CAFFEINE AND SUGAR SUBSTITUTES
by Lawrence Wilson, MD
© December 2009, The Center For Development
We receive many questions regarding the use of caffeine and sugar substitutes. This article discusses popular sugar substitutes and caffeine and describes how these chemicals may affect your health. They also affect the results if a person is following a nutritional balancing program.
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that is found in coffee, tea, guarana and Brazilian mate. It is also found as an isolated ingredient in some 80 over-the-counter drugs. Among the more popular ones are Anacin, Fiorinol, Excedrin, Cafergot, Darvon Compound, Dristan and drugs to keep people awake. Caffeine is also added to many soft drinks. There is a new generation of soft drinks with far more caffeine than standard soda pop.
The main effect of caffeine is to stimulate the adrenal glands, in particular. Many people can tolerate this. In others, or in high doses in everyone it causes irritability, insomnia, tremors, nervousness, irregular heart beat, palpitations, and perhaps blood sugar abnormalities. Rebound effects when the caffeine dosage wears off mainly include fatigue and low blood sugar symptoms such as mental confusion, violence, forgetfulness and other brain dysfunctions.
Caffeine overdose is one of the most common reasons for emergency room visits today, especially among young people. Medical research also indicates that other long-term effects include increased miscarriages, hardening of the arteries, increased risk of diabetes, higher cholesterol, kidney stones, dehydration and short-term memory loss.
All stimulants, including caffeine, have an addictive quality or secondary effect. By forcing the adrenal and thyroid glands to respond, caffeine and other stimulants cause nutritional depletion of these glands. This results in a “rebound effect” several hours after caffeine use in which one feels more tired than before one had the caffeinated food, beverage, or drug. As a result, a person will have a strong desire for another hit or dose of caffeine. Eventually, more caffeine may not provide much of a lift, and a person may desire a stronger stimulant such as cocaine. This is how all stimulants can become addictive.
Also, over a period of time, the adrenal gland and the entire sympathetic nervous system become weakened and imbalanced. This can cause many longer-term problems for younger people, in particular.
COFFEE, TEA AND COFFEE SUBSTITUTES
We do not recommend drinking much coffee. Limit your intake to a maximum of one cup of regular coffee daily or less. Avoid Turkish coffees, cappuccinos, expressos, lates, and all other strong caffeinated drinks. Coffee is irritating to the intestines, although a little is okay for many people.
We also do not recommend using guarana, mate, ginseng or any caffeinated soda pop or other beverages except perhaps one or two cups of regular black or green tea. We also do not recommend the regular use of any over-the-counter medications that contain caffeine. If you must drink soda pop, avoid the caffeinated ones.
Teas. Coffee substitutes include black and green teas. These are excellent and contain some caffeine, but contain many beneficial substances as well. We consider these teas a better alternative to coffee and much better than other caffeine-containing beverages. Mild herbal teas are also okay, although plain water is best. Watch out for sweeteners added to these beverages, however.
While the avoidance of sugar is a wonderful dietary change that literally benefits the body in some 50 ways, we do not recommend turning to most sugar substitutes that are available. While some are better than others, we do not recommend aspartame (Equal or Nutrasweet), saccharin (Sweet N’ Low) or sucralose (Splenda).
All sweeteners keep the sweet taste alive and may mislead the body into thinking you have eaten sugar. This confuses the nervous system and is not helpful.
Studies have also shown that people who use artificial sweeteners often eat just as much or more sugar. This may be because they keep the sweet taste alive. It may also be because one believes that one can get away with eating sugar because you are eating less of it.
If you must use a sugar substitute, better ones include xylitol, mannitol and stevia. Xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol are sugars that are not absorbed by the body. They are relatively non-toxic in small amounts and will add sweetness without adding calories and with fewer side effects than the others.
Stevia is an herb that is naturally sweet. It is excellent and has 47% of the non-sugar sweetener market in Japan. In America, the Monsanto Company and others who produce artificial sweeteners have spread propaganda to downplay the benefits of stevia, which is helpful for health in several ways. It assists digestion and is nutritious, in addition to being very sweet tasting.
As much as possible, do without added sugar or sugar substitutes. Your taste buds will become much more sensitive and you will begin to appreciate the many subtle flavors of natural foods. These include vegetables such as carrots, onions, jicama, parsnips and others.
An exception is 10-12 ounces of carrot juice for everyone. One may also put some spinach, Swiss chard, which is delicious in carrot juice or other greens in the juice. Do not drink more than this amount, as all vegetables when raw and juiced, in particular, are very yin.
Aspartame (Equal or Nutrasweet) and sucralose (Splenda) are the worst of the sugar substitutes. The FDA has received more complaints about aspartame than for all other food additives combined. Since aspartame was approved in 1982, there have been some 1.9 million recognized toxicity reactions. However, these are just ones that have been identified and reported. In 1995, the FDA stopped reporting aspartame reactions.
The FDA once listed 92 different symptoms associated with the use of Nutrasweet including seizures, depression, blindness, sexual dysfunction, obesity, testicular, mammary and brain tumors, and death. Aspartame may also mimic or contribute to many other diseases including Epstein-Barr Syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, MS and diabetes.
In one study of aspartame, tumors that developed in rats fed aspartame were simply removed, and the study continued. Aspartame is a neurotoxin and an excitotoxin. That is, it causes derangement of the delicate chemicals that control many brain functions. Under certain conditions such as heat, aspartame breaks down into wood alcohol, formaldehyde and can be converted in the body to free glutamic acid, a chemical with the same effects as MSG.
Symptoms of aspartame toxicity confirmed by controlled studies include headaches, weight gain, dizziness, confusion, memory loss, drowsiness, depression, irritability, anxiety attacks, tingling and numbness, convulsions, severe heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, diarrhea, aggravation of diabetes, menstrual problems, joint pain, decreased vision, pain in the eyes, ringing in the ears, noise intolerance and excessive thirst. Click here for more information on Aspartame, a drug that is slowly being phased out of thousands of diet and other foods.
Splenda was hardly tested on humans before it was released for sale. Its side effects include diarrhea, stomach cramps, irritable bowel syndrome, numbness and tingling . Animals fed this additive also had more abortions, shrunken thymus glands, impaired growth and anemia.
The susceptibility to side effects from artificial sweeteners varies with each individual. Some people can get away with some sugar substitute, while others will react to even a small amount hidden in one of the hundreds of prepared foods to which they are added. These range from non-dairy creamers, weight loss products, and ketchup to Campbell’s soup. Since we are concerned with strengthening body chemistry and removing toxic substances from the body, we cannot recommend adding more chemicals to the body.
Many websites offer excellent information about caffeine and sugar substitutes. For the latest articles and references, I recommend searching Mercola.com among others.