Halloween, and Beggars’ Night in Des Moines, are coming up at the end of the week which may raise concerns over children and their sugar intake from candy. That’s largely understandable, and it is not unusual for children to finish the evening with several pounds of candy in tow. All the press that surrounds sugar and candy intake at Halloween time seems odd, though, in light of how much sugar the average American eats the other 364 days of the year.
Some experts estimate that the average American consumes 350 to 440 calories of added sugars – the equivalent of 22 to 26 teaspoons – every day (a mere 6 teaspoons is recommended). It’s not just from candy, pop, cookies, or other sweets either. It is hiding in many processed foods like ketchup, yogurt, bread, and reduced or fat free dressings.
Many healthcare professionals agree that it’s contributing to our society’s weight gain, high blood-sugar levels, and record high diabetes rates. What’s more, according to recent research published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a sugar-filled diet can increase you risk of death by heart disease – even if you aren’t overweight. Eating significant amounts of sugar from any source (table sugar, honey, orange juice, etc.) can compromise your immune system’s ability to fight viruses, bacteria, and parasites. A 2015 study from the USDA Agricultural Research Service found that excess amounts of honey, table sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup all have similar effects on the body. Some research has even linked high sugar intake to cancer.
You may be thinking that artificial sweeteners could be a safer option, right? Well, not so fast.
Are Zero-Calorie Sweeteners Any Better?
One of the most common problems we see in our patients is related to toxicity from sugar substitutes like Splenda, Sweet & Low, and Equal. While all of these products have been FDA approved for safe consumption by the general public, many people have sensitivities in their chemical makeup.
The metabolic products of aspartame, the sweetener in Equal, have been known to overexcite neurons in the brain contributing to headaches, insomnia, and seizure disorders. Sucralose, found in Splenda, has been shown to alter hormone production in women. These chemical changes have also been known to cause digestion difficulties in people as well. Combine this with structural abnormalities in the spine and an abnormal functioning nervous system and it can be a recipe for disaster.
We’ve seen many patients where the only change recommended was for them to stop using artificial sweeteners in their coffee, and to stop drinking diet soft drinks and their body responded immediately. The big thing to remember is that just because something may not cause symptoms in most people, does not make it healthy to consume.
Although there are no calories from sugar substitutes, more research is showing that artificial sweeteners can play tricks on your body, causing it to over respond to signals from your taste buds, in many cases leading to weight gain.
Neither excess sugar nor zero-calorie sweeteners provide any form of positive health effects. Certainly, a treat once in a while won’t derail your health, but the ultimate way to lose weight and improve your health is to look to natural foods like raw fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth.