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Friday, March 6, 2009

3/6/09 That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles (and Artificial/Replacement Sweeteners)

Report from the Pittsburgh Tribune News
GS Cookie Sales Crumble
Nationally, cookie sales are reportedly down 19 percent from last year. Regionally, the outlook isn’t as dire.
"I think the economy has something to do with it," Vance says. Since the cookie sale is the primary fundraiser for troops each year, Vance says decreased sales may hold girls back from great experiences in the coming year.

My cookies have arrived, from not one, but two different Girl Scouts. I have no idea what my family ordered (remember I avoided that) because I didn’t look. But I think my family helped with the Regional Outlook being better…I’ve been told there are many boxes on our shelves…I’m staying away.

This got me thinking about how I’m going to deal with my sweet-tooth as part of my lifestyle change. I’m a huge chocoholic and as you’ve heard me say so many times I’m all about starting into this change as a lifestyle change and not a diet, so it’s all about being able to make better choices without feeling deprived. I’ve never cooked/used many artificial sweeteners, but I’ve started some research on this. I’ve got some sugar free Russell Stover chocolates, individually packaged that work for me, so I thought I’d like to learn about artificial sweeteners, possibly even in cooking/baking.

*Note I’m no Dr. or Nutritionist, I read a lot of articles and this was the gist of what I found out, I don’t claim to know what’s truth, and 'experts' come down on both sides of the safety issues on all these.

I started with the Lap Band; What I’ve turned up so far is that several people have blamed band issues on artificial sweeteners…one declared that it was a major contributor to her band slippage?!(not sure how), and many people have said their docs have told them not to use them (some say they cause sugar cravings).

There are two types of sweeteners available on the market, nutritive and non-nutritive.

Nutritive sweeteners provide sweet taste and a source of energy (calories). Their sweet taste comes from the presence of natural sugars glucose and fructose, alone or together, as sucrose. They are higher in calories than non-nutritive sweeteners, but they are all natural. Exceptions*
- Common examples of nutritive sweeteners include typical table sugars (both brown and white), molasses, honey, agave nectar, and syrups such as maple and high fructose corn syrup.
- Erythritol/Polyols, energy-reduced sugar alcohols: Slightly less calories than true sugar. Often called sugar replacements, these sugar alcohols are derived from natural sugars- fruits or produced commercially from dextrose. The most common include: sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and maltitol. Products are Organic Zero, Zsweet, Sun Crystals. Gas and laxative issues.
- Stevia: almost 0 cal. New product. Truvia*(Rebinia), PureVia* (*some say both have artificial additives), or raw/natural Stevia. Some say has a bitter aftertaste and causes gas (I’ve actually grown this plant in my herb garden before).
- Whey Low: 75% less cal. than sugar. Fairly new product. Made with different sugars-sucrose, fructose, lactose; studies not clear on calorie absorption-they claim 75% less calories because of the way the combination of sugars acts to not be absorbed in the intestines. The only studies were done by the company. Some say more studies need to be done on this product.

Non-nutritive sugar substitutes offer no energy (calories) and sweeten with little volume. Non-nutritive sweeteners include: saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium and neotame. For many of you who drink protein shakes, almost all of them contain these.
- Saccharine: 4 cal./pack Sweet ’n Low- thought to be dangerous was almost banned by the FDA, but public outcry kept it as it was the only substitute at the time, and it used to be labeled ‘cancer causing in lab animals. Made from petroleum based products.
- Aspartame: 2 cal./tsp. Nutra Sweet, Equal, Spoonful- some studies show that aspartame is dangerous/cancer causing and is considered dangerous by most, by law has to show PKU (disease in infants) warning. Found in Diet Pepsi/Coke, SF Jell-O/Pudding, and Crystal Light.
- Splenda/sucralose: Says 0 cal, but it's NOT calorie free-has 4 per serving, which can add up if you’re baking with it, i.e. coke zero has 4 calories. FDA rule- they can claim 0 if it’s less than 5, the same is true for all packaging; i.e. they can claim something is 0 carbs if it is under 5 per serving. Splenda has sugar: maltodextrin & dextrose/corn syrup and sucralose, the process changes the sugar molecules and turns some atoms to chlorine (other chlorinated products include pesticides). So, although it’s made from natural sugars the process changes the atoms. Remember that everything is ‘natural’ it just depends how you define artificial vs. natural. Most consider this the safest low cal. nonnutritive sweetener, but there have been no outside studies.
- Acesulfame K/acesulfame potassium: 0 cal. sold as Sunett, Sweet One- thought to cause cancer (no new studies underway). It’s found in Crystal Light, SF Jell-O & Pudding.
- Neotame: Newer product. From amino acids- Clabber Girl Sugar Replacer, Domino Pure D’Lite. Many consider it to be much more dangerous than even aspartame, which was considered the worst. Used in many gums, Herr's pretzels.

The bottom line of what I found out was that although there are opinions on both sides, one thing that most everyone can agree on is that even if artificial sweeteners aren't bad for you, they aren't good for you either. I'm no health food/organic nut, but even I was appalled at the lack of studies on these products and the role of big business in keeping these on the market (ie. Saccharin is only still on the market because Congress passed a 2 year moratorium against any ban of the product by the FDA when they wanted to ban it in 1977, which Congress has continually extended). Even Cyclamate that was banned by the FDA in 1970 is currently being reconsidered (I lived on TAB in my teenage years...no wonder I was so skinny).

I don’t have time to read every nutrition label and I’ll probably still chose to eat some things with the non-nutritives like SF puddings (let's face it, obesity will kill me sooner than aspertame caused Cancer). As with most things…all things in moderation. I do plan to limit my intake of Crystal Light, which I have always drank to excess on every diet, and just up the water intake. I don’t intend to start baking with any of the non-nutritive, although I might look into some of the nutritive ones more. I think this will turn out to be like the rest of my theme for my ‘lifestyle change’ …I’ll be using real sugar, and just like other bad foods…in VERY small amounts. Besides, I love really DARK chocolate…Like Hershey’s 70%, which are lower in calories and higher in the good aspects of chocolate like antioxidants (cocoa has more antioxidants/flavanoids than green tea)…a tiny bite satisfies my chocoholic cravings.

The cave woman got most of her sweets from fruits, which were seasonal, so she bulked up in the summer and fall to survive the long winter. So stick mainly with the natural sweets...nature knows best!

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