By Chris Champagne
“SUGAR IS BAD FOR YOU!” It’s the rallying cry from many health enthusiasts and fitness bloggers alike. While I can more or less agree, there are other substances that are being overlooked by the FDA and fitness influencers that could prove to be more detrimental to our health…
Dating back to the creation of the first artificial sweetener in 1897 (saccharin), these processed sugar substitutes have been used in a wide variety of products ranging from diet soda to protein powder. Companies and their ambassadors often claim that these products are “healthier” because they’re lower calorie and/or sugar free. While the FDA has cleared these substances on their Generally Regarded as Safe List (GRAS), multiple studies released over the years suggest otherwise.
“Based on the available scientific evidence, the agency has concluded that the high-intensity sweeteners approved by FDA are safe for the general population under certain conditions of use.” – Statement on the FDA’s website
Artificial sweeteners have been linked to cancer, ulcers, & tumors, suggesting that they have carcinogenic effects. Various tests and studies have also linked these substances to obesity numerous tests in rats and mice. More recently, these substances have been linked to diabetes, obesity, and altered gut microbiome in humans. Despite this, the FDA continues to allow the use of artificial sweeteners, which has spiked since the early 2000’s. You can find these substances in practically anything in the aisles of your standard grocery store. Products like ketchup, instant hot chocolate, yogurt, drinks (not limited to the “diet” ones), and English muffins all contain one or more artificial sweeteners.
If you’re taking a flavored pre-workout, protein powder, “fat burner” or other stimulant, BCAA, or other supplement, the chances are high that they also contain one, or more, artificial sweeteners.
Looking in more detail, one of the main sweeteners used widely today is sucralose. “600 times sweeter than sugar”, Sucralose was created in 1976 when scientists found a way to bond sucrose molecules with chlorine… Also known as the same stuff people clean their pools with. The same stuff that, when consumed in water, increases cancer risk by 93% in humans according to the U.S. Council of Environmental Quality.
Another widely used sweetener, aspartame (whose global market in 2009 was just shy of 37.5 million pounds … $637 billion), accounts for 75% of adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA. These include, but are not limited to, headaches, rashes, dizziness, fatigue, seizures, weight gain, and muscle spasms. Aspartame can also trigger or worsen chronic illnesses such as tumors, epilepsy, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.
Despite all this buzz, the FDA remains strong on their approval of artificial sweeteners. In fact, in 2014, the FDA approved a new artificial sweetener, advantame. Created by the Ajinomoto Group, it is a “new and improved version of aspartame”. Considering that this substance wasn’t even around in 2000 when Ajinomoto acquired the aspartame business from Monsanto, I strongly believe it is way too soon to deem it safe for the masses when only 37 studies have been conducted on it.
What You Can Do To Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
EAT REAL FOOD!
It sounds simple, because it is. Sticking with the outer areas of a grocery store (produce, meat, seafood, & dairy sections) is your best bet for avoiding processed substances. With today’s fast paced culture, it can be tricky to eat whole foods that nourish your body because you have to prepare them beforehand. And many people, including myself, reach for a quick fix solution.
If you know you’re going to have a busy week, simply set aside time to prepare meals ahead of time. This can save time throughout the week, provide your body with good nutrition for optimized performance, and help you avoid all the potential pitfalls from artificial products. Not to mention it can also save money in the long run by skipping supplements. By eating a well-balanced diet, there’s no need for supplements like BCAAs or protein powders.
For example… Unless you are on a vegan diet, animal proteins like steak, pork, & fish provide the body with complete protein and amino acids, thus making supplementation a waste of money.
Additionally, by consuming protein from animals, you are getting a host of other naturally occurring essential nutrients that are beneficial to the body (B12, Zinc, DHA, etc).
Grass fed & grass finished beef, as well as animals that have been fed a vegetarian diet, are your best options sourced as local as possible from community farms.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP!
It’s time to put the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” dogma to rest, pun intended.
Sleep is necessary for human function. If you’re relying on stimulants throughout the day to maintain alertness, chances are one or more of them contain artificial sweeteners.
By getting an adequate amount of sleep, your body and mind will be well rested and ready to tackle the day and whatever challenges/workouts that come along with it.
The results from controlling these big rocks first can be astounding, but it starts by being honest with yourself. Do I eat mainly whole natural foods? Am I getting enough quality sleep each night?
If the truthful answers to these questions are “yes”, then you are well on your way to avoiding artificial sweeteners. If not, and you’re concerned about the potential detriments of these processed substances, then start by taking small steps every day to eliminate them from your diet.
Your body will ultimately thank you.
Sources & Additional Reading:
Short List of Artificial Sweeteners (new substances not included, such as advantame):
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Chris Champagne is an OCR BEAST Contributor. You can follow Chris on Instagram @0cr_champagne17
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and official policies of OCR BEAST, or their staff. The comments posted on this website are solely the opinions of the posters.