I’ll admit I was taken in by the lure of the so called “natural” calorie free sweeteners like Stevia, Erythritol and Xylitol. Although in the back of my mind I knew I never felt quite right after eating foods containing them!
A reader of our blogs told me about a book and asked if I had read it – “The Stevia Deception” by Dr Bruce Fife. After I read it I now know why I felt so bad.
My old man before he passed away used to remind me constantly that there was no such thing as a free lunch and that if it looks too good to be true it often is. I also remember a quote I read a while ago – “The day a man or woman thinks he/she can get something for nothing is the saddest day of that persons life”.
The funny thing is – I was just about to launch an EU manufactured Erythritol product on Amazon but have since abandoned the idea. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror if I started selling products I knew to be harmful.
Here is a brief summary of the key conclusions drawn in the book (which mainly talks about Stevia but also tars all other non calorific sweeteners with the same brush):
1. Major multi billion dollar corporations like Coca Cola, PepsiCo, Cargill etc are heavily invested in these “natural” sweeteners as consumers switch from sugar to non sugar sweeteners for health and weight loss reasons. Whenever an adverse study comes along these major corporations seek to bury the study in a wave of more positive “company sponsored” studies. The author makes a great point – nobody who publishes the adverse studies has anything to gain from publishing them apart from a desire to get to the truth. On the other hand companies like Coca Cola etc have everything to gain from publishing the company sponsored studies showing these sweeteners to be harmless. I’ll leave it up to you who you believe.
2. There is no such thing as a “natural” sugar alternative. 99% of all the Stevia sold on the market is a derivative of the Stevia leaf which is manufactured in China – a country that was caught adding Melamine (a poisonous substance used in the production of plastics) to infant formula and milk products to boost protein readings – https://clicks.aweber.com/y/ct/?l=CV_1u&m=kATeaBtdU6icE4Y&b=Cii4ej2_k0j73rXvHf4gjQ . Erythritol is mainly fermented from GMO corn in the US and Xylitol is made from Birch. Although Erythritol and Xylitol occur in nature – the levels are nowhere near those in the products purchased by consumers.
3. Just like sugar – all natural and non natural sugar replacements like Stevia, Xylitol and Erythritol will kick you out of Ketosis (the goal of fasting in which your body burns Ketones and makes use of your fat stores). I’ve actually stopped brushing my teeth in the morning and switched to after lunch for this exact reason as all toothpastes contain an artificial or so called natural sweetener. I’ve even stopped taking supplements containing sweeteners and located non sweetened versions – it’s surprising how many have sweeteners in them!
4. All of these non sugar sweeteners mess with your body in an adverse way. They activate sweet receptors on your tongue and in your Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract which causes your body to release insulin. Without the normal level of glucose to get rid of your blood sugar drops way, way down. This causes you to feel light headed and to end up eating more to make up for this light headed feeling (this is what used to happen to me). Because the non sugar sweetener molecules are too big to enter your bloodstream they circulate in your body activating the sweet receptors over an extended period of time. This releases hormones that disrupt your gut bacteria – promoting the “get fat and unhealthy bacteria” (Firmicutes) and reducing the “stay slim and be healthy bacteria” (Bacteriodites). It can also burn out your sweet receptors if you consume large amounts of non sugar sweeteners over an extended period of time!
5. Some people can be allergic to these non sugar sweeteners. There have been near death experiences with children being rushed to hospital. Xylitol and Stevia are also unsafe for pets like dogs. This isn’t a reason on it’s own to give up on them but certainly gives you pause for thought.
6. These non sugar sweeteners are generally many times sweeter than sugar and can become addictive – requiring more and more to get that initial sweet hit. Anecdotal reports have come in from users who say they need a higher dose to achieve the same level of sweetness. The problem here is that you are not breaking your sugar addiction – simply replacing it with another more dangerous substitute.
The sad thing is I predict that the recent government initiatives to implement a “sugar tax” may backfire in the future as the very thing they wanted to reduce (sugar) has been replaced with a far worse alternative. Also as discussed – we are just kicking the problem down the road by not tackling peoples addictions to sweet food in the first place.