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June 17, 2014 11:40 am

Jewish Health: Weight Gain and the Latest Sweetener

avatar by Deborah Jacobi

Baked goods, including hamantashen, at the Jewish Food and Cultural Festival in Little Rock, Ark. Photo: Jewish Federation of Arkansas.

The FDA has approved yet another artificial sweetener to place in our sodas, sweets, ices, baked goods, and even our milk.

Aspartame was 200 times sweeter than sugar, and the new product – Advantame – is 20,000 times sweeter! So the intense sweetness of this new product is either a tribute to how sickly sweet our pallate has become, or a sign that some corporation is looking to make life significantly sweeter for us.

But do sweeteners really help us lose weight? In the 80’s, when the first sweetener lined our shelves, we were a much slimmer, healthier nation with almost no sign of excessive weight gain, and childhood obesity was yet to become such a serious problem. Today, 30 years and numerous artificial sweeteners later, we are a fatter and less healthy nation.

Is there a relationship between sweeteners and weight gain? Is our high carb intake from blintzes, babkas, and bagels – from knishes, kugels, and kishke entirely to blame for our increased weight, or do sweeteners play a deceptive role in the obesity epidemic?

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In the July 10,”Ž 2013, issue of Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, Susan Swithers, a professor of behavioral neuroscience at Purdue University highlighted research showing that artificial sweeteners actually encouraged weight gain, not weight loss.

A similar conclusion was recorded in a 2010 scientific review published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, which found that replacing sugar with an artificial sweetener caused consumers to crave the missing calories that usually accompany a sweet, dopamine filled treat. The result? More food was eaten not less!”Ž

A similar reaction occurs when consuming low-fat milk.

The body, having already learned that full fat milk is a whole food, wonders where the rest of it went. Knowing something is lacking, it tirelessly seeks to fill the nagging void and goes overboard in its desire to seek caloric satisfaction. Perhaps Mick Jagger’s earnest, “I aint got no Satisfaction” was written with just that prophetic plight in mind!

We may be making choices, but our programmed brain and knowledgeable gut refuse to be cheated.

On a physiological level, phenylalanine, present in both Aspartame and Advantame, can, in significant doses, decrease serotonin, which in turn causes an increase in appetite and leads to binge eating. This science is clearly not new, but surprisingly the FDA is not testing to see if Aspartame or Advantame actually lead to weight gain or loss.

Which brings us to the next question, what, exactly, does the FDA test for?

From the initial reports it appears that the products are tested for toxicology, carcinogens, and tumors, along with immune and plasma results. These tests are administered for a few weeks only.

Humans are tested, but again, only for a few weeks for toxicology and diabetes. Other tests are administered, but the longest testing is administered to pregnant rats.

With so many people consuming these sweeteners over so many years, it seems it would be quite simple to administer additional long term testing to adults, pregnant women, and children. Testing for a few weeks seems disturbingly terse, particularly since it is common knowledge that chemicals have an impact over time.

With so many additional cases of ADHD and Autism each year, wouldn’t it be prudent for the FDA to test the impact of all new products and chemicals for ADHD and Autistic/Asperger related findings? “Ž

The FDA prudently tests drugs for drug interactions, but only tests artificial sweeteners in isolation. Chemical combinations are lining our shelves and our intestines without any prior scrutiny, and our shelves are restocked daily.

Perhaps it’s time for us to petition the FDA to extend testing. Subsequent results may ultimately benefit our nation’s health, and might even defray the cost of an alarming health care tab.

According to TruthisLabeling.org:

“Aspartame contains the excitotoxin aspartate as 40% of its molecular structure. Numerous previous studies have shown that consuming aspartame can significantly elevate the excitotoxin level in the blood. When aspartate (as aspartame) is combined in the diet with monosodium glutamate (MSG) blood levels are several fold higher than normal. Previous studies have shown that even single exposures to these food-based excitotoxins can produce prolonged worsening of neurological lesions. (Causing it to be of particular concern for those suffering from multiple sclerosis, or with benign MS) In addition, liquid forms of excitotoxins are significantly more toxic because of rapid absorption and higher blood levels.”

As the Jewish community struggles to fight obesity and a litany of health problems, everyone should be aware of the dangers of artificial sweeteners. We need to be more conscious of what we’re putting in our body.

Artificial sweeteners? Life might actually get a whole lot sweeter without them!

Deborah Jacobi is a holistic health coach and founder of TimeToThinkHealthy.com and Mediahealthwatch.com Her new book The Intimate Act of Eating is due out in the fall. You can contact Deborah at [email protected]

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