I'm Still Going to Have My Sweetener...

I'm Still Going to Have My Sweetener...

I’m a facts person. I’m a science person. A skeptical person. It might be tempting for me to jump on the band-wagon for something, but without the facts, the quest is rather meaningless. Bias-driven conversations MUDDLE the pool of our knowledge, and dampen the power of our choices in the real world. For these reasons, we should take great care whenever we read anything, from any source – even a popular, or a well-meaning one.

So, with this in mind, I am extremely annoyed by the conversations we’re having surrounding the consumption of artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners have long been approved, and shown to be safe, by public consumption, and have NO significant side effects. Yes, you read that right.

For as many people out there claiming to be deathly ill by them – there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with artificial sweeteners, which has been found to date.

It is troubling for me when stations, or media outlets, get together a ‘panel of experts,’ to quote poorly done studies, or non-elucidating studies, in order to push forth sensationalist pieces. Or worse yet, when they distort what those studies said.

What we KNOW about artificial sweeteners is that the ‘taste’ of sweet may affect some people’s cognitive behavioral choices. Some people’s reward neural pathways are so triggered by this taste that they may keep on eating – or may resort to actually having foods with sugar in them. Obviously, this may lead to overeating – and perhaps an eventual triggering of diabetes in people who are predisposed, due to an attendant weight gain, not the consumption itself. This is an important distinction.

Artificial sweeteners, nor sugar, in and of themselves do not cause type 2 diabetes.

While there are important mechanics at play which are being studied, between our cognitive choices, there’s no reason to cause a pandemic about these sweetening alternatives, nor to demonize them or deny them to people with diabetes or to people striving to make significant lifestyle changes.

I am particularly troubled by one recent article in Time magazine, which not only demonizes the consumption of sweeteners, but quite erroneously states that…

“By now you’ve heard that sugary foods drive insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes. The more of the sweet stuff you swallow—whether it’s table sugar or organic honey—the more insulin your pancreas has to produce and release into your bloodstream in order to control your blood’s glucose levels. At some point, an overworked pancreas can become incapable of producing enough insulin to manage sugar loads in the blood, resulting in type-2 diabetes.”

This is NOT an accepted scientific view of how diabetes begins. The causes for type 2 diabetes are unknown. In fact, this is not what any of the referenced articles or studies say. Sure, there is an ‘expert’ extrapolating his personal opinion from an observed fact, but it is not something which can be thrown out as a well-arrived to conclusion. Observational studies are NOT causational. The fact is that if sugary foods alone drove insulin resistance and weight gain, we would see a near 60% or higher incidence of type 2 diabetes in this nation. As it stands, over 60% of Americans are overweight, and only 9.3% of Americans have ANY form of diabetes, including type 1 diabetes (caused by an autoimmune attack on insulin producing cells), and the undiagnosed.

There is also a problem in seeing the BIGGER picture – added sugars are just another part of total carbohydrate content in foods, and total carbohydrate consumption, overall, has gone up with the years. People are more and more consuming excessive amounts of carbohydrates, contributing to weight gain, and to the triggering of many genetically-predisposed conditions. Of course if they consume more carbohydrate-rich foods they’re going to get more added sugars. It’s par for the course. But if diabetes were eradicated by the mere notion of ‘just stop eating sweets and sugar,’ diabetes would have been completely eradicated eons ago… when it has, in fact, been present since time immemorial, and even the Egyptians had it.

Now, added high-fructose corn syrup might be a different story… and one worth further pursuit. But it is articles like this, which focus on tightly held popular myths that drive misinformation, ignorance, and cruelty for people with type 2 diabetes.

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