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Tag: sugar

Sugary Drinks May Up Disability in MS

I’m always surprised at how many adults admit to drinking mainstream sodas on a regular basis, both diet and otherwise. At my talk about hidden inflammation last week, I mentioned the potential inflammatory role that artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, saccarine, and high fructose corn syrup may play in sparking the inflammatory response in sensitive people, and the benefits of avoiding them all together. The majority of the audience (mostly middle-aged women) confessed that this was new information for them!

Coca-Cola Classic_klein.jpgA new study out of Germany examined the link between sugary drink intake and the inflammation associated with multiple sclerosis and found “In an analysis of 135 people with MS, those ranked in the highest quartile for sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) intake had five-fold higher odds for severe disability versus mild-to-moderate disability.”

“The authors found that the highest consumption group consumed around 290 calories per day of soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages, which is the equivalent of about two cans of non-diet soda.”

The first thing I wanted to know was if the soft drinks in Germany were formulated with high fructose corn syrup like they are here in the US. In yet another sad example of how big companies formulate unhealthier and artificially sweeter products for the US market than the European market, it appears at least Coca Cola uses sugar (most likely from sugar beets) in European Cokes.

Of course, they still add food dye and preservatives like phosphoric acid to European Cokes, just like they do in America, and the study did not take these artificial ingredients into account as potentially influencing factors, which I believe they are, and more so than the sugar itself.

Regardless, if you are looking to avoid and reduce inflammation in your body, whether you have MS, another autoimmune disorder, or are just dealing with rampant inflammation, the results of this study should influence you to cut out all mainstream soda, both diet and regular versions.

If you like carbonated drinks, the safest bets are to stick with bubbly spring waters or make your own with a Soda Stream and mix it with pure and natural substances like coconut water or organic fruit juice.


High Fructose Corn Syrup vs. Sugar

The Corn Refiners Association would like us to believe that ingesting high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is as natural for the body as eating an ear of corn. They even snail-mailed me a whole package filled with convincingly-assembled literature after I wrote a post critical of HFCS, not to mention their slick television campaign showing teenagers drinking sodas and talking about how “natural” HFCS is.

Luckily, we, the purchasing public, are not so easily fooled.

High fructose corn syrup is the result of a highly complex chemical process conducted in a laboratory — this stuff does not occur naturally on our planet, it has to be synthesized. Just knowing this should be setting off warning bells.

If you read Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, you know that we overproduce corn in this country, and in an effort to help our farmers add value to the US corn crop the University of Iowa developed a host of corn byproducts, including HFCS.

A sample of products made with high fructose corn syrup
A sample of products made with high fructose corn syrup

HFCS exploded on the market in the early 1980s because it was cheaper than sugar and had a longer shelf-life. Coincidentally, the obesity epidemic in this country really began to build around this time (it really exploded in the 1990s). In the last twenty years, HFCS has captured 56% of the sweetener marketplace. Hmmmm…. Could there be a connection?

There have been enough complaints stirred up about high fructose corn syrup in products that some companies are responding to customer demand by switching to real cane or beet sugar, including Snapple, Ocean Spray, Log Cabin Syrup, and some Pepsi products.

Is it better to ingest products made with sugar than those made with HFCS? In a word: Yes.

And no.

While sugar will be metabolized much better than HFCS, it can still carry a glycemic load and can spike blood sugar levels and then send you crashing down afterward. The most preferable way to eat sugar is to have sweet things following a healthy meal, when the stomach has other foods in it to buffer the digestion. The least perferable way to eat sugar is on an empty stomach.

Most unfortunately, I did see recently that soon all of the sugar beets in this country will be genetically modified beets. Sigh.

When I purchase sugar to use at home, I choose raw, unbleached, organic cane sugar.

Why Splenda (Sucralose) is Not So Splendid

This past weekend, my son set up a Cotton Candy stand during our neighborhood block party. Cotton Candy, of course, is spun sugar with food coloring. And I don’t have a problem with “sugar.”

Yeah, you heard me right: I don’t have a problem with eating sugar!

I don’t mean we should have all sugar, all the time. Certainly not! Everything in moderation, and sweets are best eaten after a healthy meal to minimize the glycemic rush. But when it comes to choices of sweeteners, I don’t have much of a problem with cane sugar. It’s the other stuff, the sugar substitutes, that will kill ya’.

I arrived late to the party to hear the report that, while the Cotton Candy machine instructions claimed you could make your own sugar base for cotton candy with sugar and some powdered drink mix for flavoring/color, the mixture did not produce the sticky webs of candy as promised. I surmised that the problem was the drink mix: the container screamed that it contained “1/2 the sugar” as the regular mix.

Aaaahhhh… the well-meaning adult who chose this type of drink mix in the mistaken belief that less-sugar must equal better-for-you. We have all been hoodwinked by the artificial sweetener industry, and we should be outraged.

The marketing promises of “Less sugar!”, “Zero calories!”, and “Sugar free!” send me running scared down supermarket aisles. Think about it: They are telling you that they removed the sugar, yet you are still expecting the product to be sweet-tasting. Translation: The product is artificially sweetened using a chemically-created sweetener such as Nutrasweet/Aspartame, Saccharine, or Splenda, for example.

In fact, our drink mix listed sucralose. And it didn’t spin like sugar.

Yep, the claim that Splenda (sucralose) is derived from sugar, and therefore is as safe for human consumption as sugar, is so off-base that the sugar industry is suing Splenda for deceptive marketing practices (I have not been able to determine the current status, but they went to court in January of this year).

Splenda’s core ingredient is a nonnutritive sweetener that does not grow in sugar fields or appear elsewhere naturally. Rather, the core ingredient, sucralose, is manufactured in laboratories as a synthetic compound. Despite its similar-sounding name, sucralose is not the same thing as sucrose, the technical name for pure table sugar.

Guess who markets Splenda? Johnson & Johnson, the subject of another recent post of mine concerning toxic chemicals in baby shampoo. Interesting how J&J want to position themselves as a family-friendly company, yet the more we learn the more they resemble the evil Monsanto in terms of spreading toxins.

Sucralose belongs to a class of compounds known as organochlorides (or chlorocarbons). Some organochlorides are toxic to plants or animals, including humans.

Rushed to market, the FDA approved Splenda for human consumption based on a number of animal studies and only a couple, very short-term (days-long) studies involving humans. There is no way yet that scientists can know what the long-term effects of Splenda are on the human body, but we should know enough by now to assume that they aren’t beneficial or life-giving. In fact, Splenda is chemically more similar to DDT than to sugar.

A Duke university study found evidence that high doses of Splenda (up to 1000 mg/kg) reduced the amount of good bacteria in the intestines of rats by up to 50%, increases the pH level in the intestines, contributes to increases in body weight and affects the P-glycoprotein (P-gp) in the body in such a way that crucial health-related drugs could be rejected. (Abou-Donia MB, El-Masry EM, Abdel-Rahman AA, McLendon RE, Schiffman SS (2008). “Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats”. J. Toxicol. Environ. Health Part A 71 (21): 1415–29. doi:10.1080/15287390802328630. PMID 18800291.)

I bolded the line above to highlight that Splenda and other artificial sweeteners actually contribute to weight gain rather than accelerate weight loss. See the extent of our brainwashing?

Give me real sugar over a sugar substitute any day. Even better, make it organic, raw cane sugar.