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18: The Truth About Sweeteners | Dr. David Getoff

18: The Truth About Sweeteners | Dr. David Getoff

AIR DATE: June 21, 2012 at 7PM ET
FEATURED EXPERT: Dr. David Getoff
FEATURED TOPIC: “The Truth About Sweeteners”

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One of the more controversial areas of debate about the healthy low-carb lifestyle is what to do about sweeteners. Some say the taste of sweet itself is an addiction that needs to be overcome by complete abstinence from consuming anything sweet on the tongue. Still others believe that finding adequate sugar substitutions in your diet is a lot healthier way to eat than a sugar-filled one. And then there are those who say it is better to eat sugar, honey or other natural sugars than to risk consuming chemical-based sweeteners that are doing God-knows-what to your body. So who do you believe about what you should do? That’s where this week’s expert comes in. He is a naturopath and board-certified clinical nutritionist named Dr. David Getoff and he’s going to help us sort through it all in Episode 18 of “Ask The Low-Carb Experts.” Dr. Getoff is quite knowledgeable about all of the ins and outs of both the natural and artificial sweeteners available for consumers to purchase and will give us the cold, hard facts about what is right and what is wrong answering your questions.

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Here are some of the questions we addressed in this podcast:

LISA ASKS:
What are your general thoughts about natural non-glycemic/low-glycemic sweeteners like stevia, erythritol, xylitol, and lo han. I have used these alone and in blends like ZSweet. Right now, I’m really enjoying Nature’s Hollow’s “maple syrup flavored” xylitol syrup which I use when a recipe calls for honey or agave.

CAROL ASKS:
Does Splenda really kill the beneficial intestinal bacteria? Jorge Cruise says in his book The Belly Fat Cure that you should avoid sucralose in your diet because of this.

MICHELLE ASKS:
Are the deep yearnings and calling for sugar due to candida overgrowth, a vitamin deficiency, excess insulin, a bad habit, or cellular mitochondria seeking fuel? Or maybe all of this?

ELISE ASKS:
I use both stevia and xylitol. Do either of these inhibit weight loss? And is there any truth to the claim that xylitol is toxic for pets like dogs and cats?

LYNN ASKS:
Is stevia ok? Is it low-carb or Paleo?

ANDREI ASKS:
I would like to know if stevia causes an insulin response.

JAN ASKS:
I consume multiple Diet Dr. Pepper’s every day and have for many years. I have noticed that when I substitute Iced Tea or H2O for all but say one or two for several days running I have a downtick in weight. I have seen the UT San Antonio study that says Aspartame in Diet Drinks can cause Insulin to go up which I suppose could affect fat burning, but I have also seen a lot of research that says it has NO effect. If it isn’t the Aspartame, why does my weight trend down when I stop drinking the soda? Is it the sodium?

GRETA ASKS:
I’m a Diet Coke person and I’ve been off of it since last Thursday as well as all other sweeteners.  How can we really tell if sweeteners are impacting our weight loss?  How long should we get off of them before trying to add something back in? Should we rely on our weight measurement from day to day?

SHALEAH ASKS:
If I choose to use artificial sweeteners, which ones are the least detrimental and have the most minimal effect on insulin and poor health?

BRENDA ASKS:
I know that coconut sugar is not calorie-free, but could you enlighten us about whether it’s a good sweetener to use or not?

DANA ASKS:
I like using erythritol, stevia, and occasionally Splenda for sweetening my food. I would like a good “comeback” for those people who call anything other than “table sugar” — artificial. White sugar itself is massively processed and artificial, so I’m not understanding their reasoning.

Why is maltitol permitted to be put in food as a sweetener when it is well-known to cause a painful and drastic reaction in the gut even in small amounts?

NORM ASKS:
I was excited to look into Stevia-bases sweeteners, but I found out that all three major brands add sugar alcohols which are terrible for people with digestive problems. Can you tell me why they add sugar alcohols and can you get stevia without these?

LAURA ASKS:
I am a Type 1 diabetic and I live in Spain and the only sweetener I’ve found there that has no fillers like maltodextrin is a liquid mixture of saccharin and cyclamate. The taste is vastly better than the pure saccharin available in the United States, but I wondered if you would comment on the safety of this mix.

Also, would you comment on any possible connections between artificial sweeteners and infertility/miscarriages?

PAM ASKS:
I have been using a pure stevia powder with only stevia and no fillers for several years and I use it daily in many things, like my Bulletproof coffee, water and fresh lemon, apple cider vinegar dressing, and homemade hot cocoa with unsweetened coconut milk. Is it likely that this stevia contains mycotoxins? What are the possible outcomes of consuming a good bit of stevia daily? This is the only form of sweetener I use.

CHERYL ASKS:
What about Acesulfame Potassium (aka Ace-K) and what impact does it have on blood sugar? It seems to be in just about everything diet these days, especially diet soda.

APRIL ASKS:
I consider myself highly addicted to sugar and eating a dessert made with things like erythritol, stevia, or Splenda causes me to want to eat even more sugar-free treats. Is there any way I can get this under control or is it better to just avoid these altogether? I do find the longer I abstain from them the less I crave them. But then some event comes up where I make something sugar-free and the cycle continues. Any advice is very much appreciated!

COLLEEN ASKS:
Earlier this year I discovered the “low carb” world and now eat 50-100g of carbs per day, mostly from fruit, vegetables, nuts and some dairy. I am 45 years old, slightly overweight, have eaten primarily high carb, low fat my entire adult life, and prior to changing my eating had fasting glucose in the 90s, normal cholesterol and triglycerides. Over four months I have lost 12 pounds without effort since adopting a higher fat, low carb diet. However, once or twice a week from rice or even bread. I also have 2 teaspoons of sugar per day in coffee. Is this acceptable? How important is it to eliminate sugar altogether? Is this more important than trying to fit exercise into my schedule?

  • Looking forward to this one Jimmy.

  • This was excellent! Tom and I listened this afternoon. Thanks Jimmy!

  • Jennifer Eloff

    (on average) each do consume, but this very important point is lost amidst the emotional arguments. What a pity!What started out as a VERY informative factual, scientific talk about Sugars, culminated very quickly in an emotional BLANKET statement condemning all artificial sweeteners as co-equally bad. This is (naturally) what we can expect of naturopaths like Dr. Getoff and Dr. Mercola and Dr Hull (though she does not even have the credentials of the first two). They all make a huge scientific mistake by equating Aspartame and Sucralose and demonize all artificial sweeteners as bad, and in this case equal to cobra venom or rattlesnake poison. Having grown up in Africa, among Cobras, I can assure you that if you do ingest cobra venom, you WILL die within minutes to hours. BUT, I can just as definitely assure you that the same is clearly NOT true for ANY of the artificial sweeteners – even for the ones I really do not like – except (maybe) for the natural one … Stevia! It can kill a person with diabetes 1 if their blood sugar goes too low and also as a result of an allergy (http://www.livestrong.com/article/368694-adverse-reactions-to-stevia/ ) So technically, Stevia should come with a warning for people with diabetes 1 and for people, like my (very well known) Low-Carb blogger friend, who had a severe reaction and due to low blood sugar episodes suffered for the first time in her life several panic attacks, and ended up in hospital. I hope that at least makes people realize the extent of the emotional aspect of the arguments that these people employ mixing good science and emotional arguments is just not a good idea. As an example, he goes on to give an example of a chemist chiding a colleague by saying “You idiot, why did you taste that sucralose, it’s got Chlorine in it!” Well, that would be like us yelling out to a family member “You idiot, why did you taste that cheese, it’s got salt (NaCl) in it and that has chlorine in it and Sodium wich catches fire when exposed to air or water!” And how about: “You need to suppress 100% of stomach acid { HCl }, as it’s Chlorinated Hydrogen! The Chlorine will kill you and the Hydrogen … well, you could catch fire and explode!” It’s just another example of a emotional blanket statements that really frighten people, but do not coolly and calmly inform people (by the way it is IMPOSSIBLE to break the chlorine off of the sucralose molecule according to the researchers). An example: Aspartame is a combination of amino acids (proteins) and sucralose is not. It’s based on a SURCOSE (Sugar) molecule) which is NOT a protein – it’s a carb, very different! As far as the “natural” aspects are concerned, I agree with his take that “natural” is NOT equal to “perfectly fine”. There are many natural compounds (Cobra venom being just one) that kill. Case in point, agave (higher in fructose than high fructose corn syrup and was heavily embraced by naturopaths and people into health blogging) is natural, but really not good for us – and that is now a proven scientific fact! Even stevia (which I do use (in combo with erythritol) and like as well as sucralose and erythritol) is only really natural as Stevia Leaf, not the stevioside white powder – just as sugar cane and sugar beets are natural, but the highly refined white powder table-sugar is not. Problem is, I hate the taste of the leaves in baking, but rather like the Stevioside-blends, all of which are “not natural” and I rather think that 90% of people using stevia do likewise. Even so, Stevia has wonderful properties that very occasionally prove very dangerous to a handful of people using it. It is so effective at dropping blood-sugar that Type-1 diabetics can actually have a major hypoglycemic incident and we all know the danger of those – they could even die. People really do need to know this can happen! That effect would be analogous to ingesting cobra venom – yet rational people (myself included) will tend to note that small (very real) possibility and go ahead and use stevia anyway. And that’s the way we need to approach all these substances – with cool heads, logically and not with emotions! It turns out that sucralose has been such a stable molecule that even 20 years later it is found in nature (excreted by us humans) unchanged and that it is virtually impossible to break down using any of the processes normally used to treat effluents. So the “scare mongering” that it breaks down in our bodies and causes damage is not scientific fact – it’s just an emotional argument that has now been scientifically disproved – but persists anyway. By contrast, it is easy to show that aspartame does indeed break down in our bodies and during high temperature baking/cooking. What really needs to be stressed in this otherwise very informative interview, is that NATURAL SUGAR and NATURAL FRUCTOSE really do a LOT of very real damage to us in the quantities they are now consumed in – and that an “acceptable” quantity for those is VERY much lower than what we For the first 8 years Splenda was used in Canada and an entire country reported not one problem. Then it was released in the USA and all sorts of interest-groups (One being the SUGAR industry) went for the throat – without even letting it pass the test of time. One was Dr. Mercola who very cleverly reailzed that a lot of advertising $’s would be spent on it by J&J and that taking a contrarian view would get him “instant popularity” – which it did. He was never brave enough to use the words DEFINITELY or DOES cause harm – rather could, or possible or may, etc. Then when we emailed him and said “what about all the people who have used it for 8 years, some in huge quantities? Would you like to examine any of us to see if what you assert so emotionally has any basis in science?” We never even heard back. See it for what it is … and by all means, do use the sweeteners you are comfortable with (or none) but here is a statement we now can confidently all make: “SUGAR and HFCS” as now consumed by society at large, have and will do real harm to our health. We have to make decisions about some of the things we consume, but not emotionally-driven decisions that send us back to using harmful substances such as sugar. For instance, some of the low-carb authors use peanut flour and peanut butter which could kill people in an hour – same as snake venom! Do we now make a blanket statement that it should never be consumed and is snake venom? No rational person does that. What we always do in our books is give people a lot of options but to try and scare people with poor science renders a BIG disservice! Some 20 years ago, our family switched to Splenda (sucralose), and we’ve had to reevaluate our decision many times, and a few years ago, we included Stevioside blends and Erythritol BUT always severely limited SUGAR and HFCS! That was, with the benefit of hindsight, and taken in the balance, a very smart thing to do. Was it infinitely smart? No – nothing ever is, BUT smarter than staying on SUGAR and HFCS for sure!

  • Abrenner8

    This man is smart and sensible! Loved the interview.

  • Jillm

    Thanks David and Jimmy. Very good interview. My helpful hint is to search Google images for diabetes amputation, heart bypass surgery or some other confronting medical problem of your choice. Choose the most shocking image and print it in colour. Keep it handy whenever you are tempted to buy harmful substances. Another hint is to keep a glass money box for the cash you will save avoiding medical bills, surgery, medication and junk food. Use it to buy treats like a holiday to Australia.

  • Jennifer Eloff

    Scientific Laboratory testing of Sucralose (Splenda’s artificial sweetener component) shows that at body or environment temps, and PH’s Sucralose is 100% stable -it does not break down and then cause trouble in our bodies. You’d have to increase body temps to about 144deg F – far greater temps than would let you stay alive, and at the same time decrease your body PH to 1 (sulfuric acid levels) – which would kill you too anyway, and wait for 120 hours without going to the loo or peeing, before we see Sucralose even starting to break down in your body to a point where it may start to cause trouble: http://news.discovery.com/earth/artificial-sweetener-not-removed-by-sewage-treatment-110623.html AND here is an extract of the ACTUAL scientific LAB report: … Of note, this conclusion: ” For environmental pH ranges of 4 to 9, significant hydrolysis is unlikely to occur”. So what’s to say but that the “RATTLESNAKE POISON comments and PESTICIDE comments” are just yet another case of “BS baffles Brains” and NOT befitting anyone who use the title: “DR”. Hopefully this information is a little more factually and intellectually acceptable to you than a blanket statement likening “ALL artificial sweeteners to Rattle-snake venom” – even though they are clearly ALL such VASTLY different chemicals, and as such each should have to be evaluated on their own merit – that is, IF we want to be scientific and not emotional about this topic.
    ————————————————————————————————————–
    The degradation of the Sucralose was investigated at 62, 50, 40 and 30°C at pH 1, to examine
    the stability of sucralose in beverages. A quantity of the notified chemical was added to the each
    of the buffered solutions and the resulting solutions were stored at the above temperatures.
    The storage time and sampling times varied according to pH and temperature with sampling
    starting on day 1 and the last sample taken on day 336 for pH 3 at 30 and 40

    It was found that the notified chemical broke-down by
    hydrolysis to 1,6-dichloro-1,6-dideoxy-D-fructosfuranose and 4-chloro-4-deoxy-Dgalactopyranose, the constituent monomers, and 98.8% of sucralose is hydrolysed after 120 hours, at pH 2 and 62deg C (143.6 degree Fahrenheit) The rate of hydrolysis increased with temperature and decreasing pH, eg at pH 1 and 62deg C (143.6 degree Fahrenheit)
    While this study dealt with very low pHs and high temperatures, in reality, in the environmental pH range of 4 to 9, significant hydrolysis is unlikely to occur.

  • Unfortunately I agree with Jennifer Eloff on the splenda argument in this podcast… I find it particularly weak. 🙁 It’s a shame because it’s was one of the subject I was waiting the more to ear. 🙁

    But Thanks Jimmy, keep up the good work. I still enjoy this show VERY much!;)

  • SwampCatNana

    “JAN ASKS:
    I consume multiple Diet Dr. Pepper’s every day and have for many years. I have noticed that when I substitute Iced Tea or H2O for all but say one or two for several days running I have a downtick in weight.”

    This is very true! There are some of us, obviously you are one, who benefit ONLY if our daily liquid intake is water. Some of us are further limited to ONLY water as our measured daily liquid intake, I am one of those.
    I can comsume the same amt of liquid in the form of soda(diet), tea, flavored waters, etc, or a combo of these and GAIN weight!
    However, there are other to whom what liquids they drink doesn’t matter.

  • Is Swerve Sweetener a good Suger Substitute?

  • Wendy Joan Burbridge

    Awesome podcast, Jimmy! Made ditching sweeteners a complete non-issue for me!