We receive many questions regarding the use of caffeine and sugar substitutes. This bulletin describes how these chemicals may affect your health and the results with nutritional balancing programs.
Caffeine is the new acceptable drug of choice for Americans. It is a central nervous system stimulant that is found in coffee, tea, guarana and Brazilian Mate. It is also found as an isolated ingredient in some 80 over-the-counter drugs. Among the more popular ones are Anacin, Fiorinol, Excedrin, Cafergot, Darvon Compound, Dristan and drugs to keep people awake. Caffeine is also added to many soft drinks.
We do not recommend drinking coffee, guarana, mate or caffeinated soda pop. We also do not recommend the regular use of any over-the-counter medications that contain caffeine. We suggest that if you must drink coffee, limit your intake to a maximum of one cup of regular coffee daily. Avoid the Turkish coffees, cappuccinos and other strong caffeinated drinks. If you must drink soda pop, avoid the caffeinated ones.
Coffee substitutes include black and green teas. These contain some caffeine, but contain many beneficial substances as well. We consider these teas a much better alternative to coffee and other caffeine-containing beverages. Lemonade and herbal teas are also excellent substitutes. Watch out for sweeteners added to these beverages, however.
The short-term effect of caffeine is to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. This, in turn, activates the adrenal and thyroid glands and can cause a temporary increase in one's energy. Too much can cause irritability, insomnia, tremors, irregular heart beat, low blood sugar and nervousness. Medical research also indicates that other long-term effects include increased miscarriages, hardening of the arteries, addiction, increased risk of diabetes, higher cholesterol, kidney stones, dehydration and short-term memory loss.
All stimulants including caffeine also have a secondary effect. By forcing the adrenal and thyroid glands to respond, caffeine and other stimulants deplete these glands. This causes a rebound effect several hours after caffeine use in which one feels more tired than before one had the coffee or, to a lesser degree, tea. Also, over a period of time, the glands become weakened, resulting in hypothyroid and hypoadrenal conditions.
While the avoidance of sugar is a wonderful dietary change that literally benefits the body in some 50 ways, we do not recommend turning to most sugar substitutes that are available. While some are better than others, we do not recommend aspartame (Equal or NutraSweet), saccharin (Sweet N' Low) or sucralose (Splenda).
If you must use a sugar substitute, better ones include xylitol, mannitol and stevia. Xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol are sugars that are not absorbed by the body. They are relatively non-toxic in small amounts and will add sweetness without adding calories and with fewer side effects than the others. Stevia is an herb that is naturally sweet. However, it contains some lead. Another alternative is fruit juice sweeteners. These are natural, but very high in fructose. For this reason, they are not really better than sugar. Sugars may be labeled as dextrose, fructose, maltose, corn sweetener, honey, liquid sugar or other names.
In general, we do not recommend sugar substitutes. They keep the sweet taste alive and mislead the body into thinking you have eaten sugar. This confuses the nervous system. Studies have also shown that people who use artificial sweeteners often eat just as much or more sugar. This may be because they keep the sweet taste alive. It may also be because one believes that one can get away with eating sugar because you are eating less of it.
As much as possible, do without added sugar or sugar substitutes. Your taste buds will become much more sensitive and you will begin to appreciate the many subtle flavors of natural foods. These include vegetables such as carrots, onions, jicama, and fruits that are naturally sweet. We do not recommend fruit juices, however, as the natural sugars in them are very concentrated and often upset blood sugar. If you must drink fruit juices, dilute them with water. Vegetable juices are better if you wish to consume juices.
Aspartame (Equal or NutraSweet) and sucralose (Splenda) are the worst of the sugar substitutes. The FDA has received more complaints about aspartame than for all other food additives combined. Since aspartame was approved in 1982, there have been some 1.9 million recognized toxicity reactions. However, these are just ones that have been identified and reported. In 1995, the FDA stopped reporting aspartame reactions.
The FDA once listed 92 different symptoms associated with the use of aspartame including seizures, depression, blindness, sexual dysfunction, obesity, testicular, mammary and brain tumors, and death. Aspartame may also mimic or contribute to many other diseases including Epstein-Barr Syndrome, Parkinson's disease, MS and diabetes.
In one study of aspartame, tumors that developed in rats fed aspartame were simply removed, and the study continued. Aspartame is a neurotoxin and another excitotoxin. That is, it causes derangement of the delicate chemicals that control many brain functions. Under certain conditions such as heat, aspartame breaks down into wood alcohol, formaldehyde and can be converted in the body to free glutamic acid, a chemical with the same effects as MSG.
Symptoms of aspartame toxicity confirmed by controlled studies include headaches, weight gain, dizziness, confusion, memory loss, drowsiness, depression, irritability, anxiety attacks, tingling and numbness, convulsions, severe heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, diarrhea, aggravation of diabetes, menstrual problems, joint pain, decreased vision, pain in the eyes, ringing in the ears, noise intolerance and excessive thirst.
Sucralose was hardly tested on humans before it was released for sale. Its side effects include diarrhea, stomach cramps, irritable bowel syndrome, numbness and tingling. Animals fed this additive also had more abortions, shrunken thymus glands, impaired growth and anemia.
The susceptibility to side effects from artificial sweeteners varies with each individual. Some people can get away with some sugar substitute, while others will react to even a small amount hidden in one of the hundreds of prepared foods to which they are added. These range from non-dairy creamers, weight loss products and ketchup to soups. Since we are concerned with strengthening body chemistry and removing toxic substances from the body, we cannot recommend adding more chemicals to the body.
Many websites offer excellent information about caffeine and sugar substitutes. For the latest articles and references, we recommend searching www.Mercola.com.