Should Sugar Be Regulated As a Toxin? And What About Artificial Sweeteners?
I’m passionate about mindful eating, particularly since I’ve become a mom, so I try to stay on top of the latest news about what we eat and drink. Sugar and artificial sweeteners come up a lot–after all, these substances can adversely affect our children’s health (and ours), yet so many of us consume them without a second thought. Two recent reports about sugar and artificial sweeteners came my way this morning, and I think both offer important information.
Let’s start with the report about sugar. According to a LiveScience.com report: Sugar and other sweeteners are, in fact, so toxic to the human body that they should be regulated as strictly as alcohol by governments worldwide, according to a commentary in the current issue of the journal Nature by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
These researchers propose regulations such as taxing all foods and drinks that include added sugar, banning sales in or near schools and placing age limits on purchases, according to the report. They make a pretty convincing case that, as noted in the report, “added sugar–or, more specifically, sucrose, an even mix of glucose and fructose found in high-fructose corn syrup and in table sugar made from sugar cane and sugar beets–has been as detrimental to society as alcohol and tobacco.”
I love the idea of tougher regulations on sugar, particularly since, as writer Christopher Wanjek points out, it’s been proven to increase your blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as your risk for liver failure, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. These regulations would affect me, too–sugary drinks are my downfall. As I write this blog post I’m sipping on a (sugary) caramel latte, and it’s absolutely delish.
But while we’re at it, why stop with sugar?
I also vote for controls on artificial sweeteners and products that contain artificial sweeteners. I try to avoid artificial sweeteners–and I don’t give Mason anything with artificial sweetener–but when I really need an Orange Crush or a Cherry Coke, the diet option sometimes wins out. As a busy working mom, I don’t have the luxury of my pre-preggo personal training sessions at the gym, and I worry about getting fat. Turns out my vanity, and perhaps even yours, could put us at greater risk for cardiac problems–and our logic appears to be wrong about diet soda keeping the pounds at bay, anyway.
A new study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine shows that drinking diet soda every day is linked with a higher risk of stroke and heart attack, according to a report published yesterday in The Huffington Post. (Researchers did not find the same risk with people who drank diet soda more occasionally, between six a week and once a month.) Why do some people drink so much diet soda? According to Health.com, the explanation is really quite simple:
Although diet soda clearly isn’t as addictive as a drug like nicotine, experts say the rituals that surround diet soda and the artificial sweeteners it contains can make some people psychologically — and even physically — dependent on it in ways that mimic more serious addictions. And unlike sugared soda, which will make you gain weight if you drink too much of it, zero-calorie soda doesn’t seem to have an immediate downside that prevents people from overindulging.
However, according to HuffPo, a study presented at the American Diabetes Association meeting showed that drinking diet soda is linked with having a wider waistline. So much for that diet soda = skinny waist logic. In a statement, study researcher Helen P. Hazuda, Ph.D., a professor and chief of clinical epidemiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio’s School of Medicine, says: “Data from this and other prospective studies suggest that the promotion of diet sodas and artificial sweeteners as healthy alternatives may be ill-advised. They may be free of calories but not of consequences.”
Thoughts? Share them here!
Photos: Shutterstock, area381 (sugar); Shutterstock, ER_09 (soda)