What are we doing to satisfy our sweet tooth?
Widely embraced as a safe sugar substitute, the popular artificial sweetener sucralose is now under scrutiny for its potential impact on the immune system.
How Does Sucralose Disturb the Immune System?
Over 140 million Americans use sugar substitutes. These biochemicals undergo rigorous tests for stability, safety, and toxicology to gain FDA approval.
Sucralose (sold as Splenda), boasting sweetness 600 times stronger than sugar, is one of the most popular artificial sweeteners in the United States.
However, a recent study published in Nature suggests that sucralose hinders a crucial function of T cells, the immune system’s first responders against pathogens. T cells rely on T-cell receptors (TCRs) to recognize threats like bacteria and viruses and activate the immune system. When present at high concentrations, sucralose inhibits TCR-dependent proliferation, limiting T-cell production.
The dietary sweetener sucralose is a negative modulator of T cell-mediated responses: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10033444/
The study further notes that sucralose may inhibit the immune-activating enzyme phospholipase C gamma-1, which plays a vital role in cell growth, migration, apoptosis, and proliferation. These disruptions impede the body’s defense mechanisms.
While there is no evidence that sucralose affects other parts of the immune system, the artificial sweetener has been found to disrupt the gut microbiome, induce liver inflammation, and change the normal function of sugar receptors in mice. High concentrations also inhibit the release of calcium, a crucial mineral the body uses to carry out many functions.
5 Healthier Sugar Alternatives
Regarding sugar substitutes, there are various options available, each with its advantages and disadvantages. While no perfect sugar substitute exists, several alternatives offer similar qualities.
Derived from the leaves of a South American plant, stevia is a few hundred times sweeter than sugar.
It contains virtually no calories and has shown potential health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and blood sugar.
Like many other sugar alcohols, xylitol shares a similar sweetness to sugar and offers additional advantages, such as reducing tooth decay.
While you should consume sugar alternatives only in moderation, xylitol will not raise blood sugar or insulin levels. Keep in mind that xylitol is toxic for dogs and contains a fair amount of calories. Additionally, it may cause some digestive problems for some people.
Tasting almost like sugar, erythritol does not cause spikes in blood sugar or insulin levels, making it suitable for diabetics. Unlike xylitol, this sweetener is less likely to cause digestive issues.
Erythritol should be consumed in moderation because it takes a long time to metabolize in the body. Concerns have arisen regarding a potential link between high intake and adverse cardiac events, although further research is needed to establish a definitive connection.
Raw honey with no added sugar (yes, most honey contains added sugar) is rich in antioxidants, benefits blood sugar control, reduces throat irritation, and offers a pleasant taste. It is essentially pure sugar derived from flower nectar and is a surprisingly close substitute to real sugar. Unheated raw honey has more benefits, as it contains live enzymes.
5. Monk Fruit Extract
Made from a fruit native to Southeast Asia, monk fruit extract is approximately 250 times sweeter than sugar without the calories or carbohydrates.
It contains compounds that fight inflammation and is generally considered safe for humans. However, you should always check the packaging when purchasing monk fruit extract, as it may have been diluted with other sweeteners or even sugar.
Tips to Reduce Sugar Intake
To prevent potential health issues associated with excessive sugar consumption, developing a balanced approach to sugar cravings from an early age is crucial. This is to proactively prevent the potential adverse health effects at their source rather than addressing the consequences after they have already occurred. Excessive sugar intake contributes to obesity, dental problems, and an increased risk of chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes.
To promote a healthier lifestyle and reduce the likelihood of children developing a sweet tooth at a young age, here are some tips:
- Offer a balanced diet: Provide a variety of nutritious foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, to develop diverse tastes.
- Limit sugary beverages: Encourage water as the primary choice and reduce consumption of sodas, fruit juices, and sports drinks as they are often high in added sugars.
- Control portion sizes: Teach moderation by serving sweets and desserts in small quantities.
- Educate about nutrition: Teach children the importance of a balanced diet and the potential adverse effects of excessive sugar consumption. Emphasize that sweets should be enjoyed in moderation as occasional treats.
- Explore healthier alternatives: Introduce naturally sweet foods like fruits, which provide essential nutrients and natural sugars. Experiment with healthier dessert options such as homemade fruit popsicles or yogurt parfaits.
- Focus on other rewards: Celebrate achievements or milestones with outings, fun activities, or small gifts instead of relying on sugary treats.
Remember, every child is different, and it’s important to balance promoting healthy eating habits and allowing occasional indulgences. It’s about fostering a lifelong relationship with food that prioritizes nutrition while leaving room for enjoyment.
COVID-19 vaccine development:
In July 2020, the company got permission to conduct human trials of the developmental COVID-19 vaccine named ZyCoV-D, from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), Government of India. On 20 August 2021, DCGI granted emergency use approval of ZyCoV-D.