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Friday, January 06, 2006

Is Splenda (or any artificial sweetener) safe? Living healthy in 2006...

This year, I'm trying to return to the healthy eater I used to be. Over the past few years (thanks to habits I easily picked up in college) I've eaten a lot of fast food, drank a lot of soda, and in general not taken care of my body. Besides the fact that I've gone from a basketball playing kid to a computer programming adult, like many Americans the convenience of Arby's, Grotto's Pizza, and Chinese Food delivery has beaten out my desire to go food shopping more often than I'd like to admit. Granted, I did give up Mountain Dew (almost cold turkey - from about 8 cups a day in November to 5 or 6 total all of last month) - but I still ingest a lot of random crap, especially in place of meals (the big problem).

Sure, I love healthy food - when they're there I eat my vegetables, especially leafy greens like spinach and collards (with hot sauce, of course); I like to go out for sushi; most importantly, I truly enjoy cooking and eating a healthy, home-cooked meal. But I just don't eat it as much as I should.

So, with the disappearence of a significant amount of sugar, caffeine [1], and carbonation that used to dance all day in my stomach, my insides took some time to balance, obviously. I now drink tea, Snapple and sometimes Sierra Mist, which is caffeine free, at work. It's amazing what an effect something as simple as Mountain Dew can do to a person's insides. I can seriously say I feel hundreds of times better with it out of my system, in many aspects. As everyone knows Mountain Dew is especially loaded with caffeine, having 10mg more caffeine in a 20oz bottle than Coke.

Check out school cafeterias: Kids are bypassing milk for cans of Coke (45 milligrams), Pepsi (37), Mountain Dew (55) and Sunkist (40), bought at school pop machines or served at the fast-food franchises now at 13 percent of the nation's schools. Glance at family shopping carts: Sodas are the best-selling product at grocery stores--$11.7 billion annually in sales. And four of the five most popular soft drinks in the United States are caffeinated, with No. 4 Sprite the sole exception. The top drinkers, teen boys, pop open an average of three sodas a day. [1]


Anyway, my family is prone to diabetes, so I feel much healthier and safer overall. I feel much less "randomly hostile", and my ups and downs have decreased significantly. I wake up with a "hangover head" (that heavy, need more sleep feeling you get after a great night out...or a night programming for 10 hours) about twice a month (not including nights I drink of course), compared to 3-4 workdays a week when I was doin the Dew. I have never been a morning person, and I stay up stupid late, so I always attributed those side effects to my terrible sleep habits. But, with the Dew gone, I still have the terrible sleep habits - but not the morning stomach and headaches I used to. So with Dew gone, it's time to phase out something else unhealthy that regularly sneaks its way into my life. Enter artificial sweeteners.

The chemical process to make sucralose alters the chemical composition of the sugar so much that it is somehow converted to a fructo-galactose molecule. This type of sugar molecule does not occur in nature and therefore your body does not possess the ability to properly metabolize it. As a result of this "unique" biochemical make-up, McNeil Nutritionals makes it's claim that Splenda is not digested or metabolized by the body, making it have zero calories.

It is not that Splenda is naturally zero calories. If your body had the capacity to metabolize it then it would no longer has (sic) zero calories. [6]


Now, with all the crazy news about Aspartame possibly (probably?) being extremely toxic [3], and now Splenda being under the knife [4-6], I think I'm going to drop artificial sweeteners from my diet altogether. I've already completely given up Coffeemate, whose first ingredient after water is "Corn Syrup Solids" and contains no milk, but instead Sodium Caseinate (A Milk Derivative, not a source of Lactose). I won't even go into details on what that stuff did to my stomach (brewed tea was my replacement for Dew at work, and the Coffeemate made me feel almost as bad as the Dew did, in much shorter order). Let's just say from now on it's milk, or nothing.

So goodbye, Mountain Dew - I'll see you again occasionally, I'm sure. And don't let the door hit you on the way out, artificial sweeteners. You're just no good for me - or anybody.

Resources

[1] Caffeine and Children
[2] Diabetes.org
[3] Aspartame on Wikipedia (see section 3.1 and 4)
[4] The Hidden Chemicals In Splenda
[5] The Secret Dangers of Splenda (Sucralose)
[6] 12 Questions You Need to Have Answered Before You Eat Splenda

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