Tag Archives: chemical sweetener

Designer sugar? Why my heart sinks.

In a bid to make foods taste just as sweet, but using less sugar, the food industry proudly presents…”designer sugar”!

What exactly makes sugar “designer” is being kept a secret – alarm bells should already be ringing right there!! – but in broad terms it means “tinkering with the shape of sugar molecules to deliver the same sweetness but with a lower amount of actual sugar“, reports The Guardian.

Nestle are spearheading the “tinkering”. Where other cheap-chocolate manufacturers have mooted making bars smaller, Nestle are looking to use a new Frankenstein sugar. We are told we can expect to be consuming the stuff as soon as 2018. Oh joy!!

I have to tell you – if you haven’t already spotted the obvious – I’m not treating this as good news.

We are emerging from a decades-long experiment with trans fats, otherwise known as “hydrogenated” fats. Creating a hydrogenated fat means binding hydrogen molecules into an oil, liquid at room temperature, to make it saturated, solid, spreadable. Hydrogen is a natural molecule. It exists as the most abundant element in our universe. So it’s surely safe? Scientists might have thought so at the time they began developing the technology, but in just a few short decades we’ve come to know it as one of the most dangerous things to have happened in food technology. So dangerous, in fact, that the American government under President Obama ordered trans/hydrogenated fats to be removed from all processed foods in just 3 years. We are now eating into that 3 year time period, and already we can see the difference. Reports published just this week, in the Journal of the American Medical Association Cardiology, show that removing trans/hydrogenated fats from the human diet is already leading to lower rates of heart disease and strokes. Yes, trans/hydrogenated fats have been causing heart disease, strokes and more – collectively termed “cardiovascular events”. They’ve been a major contributor to the epic levels of heart disease in the developed world!

The idea that we are lurching from “tinkered with” fats to “tinkered with” sugars makes my heart sink. What have we not learned from the trans fats debacle? Do we think somehow this will be different? Apparently so! At least the technicians working on designer sugar declare it to be safe: John Coupland, professor of food science at Pennsylvania State University and president of the nonprofit Institute of Food Technologists, says: “It’s not dangerous, just not common.”  (Quote taken from the Guardian article linked above.)

Until Mr. Coupland and his colleagues shown me a plethora of long-term studies showing the health effects of human consumption of their designer sugar I will remain unconvinced by their claims of safety. The moment Nestle start selling products containing their tinkered-with-sugar-molecule will be the moment they lose my custom I’m afraid – and, as they are one of the biggest employers in my home city of York, I say that with true regret.

Let’s wind forward, and assume designer sugar does prove to be safe – having no detrimental effect on our health…

…are there other reasons to be cautious? Sadly so. We already know that other artificial sweeteners have had a detrimental effect on our health. Designer sugar is, despite its name, just another artificial sweetener. Once the tinkering scientists have changed the molecule it is no longer as nature intended, and by definition no longer a natural foodstuff.

Artificial sweeteners are now known to cause weight gain, and are increasingly linked with obesity and all its concomitant diseases. Medical research has been telling us this for several years already. Whilst they can’t actually raise blood sugar levels, chemical sweeteners have been shown in research to cause our bodies to produce insulin nonetheless, just as though we have consumed actual sugar. The problem is there is no sugar for that insulin to act upon, and we are left with excess circulating in our blood. Ask a diabetic if excess insulin is a good idea – they’ll give you an emphatic “no”.

Is designer sugar a good idea? Time may tell. But, in this rush to maintain a market share in the profit-driven food industry, time is not being allowed! Right now, my answer simply has to be, likewise, an emphatic NO!

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