How sweet it isn't

May 27, 2014

The proposed new revisions to call out "added sugars" to the Nutritional Facts Panel has been dealt a new blow.

The proposed new revisions to call out "added sugars" to the Nutritional Facts Panel, which is designed to help consumers understand just how much sugars of all kinds they are consuming - with the intent to reduce Americans' sugar consumption, has been dealt a new blow.

It's not new legislation, new research nor new lobbying efforts, or even clever ads designed to thwart the effort. No, it's more powerful than any of those. It's a new kid on the block named advantame.

Advantame is the name of the latest of FDA approved artificial sweeteners and is reported to be 20,000 times sweeter, gram for gram, than table sugar. It is brought to market by the same company, Ajinomoto North America, Inc. who markets aspartame; which is only 200 times sweeter than sugar.

Just last week at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago, NBC's Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman (a friend and real M.D.) told a packed house that a healthy diet and lifestyle is all about balance; and consuming real sugars instead of artificial sweeteners. She shared how she and her 90+ year old parents (her father also a practicing M.D. until recently) had candy each day. What she also shared, as have many other medical researchers, is that using artificial sweeteners can cause us to crave more sweet foods and drinks and most recently how in some cases have led to weight gain.

University of California at San Diego researchers conducted a study where volunteers took sips of water sweetened with sugar or sucralose and then studied the regions of the brain through MRI scans and determined that "sugar signals a positive feeling of reward, [while] artificial sweeteners may not be an effective way to manage a craving for sweets." Participants in the San Antonio Heart Study who drank more than 21 diet sodas per week were twice as likely to become overweight or obese as people who did not drink diet sodas.

Snyderman is also concerned that by consuming these sweeter than sugar intensities that we may be altering our brain messages to our taste buds and furthering the demand for sweeter, sweeter, sweeter...versus satisfying. Professor Ivan de Araujo of Yale University's School of Medicine says that "rather than starve yourself of sugar, it is better to consume very small amounts, tricking the brain into producing a pleasure response" instead of consuming artificial sweeteners that leave dieters with their cravings, making them far more likely to binge later on.

Shoppers these days are on a search for more local and fresh foods, cleaner ingredients, and more tasty artisan foods; so the question begs to be asked ....why advantame? Doesn't this approval further complicate not only the re-education of our quest for health & wellness and moderation, but also reinforces the the research that shows how artificial sweeteners may be doing more to harm our waistlines than help?

It is time to cleanse our palates, not fool them. Dr. Synderman's closing statement was simple - to remember that one teaspoon of sugar is just 16 (satisfying) calories.