More reasons to give up “diet” and “sugar-free” products

sweeteners4Have you been using sugar substitutes as one way to get the sweet taste without the negative side effects of sugar? Are things not improving or even getting worse?

A new study conducted in Israel and published two weeks ago in the journal Nature, has some new findings that could shed some light on why this might be happening.

Tests done on both mice and humans, found that artificial sweeteners may compound and worsen metabolic illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes.

The research used saccharin (found in Sweet’N Low), sucralose (found in Splenda) or aspartame (found in Equal) and focussed on how the microbes in the gut react when these artificial sweeteners are consumed.

Findings suggest these chemical sugar substitutes alter the make-up of the normal beneficial gut bacteria. This change disrupts how well the body handles sugar.

After one week, some mice and humans had significant increases in blood sugar levels which were dependant on the types of bacteria in the digestive systems. Over time, high blood sugar levels and glucose intolerance can lead to diabetes.

The bottom line from this research is, for some people artificial sweeteners may disrupt the body’s ability to manage blood sugar which cause metabolic changes. So instead of helping with metabolic conditions, the artificial sweeteners could in fact make them worse.

I’ve previously written here about the downsides of artificial sweeteners which include seriously distorting your biochemistry, altering your ability to control calories, stimulating appetite, increasing cravings, and accelerating fat storage and weight gain. This new research is further evidence that we should definitely be saying “NO” to these sugar substitutes.

To be fair, there is likely more research to be done and these initial results are not definitive. However, due to the findings, one of the lead researchers has actually stopped using artificial sweeteners daily in his coffee! This behaviour change is proof enough for me!

The other key takeaway I have from this research, is the importance of gut health. While more research needs to be done to identify the specific populations of gut bacteria that allow some of us to tolerate higher blood sugar levels, I think there are a few things we can start doing now to boost our gut health.

3 tips for boosting your gut health:

  • Repair your gut lining with real whole foods. Removing processed, refined foods, allergens and toxins is the first step to better gut health. Many of these can damage the lining of your gut which can lead to a whole host of issues. Nourish yourself and your family daily with real whole foods that fuel your body with an array of necessary nutrients.
  • Introduce good bacteria. The researchers talked about the good bacteria in the gut. One way to keep those friendly species alive and well is to continually add them into your digestive system. Add in fermented foods like a high-fat, no sugar (no artificial sweetener) yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi. If these aren’t foods you consume daily you may want to consider a good quality probiotic.
  • Feed the good bacteria. Once you have added in a variety of different types of bacteria, you want to keep them healthy and flourishing so you need to feed them. The good microbes like to eat resistant starch that comes from many root veggies. But this starch is only present in the raw veggies not after they are cooked. So try shredding beets, carrots, sweet potatoes as a slaw-type salad. Or you can get really exotic and try a few less common veggies like jerusalem artichokes or yucca to keep those friendly bugs alive and well.

*This post was originally published in the Herald Community on Sept. 30, 2014

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