do not cause a blood sugar spike and this alone is beneficial to health.
2. They are suitable for diabetics who would otherwise have a limited choice of sweet things.
3. They are harmless to teeth.
4. All things being equal they contain no calories and should be of assistance in a diet plan.
Perhaps the best use of zero calorie sweeteners would be to reduce the sugars in food and beverages, not eliminate them. Say a person drinks a bottle of cola each day. This contains about 12.5 spoons of sugar and 200 calories. If they drank a reduced sugar cola made with half stevia or saccharin they would halve the amount of sugar, yet still receive a glucose boost. Indeed the lowering of the sugar intensity could provide a more steady supply of glucose to the bloodstream and dramatically reduce or eliminate the insulin load.
Are you having trouble losing unwanted extra weight even though you exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet and exercise? Maybe the plastics in your life are adding inches to your waistline. Research reveals that synthetic chemicals found in plastic can interfere with normal cell development in the body. These chemicals have been classified as endocrine disruptors and specific types known as obesogens have been linked to increased body fat and fatty liver, which further causes weight gain.
The body’s endocrine system secretes hormones to cells, organ and glands to regulate everything from mood to sexual function and growth and metabolism. Obesogens mimic certain hormones and these imposters have the ability to create fat cells or add fat to existing fat cells. Considering plastic is not a recognized food group, how are these chemicals getting into our body? They can be found in plastic containers and wrappings in which we store food, tin can linings (think Bisphenol A or its more common acronym, BPA which actually reduces the number of fat cells but makes those that remain much larger), and chemical pesticides found on “fresh” food and in water supplies. Further research has shown that touching non-food products that contain phthalates and plasticizers, including household décor like PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) blinds can introduce obesogens into the body.
Getting as much plastic as possible out of your life is a great start. However, the synthetic chemical-obesity link does not stop there. In Randall Fitzgerald’s book The One-Hundred Year Lie (Plume 2006), he discusses the hidden synthetic chemicals masquerading as food ingredients. These include monosodium glutamate (MSG) and artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Fitzgerald states that, in animal studies, MSG stimulates the release of hormones throughout the body and continued exposure results in extreme obesity and problems with sexual reproduction. The author also reveals that when scientists studying diabetes need obese laboratory rats, they inject them with MSG shortly after they are born.
The synthetic chemicals used in artificial sweeteners (ironically promoted as the diet version of sugar) can also wreak havoc on hormones and contribute to weight gain. Fitzgerald cites a study by the American Cancer Association that tracked eighty thousand women for six years. Women who used artificial sweeteners gained more weight than women who avoided these products.
These insidious chemicals are also found in non-stick cookware, stain repellents in carpets and fabric, and water-proof materials like Gore-Tex™ in the form of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). They are truly hard, if not impossible to avoid but here are some things you can do to reduce your exposure:
Ways to Reduce Your Exposure to Obesogens:
1. Go fresh and organic: skip the package, processed and prepared foods that come in plastic containers, tin cans (unless they say BPA-free) and buy inexpensive, bulk organic fruits and vegetables. While these foods can still be contaminated with pesticides from other non-organic products, you will reduce your exposure and enjoy the great taste of fresh, wholesome food.
2. Skip the fast-food: Once you indulge in the fresh food above, the offerings from the drive-thru won’t be appealing any more. You will also reduce the amount of styrofoam, wax paper and plastic garbage you create and the amount of troublesome chemicals you ingest.
3. Buy natural fabric fashions: They aren’t perfect because they may still be treated and dyed using chemicals, but your exposure to obesogens will be less if you avoid the synthetic materials.
4. Think twice about buying it if it is plastic: Let’s be honest … most plastic products, including toys, are cheap, poorly-made, and break easily. Scale down your purchases and buy quality items made from safer, sturdier materials.
5. Get plastic out of the kitchen: Great non-plastic food preparation and storage tools are readily available. Try to find alternatives or look for BPA-free products if plastic is the only option. Give stainless steel pots and cast iron pans a chance. You’ll love the obesogen-free food you prepare to support your health and well-beings. And, never microwave food in plastic containers.
Health.com / Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD @goodhealth
The fake stuff actually increases your cravings
Yet another new study supports what I’ve seen in my private practice for years – artificial sweeteners actually increase cravings. Scientists say that faux sugars activate the brain’s pleasure center, without satisfying it, which triggers an increased desire for sweets. That’s probably why statistically, people who drink diet beverages aren’t slimmer–one report found that two-can-a-day diet drinkers had a 54.5% chance of becoming overweight or obese, compared to 32.8% for those who drank the same amount of regular soda.
While I’m certainly not recommending drinking regular soda, I do believe that kicking the diet habit is essential for sustainable weight control and optimal health. I’ve had numerous clients who worried they’d never be able to give up the artificial stuff, or that doing so would lead to weight gain, but the outcome is always the same–fewer cravings for sweets, a heightened ability to tune into hunger and fullness cues, and far more effortless weight loss. If you’re ready to give fake sugars the old heave-ho, put these five steps into action.
Go cold turkey (and be sure to uncover hidden sources!)
In addition to diet drinks and those little colored packets, artificial sweeteners may be lurking in foods you don’t suspect, including gum, yogurt, flavored water, protein shakes, and powders, even cereal. To scope them out, read every ingredient list carefully. Generic names include aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, or Ace K, and saccharin. While stevia is marketed as natural, I recommend avoiding this additive as well. In my experience, its intense sweetness (100 times sweeter than sugar) may also drive a desire for sweets, and groups like Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) raise important concerns about its safety.
Start a cravings journal
In addition to tracking what and how much they eat, I ask my clients to record their hunger/fullness ratings before and after meals, as well as any observations related to cravings, whether physical or emotional. Their post-artificial sweetener observations can be pretty darn remarkable. I’ve had clients who were self-proclaimed artificial sweetener addicts suddenly lose their sweet tooths. One was shocked when she had no desire to sneak a spoonful of her son’s pudding. Another was struck by the realization that when she stopped doctoring up her a.m. coffee with fake sugar, she no longer felt like nibbling all morning on office treats.
Satisfy sweet cravings with fruit
Research indicates that fruit can indeed satisfy a sweet tooth, and it’s a far better option than a calorie-free sweetener for several reasons. First, the naturally occurring sugar in fresh fruit is bundled with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and fluid, key nutrients that nourish your body and support your overall health. The sugar in fruit is also non-concentrated–one cup of grapes (about the size of a tennis ball) contains about 15 grams of sugar, a few grams less than the amount in just a tablespoon of honey. Finally, studies show that regular fruit eaters weigh less, even more so than veggie eaters, probably because fruit tends to displace sweets (e.g. reaching for an apple instead of a cookie), whereas veggies tend to be add-ons. Fruit is fantastic by itself, but you can also get creative with it. Add a little mashed in-season fruit to your ice water, toss fruit on the grill or bake it in the oven, warm fruit on the stovetop, seasoned with spices like cinnamon, cloves, or ginger, or sauté your favorite fruits in a little extra virgin coconut oil. If there are varieties you haven’t yet tried, like dragon fruit or carambola (akastarfruit), give them a whirl. There’s a bounty of nature’s candy to discover.
Use “sweet” spices
While not technically sweet themselves, spices like ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg enhance natural sweetness, and can take the place of some or all of the sugar in various dishes. I relish sprinkling cinnamon and nutmeg, or a spice blend (pumpkin pie spice, apple pie spice) into my morning cup of coffee, and many of my clients find that adding these aromatic, satisfying seasonings to foods like hot or cold whole-grain cereal, natural nut butter, nonfat organic Greek yogurt, and baked sweet potato, allows them to forgo sweeteners all together. Bonus: they’re potent sources of antioxidants, which are cell bodyguards that protect against premature aging and disease; one teaspoon of cinnamon packs as much antioxidant power as a half cup of blueberries.
Enjoy real sugar sparingly
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the daily target for added sugar (e.g. the sugar you add to coffee or the sugar added by manufacturers to sweetened yogurt, baked goods, etc.) should be no more than 6 level teaspoons for women, and 9 for men–that’s for both food and beverages combined. If you’re eating clean, and avoiding processed foods that often contain hidden added sugar (such as salad dressing, canned soup, and tomato sauce), you can afford to build small, sweet splurges into your overall healthy diet. For example, a half cup of coconut milk ice cream contains about 10 grams of sugar, a two inch brownie about 12 grams, and two tasting squares of 75% dark chocolate about 4 grams, roughly a teaspoon worth (every 4 grams of added sugar equals a teaspoon). In my experience, avoiding artificial sweeteners tends to curb sweet cravings overall, but when they do strike, indulging in a small amount of the real thing is the best way to satisfy your fix, and move on. My mantra: keep calm and eat real food.