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 The Scary Truth About Sugar 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled The Dean of Wellness by . View all columns in series

What about calorie-free sugar substitutes such as Nutrasweet? Sweet N' Low? Don't be fooled into switching from sugar to sugar-free substitutes; they're even more unhealthy, especially aspartame (Nutrasweet). If you want to add a touch of sweetness without any calories, try stevia*. Stevia is an extremely safe herb that is not only an excellent sweetener, but it actually lowers blood sugar levels in diabetics by helping to regulate pancreatic function. And unlike sugar, which weakens the immune system, stevia has antimicrobial properties and actually helps the body fight off colds and flus.

Aspartame (Nutrasweet),on the other hand, is a neurotoxin and should be avoided like the plague. Aspartame has been shown to cause birth defects, brain tumors and seizures and to contribute to diabetes and emotional disorders.

Aspartame has three components: phenylalanine (50 percent), aspartic acid (40 percent) and methanol, also termed wood alcohol (10 percent). Those in support of this popular artificial sweetener, state that the two primary amino acids, which comprise 90 percent of aspartame by weight, are a harmless and natural part of our diet. While phenylalanine and aspartic acid are naturally occurring amino acids, our bodies and brains are not equipped to handle such high concentrations as found in a diet soda where they disrupt nerve cell communication and can cause cell death. The neurotoxic effects of these isolated amino acids can be linked to headaches, mental confusion, balance problems and seizures.

Methanol, too, is naturally present in fruits and vegetables but these foods also contain ethanol, which neutralizes the methanol. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines safe consumption of methanol as no more than 7.8 mg per day of this dangerous substance. Yet a one-liter beverage, sweetened with aspartame, contains about 56 milligrams of wood alcohol, or seven times the EPA limit. And the absolute irony of the use of aspartame in diet products is that it can actually cause weight gain. Phenylalanine and aspartic acid, found in aspartame, stimulate the release of insulin. Rapid, strong spikes in insulin remove all glucose from the blood stream and store it as fat. This can result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and sugar cravings. Additionally, phenylalanine has been demonstrated to inhibit carbohydrate-induced synthesis of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which signals that the body is full. This can cause you to eat more than your normally would and, ultimately, gain weight. In one study a control group switching to an aspartame-free diet resulted in an average weight loss of 19 pounds.

Saccharin is a petroleum-derived sweetener discovered in 1879 and was used extensively during the sugar shortages during World Wars I and II. The sweetener got a bad reputation in l977 when the FDA proposed restrictions on its use saying studies involving male rats given large amounts of saccharin developed urinary bladder tumors. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) then officially classified saccharin as an "anticipated human carcinogen." But researchers have since been unable to reproduce the results from 1977, and saccharin was recently removed from the NTP's list. Saccharin might be the lesser of two evils, but it's still a synthetic substance.)

Many low-carbohydrate foods, like the Atkins Bars, contain sugar alcohols. What are they?

Stealth Sugars
It sometimes requires a little detective work to find the hidden sugars in foods. You probably know the "ose"s (maltose, sucrose, glucose, fructose), but there are dozes more that you'd never suspect. The following is a list of 100 common names for sugar that you may encounter in ingredients of your favorite foods.

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 About The Author
Proficient in both conventional and alternative medicine Dr. Dean offers Consultations for Health by Phone. If you require individualization of the advice offered in this article, you can contact Dr. Dean at ...moreCarolyn Dean
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