Pop-tarts, Doritos, Go-gurt, Vitamin Water… The grocery store is loaded with artificially flavored, sweetened, and colored ‘franken-foods’ and we’re eating them up! Waistlines continue expanding and the obesity epidemic is out of control. What’s behind the increasing “weight of the world”? Is it EPIC portions, constant access to food, lack of activity or could it be something deeper than all of that? Maybe the amount of food or the lack of activity alone aren’t the only culprits here.
In the most recent edition of Robb’s newsletter, I covered “The Myth of the Acceptable Paleo Sweetener”, (long story short – no dice). This is a topic that gets brought up over and over again – what about agave? honey? coconut sugar? stevia? You name it – everyone wants a taste of the sweet stuff without facing up to potential health ramifications. Anyway, as a result of this newsletter we received an email from Joshua (a BIG Thank You to Joshua!!) that just adds to the argument that sweeteners (even artificial and calorie free varieties), and other food additives are NOT innocent regardless of what you might have been led to believe. Joshua’s note linked to a recent article in the University of Boston’s newsletter the Bostonian; “Why We Are Fat”.
The article’s featured researcher, Barbara Corkey states:
“I don’t believe that overeating causes obesity,” says Corkey flatly. “During my lifetime I have seen tremendous differences in food preparation and food packaging….When that novelty is associated with an increase in obesity and diabetes, is it rocket science to ask whether these things are related?”
This thinking has led her to explore the effect that today’s food additives have on fat, liver and pancreatic beta cell tissues. And hold onto your cape Batman!! It seems that there is more to the development of Type 2 Diabetes and obesity than ‘fast foodification’ and ‘butt – couch adhesion’. So far the research has identified monoglycerides (emulsifiers found in cereal, ice cream, nut butters, and baked foods) and saccharin (an artificial, calorie free sweetener – Sweet n’ Low) as being potential contributors to ‘Diabesity’.
We know that the beta cells in the pancreas secrete insulin in response to an increase in blood glucose levels. Under ‘normal’ circumstances (and this is the highly simplified, cut to the chase version) in the beta cells, voltage-gated calcium channels are activated in response to an increased ATP:ADP ratio and the closing of ATP-gated potassium channels. The activated calcium channels let calcium into the cells. This triggers the production and export of insulin. When the beta cells are ‘working’ they also require more oxygen in order to function. That was a BRIEF and SIMPLE explanation of what ‘normally’ occurs. Now, let’s see what happens when monoglycerides and saccharin ‘storm the fort’. Instead of the ‘normal’ activation of calcium channels, increased oxygen consumption and release of insulin, the beta cells seem to get a little ‘loopy’ (like too much weed or something), they start releasing reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS have been linked to inflammation, cell damage, cancer and obesity. All this craziness because of two FDA ‘generally regarded as safe’ (GRAS) additives are present. Things the make you go hmmm…
There is the likelihood that in ‘small’ amounts or consumed ‘infrequently’ some stevia, or other artificial sweetener might be fine – but in small and infrequent quantities plain old caloric sweeteners can be acceptable also. Keep in mind that even though a sweetener is calorie free, it doesn’t mean that you’re off the ‘insulin response’ hook. Here are just a few examples of research that tells us otherwise example 1, example 2, example 3. Remember insulin secretion is not something we want happening at high frequency – rather only when and in quantities needed following a meal!
The moral of this story: It’s a ‘bitter’ truth. There is NO 100%, put me in your coffee, eat me everyday sweetener. Is a ‘sane’ indulgence from time to time acceptable? Heck yes! But daily ingestion of sweeteners, calorie free sweeteners, and processed additive laden foods are not part of the “Paleo Solution”. Make your future a ‘sweet’ one – stick with real, whole foods and give up the search for the ‘golden ticket’ to Candy Land.
If it sounds too good to be ‘Tru’via – it probably is!