SWEETNERS ! THEY MAY NOT BE BAD FOR US AFTER ALL.

VOICES OF DOOM IGNORED.

As someone who was raised during and then after World War Two, my childhood was based on austerity brought on by the need to concentrate resources on the business of War.

As a result we were spared the vast array of personal choices in diet for example ,that are available today. In my own case I never saw a packet of potato crisps nor a banana till I was over 5 years of age. Sugar was rationed and thus sparingly used, whilst the only substitute available was saccharin. Saccharin by then was 40/50 years old having been produced by pre-war German Scientists. As such it was used warily.I remember that you could easily tell if your drink had saccharin as a sweetner as it produced a more bitter taste in the mouth.

Today, the range of artificial sweetners is huge and constitutes a worldwide industry worth hundreds of millions of pounds annually. All this despite scare stories over many years linking them top a range of diseases from Diabetes to Strokes, Hypertension to vomiting, Seizures to Dizzy spells etc. etc.

A MASSIVE INDUSTRY.

Despite all these claims the world use of sweetening products has expanded year on year to a point where over 6,000 products use them in some form.Indeed most of us consume them on a daily basis these days.

NEARLY EVERYTHING WE BUY TO CONSUME CONTAINS SOME FORM OF SWEETNER RANGING FROM CAKES, DESSERTS, CHEWING GUM, READY MADE MEALS ETC. THE LIST SEEMS ENDLESS.

SWEETNERS OR SUGAR ?

Back in the 1960"s I became aware of the great debate concerning both natural sugar and produced sweetners in human diet. Even then lines were drawn up to forecast disaster whichever was consumed. Sugar was termed as "Pure White and Deadly " whilst the alternatives were considered as no more than the "devil"s work", contributing to life damaging conditions like Diabetes, Cardiac Disease and Strokes to mention but a few.

Maybe it was this "lose lose " situation presented to people that saw the vast majority ignore the voices of doom on both sides of the divide. It seemed that to take sugar was bad and to take sweetners maybe even worse. Consequently, whilst a few were able to eschew both, the majority went with the industrial flow rarely considering the matter but just enjoying whatever they bought and consumed, often oblivious to whether it contained either sugar or sweetners.

NOW CHECK UP ON SWEETNERS.

Since my childhood and the lonely saccharin, there has been an explosion in the types of sweetners available. Essentially they come in 4 different types, all of which have different health factors to consider as follows:

1. ARTIFICIAL SWEETNERS.

This group has no calorific content and are termed non- nutritive sweetners. Thus they do not contribute, for example, to obesity. Look out for names like ASPARTAME and SACCHARIN on the ingredients list

2. SUGAR ALCOHOLS.

This group derives mainly from natural fruits and vegetables. Cherries are especially prominent in this section. Names to spot are SORBITOL AND XYLITOL

3. NOVEL SWEETNERS.

This group, the latest addition to the range, derives from herbs and shrubs in the sunflower family. Check for the name STEVIA These taste much sweeter than sugar and so need less amounts to create the desired level of sweetness.

4. NATURAL SWEETNERS.

Fruit Juices, Honey, Maple Syrup form this section and effectively equate as the same as sugar, whilst the other groups are much sweeter and thus also less amounts of these types are needed to produce the level of sweetness required.

THE CASE FOR SWEETNERS.

Recent studies produce conflicting views but the balance sides with sweetners as being less dangerous to the consumer. As in 1960"s sugar is still identified as bad due to the high calorific content in sucrose requiring a great deal of insulin to break it down and thus providing roots for obesity and diabetes type 2. On the other hand sweetners are either zero or low rated for calorific content and as such do not cause weight gain or diabetes according to medical research and evidence. In fact, the first 3 listed above are all classified as safe for diabetics

Back in 1969, research conducted on rats in the USA suggested liks between cancer and certain sweetners like "Sweet n Low". Newer studies failed to support this, though sweetners containing Sodium Cyclamate are still banned as a result in the USA. European sources have no such ban.

The generally held view by Medics now is that sweetners are safe ! Aspartame, as found in the ARTIFICIAL SWEETNERS section is now considered safe after 20 years of use in various products such as Diet Coke where it is found to produce only half the amount of methanol produced by an equal quantity of fruit juice.

ONE AREA TO BE AWARE OF.

PROBLEMS IN THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM HAVE BECOME MORE COMMON IN MODERN TIMES AND DIET IS RECOGNISED AS THE KEY FACTOR. IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME IS THE TERM GENERALLY APPLIED TO PROBLEMS OF BLOATING OR DIARRHOEA WHEN SPECIFIC CAUSES SUCH AS CHROHN "S OR CEOLIAC"S DISEASE ARE NOT DIAGNOSED.

Medical expertise warns that for IBS sufferers there can be side effects from using sweetners in some cases but interestingly it is recommended that sugar alcohol as found in chewing gum for example, have positive benefits in fightimg plaque, gum disease and tooth decay.

A CLEAR PATHWAY .

Whilst reseach continues quite rightly, the results now available give a clear pathway to all ,with the exception of IBS sufferers to use sweetners without undue fear. The evidence comes down very firmly on the side of sweetners as being safer to consume than sugar and by referring to the 4 different types of sweetners listed here, the consumer can be confident of what they are taking in and the nature of the product. Thus , after many years of being projected in a bad light, sweetners have stepped forward as not being bad for us and that all those scare stories we have read over the years are exposed as just that, scare stories.

MODERATION AT ALL TIMES.

As with most things in life it seems that sweetners, not sugar, taken in moderation but not excessively can be good for us all {except those souls with IBS.

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