Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Artificial Sweetners and Giving Sugar a Break

Today's Globe and Mail had a short but thought-provoking article on aspartame, a popular artificial sweetener. The article dealt with conflicting views concerning the safety of the product. Two recent studies indicate that there is no link between the sweetener and either neurological disorders or cancer. Interestingly enough, both leads in these studies have links to the industry.

The US FDA has set the acceptable limit on aspartame consumption at 50 milligrams per kilo of body weight. The European Food Safety Authority prefers 40 milligrams, indicating that the jury's still out on the absolute safety or danger of the product.

I wanted to link to this article, but it doesn't appear to have been posted yet on the Internet. However, I did find an article about artificial sweeteners that I think is perhaps even more important. Leslie Beck wrote the following in a Globe and Mail article on April 3:

In a study published this summer, researchers from the University of Alberta found young animals that became used to diet foods tended to overeat during meals of regular-calorie food.

The scientists suspect that diet foods disrupted the animals' ability to learn how various flavours correlate with calories. In other words, if you learn to associate sweet tastes with few calories, even a high-calorie dessert may fail to fill you up.

Mother Nature has given almost everyone a serious taste for sugar. I believe it dates back to pre-history when humans desperately needed difficult-to-find sources of energy. We had to in effect gorge ourselves on what little honey we found! Of course, in today's world, we need sugar like a hole in the head and it is so ubiquitous we find ourselves having to flee it rather than seek it out.

However, being the hedonists that we are--and I am just as hedonistic as the next person...and proud of it!--we have turned to science to have our cake and eat it too. Literally. So we stuff ourselves full of artificial sweeteners, ingesting products that were never meant to be eaten and deregulating our natural mechanisms for food self-regulation.

Let's stop fighting nature.

We have to let sugar (real sugar) return to its natural role in our lives. Just a bit, once in awhile, as a treat. When I see parents shielding their children against the slightest taste of sugar, I see in my mind's eye how that child will one day pig out on sugar, given half the chance. It also reminds me of how I reacted when a naturopath insisted that I totally eliminate refined sugar from my diet. I did follow the rules for several months...and gained weight. I felt so deprived, that I overate on "good" food!

Currently, my favourite sweet is dried apricots. Yes, it wouldn't be a good idea to eat a bag of them, but I do enjoy a few a day. My natural desire for refined sugar is somewhat thwarted by my "mantra": you can have it later if you're really hungry. On Sunday evening, after the garage sale, we all went out for gelato (Italian ice cream) at our local gelatiere (have I mentioned just how many wonderful places there are to eat within walking distance of my home?). Having just finished supper, I knew that my body really didn't want a whole, albeit small, ice cream, so I demurred. My older son, who seems to have the whole intuitive eating thing down to a science, decided about 2/3 of the way through his ice cream that he had had enough. Yes, I finished it--and it was enough for me.

1 comment:

  1. I have been struggling with aspartame for quiet some time now. I give it up just to go back to it a month later. It's so true... our body does crave sugar. Thanks for the post. I do need to stop fighting and let myself have real sugar.