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Exactly Why Artificial Sweeteners Are Terrible

By Robyn Openshaw, MSW | Feb 27, 2013

Aspartame (or brand name Nutrasweet).  Joe Mercola says it’s the most dangerous substance added to foods. I might quibble with that, because mono sodium glutamate is a neurotoxin every bit as deadly. And the nitrates and nitrites in cured meats are potently carcinogenic.

I’d agree that aspartame is a TOP THREE worst things, to avoid at all costs.

A chemist discovered this concentrated sweetener when testing a drug. Although it was approved in the 70’s, a neuroscience researcher and a consumer attorney objected, and the FDA put the approval on hold.

Unfortunately it would not be on hold forever, because chemical company Monsanto bought it and the rest is history. We have over 4,000 food additives approved for use by our FDA, and literally the majority of complaints to the FDA about health problems caused by food additives, are related to aspartame alone. There is far more evidence of the harm caused the American public by aspartame than there ever was about saccharin, which was Americans’ chemical sweetener of choice prior to the 1980’s.

The main complaints to the FDA are related to death, and seizures. Headaches and migraines are also common. When I stopped drinking diet soda many years ago, even though I drank only 3-4 sodas a month, my own migraines stopped completely, never to return.

Others of the 90 documented symptoms of aspartame consumption include dizziness, depression, weight gain, rashes, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, vision and hearing problems, loss of taste, memory loss, joint pain, breathing problems, heart racing, vertigo, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), hormone problems, and many more.

Why would ANY of these symptoms be acceptable to us, in order to eat a toxic chemical? And those are just the symptoms we FEEL. What is happening underneath the hood, that we don’t see or feel? What is happening to our disease risk? There is strong evidence that our soaring Multiple Sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases are related to massive consumption of aspartame (and MSG) in North America and Europe.

Physicians and researchers have also documented how chronic conditions can be triggered or worsened by eating this deadly chemical. Those include brain tumors and lesions, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease, and more.

Neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock, M.D., has been a tireless researcher, publishing his results of the effect on the American public of the twin neurotoxins that nearly every American eats: monosodium glutamate and aspartame. He references nearly 500 scientific articles about the neurological damage and other symptoms

He calls them excitotoxins, which means that they “excite the nervous system to death.” Don’t you want your nervous system, myelin sheaths intact, to keep you calm and happy for many years to come? If so, stop eating all Nutrasweet. You’re killing neurons every time you eat it.

Even gum. It’s got to go. It was the last thing to go, for me. But gone it is. No more diet sodas. Anything in a regular store that says “sugar free,” check the label, and avoid all aspartame and Nutrasweet 

Splenda is new enough that data isn’t available. Give it another decade. But saccharin was pushed out of the market by the manufacturers of the patented chemical Nutrasweet. The Nutrasweet bullies, trying to make an exclusive spot in the marketplace for their product, leveraged a study showing that massive quantities of saccharin caused cancer in rats. A much higher level of saccharin than any human could ever eat. I’m not saying this to defend saccharin. For all we know, low doses cause cancer too. It’s a safe bet that eating chemical sweeteners is a bad idea in general. But I’m making you aware of why the entire marketplace shifted from thousands of products sweetened with saccharin, to thousands now sweetened with aspartame.

It’s becoming widely known that aspartame, now, is phenomenally neurotoxic. So the fight to molecularly alter a sweetener, patent it, and foist it on the American public, is underway.

Enter Splenda. Be cynical here. This is where your critical thinking skills serve you well. Watch what has gone on, which is a fight over the money made on addiction, nothing more or better than that, and stay out of consumption of these foods. To participate is to be no better than rats in a maze.

Truvia. Truvia is the newest of the chemical sweeteners. It’s rather insidious marketing ploy is to align itself with stevia, which Americans began using later than much of the rest of the first world, due to the government strong-arming tactics of Nutrasweet’s owner, Monsanto. This isn’t stevia. It’s molecularly altered FROM stevia, so now it’s a synthetic chemical with sweetening properties.

Ask yourself. WHY would a manufacturer take a legitimate herb like stevia and change it? There’s one answer. PURE PROFIT. Because you can patent it and make a billion dollars. Don’t buy in. Your body does not recognize a synthetic chemical as food. It does not digest, assimilate, or eliminate non-food items. We have learned this from long, hard, sad experience.

We will find out only later what THIS white chemical does to the people who jumped in the maze and willingly started running around in it, gobbling up the pellets.

Be a free mouse. Run around in the field, eating grass and normal mouse food. Stay out of the maze.

Maltitol. It wrecks your gut. It’ll give you horrible gas, and your stomach will do flips. How can this be anything but bad for you? I can find little published on the health effects of sugar alcohols, but if you eat something with maltitol, the immediate effects give you clues that this is problematic as a “food.” 

Stevia. Use it if you want. But try to get away from everything needing to be super-sweet. I haven’t seen real evidence, but I’m reading more claims that your pancreas is stimulated by the SWEETNESS of a food, so replacing one toxic sweetener with a nontoxic one may not solve all our problems. Learn to love the taste of real food.

Stevia, at the end of the day, is still a crutch. I don’t know of any ill-health effects reported from its use. Still, only the refined version avoids “aftertaste,” so that’s mostly what’s being used. The less you use it, the better, if you’re serious about a whole-foods diet. However, I’m not concerned about it as a very minor part of the diet, and it would be my sweetener of choice in those I’m reviewing here.

Saccharin. It’s made a slight, half-hearted attempt back on the market. It was put on a rail out-of-town for causing cancer, but the studies did use massive amounts of the sweetener. That said, I wouldn’t call it safe. It’s probably preferable to aspartame, but that’s akin to saying it’s better to have prostate cancer than colon cancer. That’s true, but why have any cancer at all?

In conclusion, I’d far rather have you eat SUGAR than aspartame (Nutrasweet) or Splenda or Truvia. Sugar is deadly for your health, don’t get me wrong. But, eating neurotoxic chemicals is even worse.The best sweeteners are fruit and dates. Those are whole foods with fiber (to slow impact on the blood sugar) and many health benefits. The next-best are coconut sugar (my current favorite, lower glycemic index and high in minerals, neutral flavor), raw/organic agave, Grade B maple syrup, raw honey, brown rice syrup, or molasses.







Posted in: Detox, Food Industry, Research, Standard American Diet

22 thoughts on “Exactly Why Artificial Sweeteners Are Terrible”

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  1. Pam says:

    Excellent piece Robin! My last struggle is gum like you said yours was too. It’s tough- one day at a time. And I agree- regular sugar just doesn’t have the same hold it used to over me.

  2. Sophie says:

    Hi Robyn, how much real sugar is “bad” for you per day? What about having a 3 ounce dark chocolate bar that has about 62% cacao with 16 grams of sugar, spread out over two or three days? Isn’t dark chocolate supposed to be good for you? Thank you.

  3. Raquel says:

    I’ve also read bad things about how agave nectar is also just another chemical sweetener that is as much agave as corn is high fructose corn syrup! If this is true, health food leaders need to be aware and help dispel the math that it is ‘natural’.

  4. Sue says:

    What about Xylitol?

  5. Randy says:

    What about monk fruit sweeteners? My family keeps telling me about Nectresse from the manufacturer of Splenda. As with all artificial sweeteners, I look at it as an expensive form of empty calories. Do you have any data on the micronutrient content of any of these sweeteners?

    This is such a hard topic because it always seems to boil down to one of those “brain versus body” fights that we always have to have with ourselves every time we have to decide what to put in our bodies, The brain wants the sweet taste, but the body doesn’t have any use for the substance for any kind of maintenance or enhancement. But the brain is such a petulent child and always seems to find a way to get what it wants.

    That darn brain.

  6. Sugar Free Mama says:

    Thank you so much for this summary. I would love to know your thoughts on fructose powder, Fructevia (stevia/fructose blend), xytlitol or erythritol. I have tried these in baking, searching for an alternative to agave (which makes things overly brown and soft). I have been off refined sugar for almost three years now, and not only am I a happier and better person, but I no longer have any insomnia and get sick much less often. I am so grateful for your blog. It’s comforting to know there are other people out there with similar convictions! It’s hard to go against the tide of sugar in our culture, especially with kids. Thank you!

  7. Monika says:

    Robyn, I really appreciate the research you do and putting things into perspective. We have been enjoying Green Smoothies and sharing their benefits with family and friends. This may be silly, but even our dog has his special green smoothie bowl and enjoys his share. Big thank you to you.

  8. Susan says:

    Love your articles and great health information. I am new to trying Green Smoothies and recently read in a new book out called Fat Chance–Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease by Robert Lustig, M.D. about the importance of soluble and insoluble fiber in our diets. He brings up the problem of making fruit smoothies in the blender as “the shearing action of the blender blades completely destroys the insoluble fiber of the fruit.” I am wondering what your response to that is. He only spoke of fruit smoothies, but I imagine that would be true of smoothies containing vegetables as well. I also question, Isn’t “blending” also a form of processing our food? I am seriously trying to learn and would appreciate your response. Another question…I notice that you recommend Grade B maple syrup in some of your recipes. Why not grade A? What is the difference?

  9. Heidi says:

    I totally agree. But what if eating honey, agave, maple syrup, and dates/dried fruit puts me in a sugar binge too? Sometimes I just want something sweet, but it inevitably puts me into a total sugar binge, “healthy” or not. Any thoughts or suggestions?

  10. LuAnn says:

    Where does Xylatol fit in? Is it also an artificial sweetener? It’s supposedly great for your teeth.

  11. Kristin says:

    Hi Robyn,
    I very grateful for these sugar alternatives at the end! I was surprised to see molasses, but am thrilled. What is the difference between grade A & grade B maple syrup? I never noticed a grade until I just checked and we’ve got A. Also, its maple syrup making time here & my husband loves to make maple syrup. The trees are tapped. It’s a labor of love…. and we all look forward to it.
    I feel I’m making huge progress with getting my oldest child, 12, away from his “sweet tooth” ( thank God!) and these alternatives will help me for sure. We don’t consume any of the chemical sugars, but he WAS my high fructose corn guy. Since replacing some of his staples -BBQ sauce & wheat thins, & popsicle, honey mustard, to non HFCS replacements I’ve noticed changes in his over all choices. He’s starting to partake in some veggies…. Hoping to get him towards drinking some of the smoothies my other two children & I enjoy. Im not making all veggie, but mostly veggie w/ cranberries & blueberries. Thanks so much for all the info!!

  12. Erica says:

    What about the lead content in Brown Rice Syrup?

  13. Cristi says:

    Although coconut sugar is likely a good health option, it is creating an issue with our beloved coconut oil, etc. After reading this, I am choosing to no longer be a consumer of coconut sugar. http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/coconut_palm_sugar.htm?gclid=CIDrtaex47UCFQ-xnQodxlYAEg

  14. Sophie says:

    Hello Robyn,

    Is there an amount of regular sugar that is considered “safe” and “ok” for daily consumption? How about the sugar in dark chocolate, with a 62% cacao content and 16 grams of sugar for a 1.5 ounce portion?

    Thank you !

  15. Jennifer says:

    What about Monk fruit as a sugar substitue? How does it compare to Stevia? Supposedly it has a low impact on your blood sugar level

  16. Steph says:

    What is your opinion on turbinado sugar, or evaporated cane juice?

    1. Robyn says:

      Turbinado, or dried cane juice, are just marginally better than the refined version. Still acidic, still putting your pancreas through insulin shock, still as many calories, etc, but there are more minerals in the sugar. One a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being refined sugar, I’d put those two at a 2. Dates and fruit being a 10.

      1. Beth in TX says:

        Robyn – thanks for mentioning the turbinado/cane sugar – that was my first question after reading your post. I’ve been a GSG for three years, but have recently been adding dates instead of stevia/other sweetener – and I love them even more now! Thanks for all you do!

  17. Les Hall says:

    Great article thank you, I had been wondering about stevia, and I still think it may be ok to use the whole leaves in their unadulterated form in smoothies or such,jmo. Being a diabetic what really irks and irritates me is how the medical community pushes artificial sweetners.

  18. Lesley Goodall-Page says:

    I am soooooo addicted to sugar. I have begun today on learning to love green smoothies. I am using more fruit than I should but hey we have to start somewhere. Hopefully i will learn to give up sugar and sweetners in the near future.

  19. Amy says:

    What kind of sugar do you recommend for baking?

  20. stef b says:

    “Learn to love the taste of real food” HAH! I just hate drinking a giant SOUR smoothie 🙁

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