This weekend, millions of Americans will gorge themselves on one thing: Candy.
Easter is the second-biggest holiday for spending money on candy. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), which keeps track of holiday spending, Americans spent $2.6 billion on Easter candy. Halloween spending sits in the first spot at about $2.7 billion.
Not only is this far too much sugar for us to consume, but now we're seeing candy made with fake sugar. That includes some of the most popular candy, like Marshmallow Peeps and Russell Stover chocolates – both made with Splenda.
Splenda is the brand name for the artificial sweetener sucralose. If you remember, we wrote about the connection between sucralose and cancer back in 2016. Now the fake sugar is the focus of a study recently presented at the Endocrine Society's 2018 meeting.
Researchers from George Washington University took samples of fat tissue from participants in two groups: normal weight and obese. They exposed the tissues to different levels of sucralose.
What they saw was that the more sucralose the cells got, the more fat they wanted to create. Basically, the sucralose made the fat cells behave the same way as they did with sugar.
This isn't the only study to demonstrate this problem with artificial sugars. We've seen similar studies on other fake sugars like aspartame (Equal) and saccharin (Sweet 'N Low). They all affect our cells the same way real sugar does. And the results are ruining our health.
This new research also suggests that artificial sweeteners increase our chances of something called metabolic syndrome.
Now, to be clear, metabolic syndrome sounds far worse than it is. Doctors will slap the syndrome label on you if you have any three of the following five conditions:
- Abdominal obesity (excess weight you carry around your belly)
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- High blood triglycerides
- Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (the "good cholesterol," or HDL)
If you've been reading our issues, you know some of this is overkill. Last November, some medical groups dropped the levels needed for a high blood pressure diagnosis. That led to millions of folks suddenly qualifying for more prescriptions (which meant more money for Big Pharma and the doctors). Similarly, the blood-sugar requirements dropped last year – putting more Americans in the "at risk" category of prediabetes... Which also led to more prescription dollars.
So, the label "metabolic syndrome" could be in some ways a scare tactic used to try and get you on more prescription medications.
But you shouldn't ignore these conditions. We know they contribute to type 2 diabetes, and they also increase your risk of stroke and heart attack. And obesity increases your risk of cancer, particularly liver and pancreatic cancer, as we wrote earlier this week.
A good way to reduce your risk of getting these conditions? Cut out fake sugar.
Artificial sugars increase inflammation, fat formation, and even harm our gut microbiome. Remember, those are the bacteria in our gut that help us not only digest foods and absorb nutrients, but also monitor our immune system and mood. And because artificial sugar doesn't contain calories, it may also trigger us to eat more food to make up for the deficit.
So, skip out on the Splenda-sweetened candy this year. You can still enjoy your Easter candy, just be sure to do it in moderation. And choose dark chocolate without much added sugar – cocoa is great for our blood pressure and memory.
And after having some chocolate, make sure you go for a walk. Remember, several studies show that weight loss, dietary changes, and exercise lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by 60%. That's double what any medication can do. Get out and walk this weekend –your fat cells will thank you.
What We're Reading...
- Did you miss it? Our original takedown of artificial sweeteners.
- Something different: A somber reflection from an astrophysicist.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
March 29, 2018