By Dr. Elliot Hirshorn
Last week we talked about sugar and the enormous impact it can have not only on overall health but also on your individual longevity. So great are the side effects of sugar on how long you may live that they actually equal those of smoking. Yes, that’s right, sugar can be just as bad as smoking. Read last week’s blog to learn more.
Let us continue the sugar conversation. In response to my article last week, you may be retorting, “But Dr. Hirshorn! I don’t use sugar, I use artificial sweetener ______.” Did you know that artificial sweeteners can be as bad if not worse for you than actual sugar? Wait! Don’t run away yet… there’s hope!
Before we get to the solutions, however, it’s important to properly understand the problem. As you may be aware, over the last few decades our country has seen a steady rise in obesity. Did you also know that the rise in obesity has also coincided with a rise in the use of artificial sweeteners? Instead of helping to curb obesity, artificial sweeteners have contributed to the obesity problem!
Several studies have linked these sweeteners with increased risk to obesity. When people use artificial sweeteners they actually end up taking in more calories overall which leads to the weight gain. This may be due to the influence of the sweeteners on the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that regulates eating behaviors. For example, the more sweetness you taste, the greater your appetite becomes. This then becomes a vicious cycle that becomes like an addiction. Sugar stimulates the same pleasure centers in the brain as sex and even drugs like heroin and cocaine. So, once you are hooked, it is very difficult for you to quit. The food industry knows this and that is exactly why they use these substances. These influences are just as bad in children as they are in adults as well. A study of over 3,000 children showed that those that drank diet soda had a significantly higher body mass index.
Unfortunately the detrimental effects of artificial sweeteners do not end with obesity. They have also been linked to cancer. Aspartame, for instance, when digested, breaks down into three main ingredients: methanol, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. The processing of methanol in your body can create formaldehyde, which is known to cause cancer. Yes, that is the same formaldehyde used to preserve human bodies when they die! Just one soda per day with aspartame leads to a 31% increased risk for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, 42% increased risk for leukemia and a 102% increased risk for multiple myeloma. The more soda with aspartame you drink, the worse the risk becomes.
Artificial sweeteners, like sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame potassium (Sweet One), and aspartame (Nutri-Sweet), are found in thousands of different “food” products including baby food, frozen foods and most commonly, carbonated drinks. We consume over 4,500 TONS of aspartame in sodas alone each year. Remember, that’s the one that’s been specifically linked to cancer!
Okay, remember what I said… there’s hope! However, it does require a lot of effort on your part. Remember I also said we are addicted to sugar? That means when you get off of it, including the artificial kind, you are going to go through withdrawal. You may be cranky and irritable. You will be tempted to give up. DO NOT GIVE UP! After a few days or maybe even a week or so, these withdrawal symptoms will go away and you will immediately begin reaping the benefits of reducing your sugar intake. You may sleep better and have more energy, you might not be as irritable, and you will probably begin losing weight, just to name a few short term improvements. Of course, you will improve your long term health outlook as well by preventing further obesity and reducing your risk for cancer.
Once you break your addiction to sugar, you may occasionally want or even need to add some sweetness to a recipe. So, what are best alternatives to processed white sugar and the artificial sweeteners? Here three suggestions…
1. Organic fruits like berries.
2. Organic, grade B maple syrup
3. Organic, local honey
Each of these can be used sparingly, in moderation, once you have broken your sugar addiction and reached your health goals.
If you have a chronic health condition like diabetes and/or neuropathy (burning, numbness or tingling in your feet) and would like more information about how we can help you, please call New Life Functional Neurology & Endocrinology at 864-757-8500 to see if you qualify for care and to schedule a complimentary consultation.
Dr. Elliot Hirshorn is a board-certified chiropractic neurologist and practitioner of functional medicine at New Life Functional Neurology & Endocrinology in Greenville, SC. The information contained herein is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or diagnosis and does not replace or constitute a doctor-patient relationship. Please seek out the advice of a qualified health care practitioner before making any health-related decisions.