Friday, October 18, 2013

Artificial Sweeteners. Agave Nectar? High Fructose Corn Syrup? Alaska. Puerto Rico. Dymaxion.


For "Foodie Friday":

Artificial Sweeteners and Other Food Substitutes: Dangerous to Your Health?

"Dr. Oz examines the risks linked to artificial sweeteners and other food substitutes. Bottom line: They’re not always the healthier option."

You put artificial sweeteners in your coffee, drink them in your diet soda and use them to limit sugar intake and cut calories. But could they be hazardous to your health?
This question is critical since the average American consumes 24 pounds of artificial sweeteners each year. Soda is the most common place they’re found, but did you know that sugar substitutes are also added to nearly 6,000 other products sold in the US, including baby foods, frozen dinners and even yogurts?
The four major groups of FDA-approved artificial sweeteners on the market are:

  • Aspartame (includes Equal, Nutrasweet brands)
  • Sucralose (includes Splenda brand)
  • Saccharin (includes Sweet’N Low brand)
  • Acesulfame Potassium (includes Sunett, Sweet One brands)

Besides artificial sweeteners, today’s grocery store shelves are also lined with substitutes for butter, salt and fat. In all of these cases, the substitute is not necessarily the better option.
Here’s the skinny on the top questions concerning artificial sweeteners, and the facts you need to know regarding other popular “fake” foods.

The Skinny on Artificial Sweeteners Can They Cause Weight Gain?
Many people use artificial sweeteners to cut their caloric intake, but the very opposite effect can occur. New research shows that artificial sweeteners stimulate taste receptors that sense sweetness in both the esophagus and stomach. Anticipating energy, the pancreas releases insulin, an important hormone for accumulating body fat. At the same time, chemicals are sent to the brain’s satiety center, which becomes confused as to whether or not the body is actually receiving calories. The result? You feel even hungrier and less full, which can lead to weight gain.

Are They Addictive?
Research on artificial sweeteners shows that they affect the same parts of the brain that deal with addiction. Artificial sweeteners are substances some people feel they can’t live without, a sign of an addiction. Second, artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than natural sugars, such as those found in whole grains, fruits and skim milk, and can actually reset your taste buds. The body then builds up a tolerance, which can cause overuse, another sign of addiction."    More at:


Sugar Substitutes—What’s Safe and What’s Not

image "Sugar substitutes can be divided into four general categories: artificial sweetener, sugar alcohols, natural sweeteners, and dietary supplements such as Stevia and Lo Han.

Artificial sweeteners can actually be far worse for you than sugar and fructose, and scientific evidence backs up that conclusion.

Furthermore, numerous studies show they increase weight gain and worsen insulin sensitivity to a greater degree than sugar.

Natural sweeteners such as honey and agave may seem like a healthier choice, but not only are they loaded with fructose, many are also highly processed.

In moderation, some sugar alcohols can be a better choice than highly refined sugar, fructose or artificial sweeteners. Of the various sugar alcohols, xylitol is one of the best. When it is pure, the potential side effects are minimal.

Three of the best sugar substitutes are all-natural Stevia from the whole plant, Lo Han Guo, and dextrose (pure glucose). Contrary to fructose, glucose can be used directly by every cell in your body and as such is a far safer sugar alternative."    Complete article at:


Q: What's Wrong with Agave Nectar?

""I've been using agave as a sweetener for a couple of years. Lately, I've been reading some very negative reports on it, and am considering switching to another sweetener. Do you still recommend agave?"

Answer:  "Agave (pronounced 'uh-GAH-vay') nectar is a natural sweetener with a pleasant neutral taste. It ranks relatively low on both the glycemic index and glycemic load scales. For a while, I used agave as my main sweetener, although I don't use sweeteners very often. When I do, I use very small amounts.

I've stopped using agave myself and no longer recommend it as a healthy sweetener. The reason agave ranks relatively low on the glycemic index is because it has a high content of fructose. Fructose does not readily raise blood sugar (glucose) levels because the body doesn't metabolize it well. New research suggests that excessive fructose consumption deranges liver function and promotes obesity. The less fructose you consume, the better.

As it turns out, agave has a higher fructose content than any other common sweetener, more even than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Because of its reputation as a "natural" sweetener, it is now widely used in products claiming to be good for health – from teas to nutrition bars and energy drinks.

I don't think there's any doubt that Americans consume much too much fructose, an average of 55 grams per day (compared to about 15 grams 100 years ago, mostly from fruits and vegetables). The biggest problem is cheap HFCS, ubiquitous in processed food. 

Fructose is a major culprit in the rising incidence of type 2 diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.  It may also increase risks of heart disease and cancer.

I now use maple syrup instead of agave. It has a much lower fructose content, and I have always liked its flavor. I've asked the chefs at True Food Kitchen, the restaurants I helped found in Phoenix and Scottsdale in Arizona and Newport Beach, San Diego and Santa Monica in California to cut back on agave and experiment with pure glucose syrup for sweetening.  It is less sweet than either agave or maple syrup and contains no fructose at all."  Andrew Weil, M.D. From:


Q: High Fructose Corn Syrup: Too Sweet to Eat?

""I'm confused about high fructose corn syrup. I thought it was bad for you, but now I read that it's natural and may not be to blame for the obesity epidemic after all. True?"

Answer:  "High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is definitely bad for you. It is also bad for the planet, and I believe that it is a major driver of the obesity epidemic, despite the position taken in June 2008 by the American Medical Association. The AMA concluded that HFCS isn't any worse than other caloric sweeteners and that there is "insufficient evidence" to restrict its use or require a warning label on products that contain it.

HFCS is a relatively recent invention for sweetening soft drinks, juices and foods - the production process was developed in Japan in the late 1960s, and the new sweetener entered the American food system in the early 1970s. It tastes sweeter than regular corn syrup, blends well with other foods, maintains a longer shelf life and is cheaper. You'll also find it in processed foods ranging from salad dressings and ketchup, to jams, jellies, ice cream and many others - even bread. HFCS contains 14-percent fructose, much more than regular corn syrup. I'm concerned that it has disruptive effects on metabolism, because the body doesn't utilize fructose well, and humans have never before consumed it in such quantity.

Of course, HFCS isn't solely to blame for the obesity epidemic. The AMA correctly pointed out that as consumption of HFCS rose, Americans were also consuming more calories (of all kinds) and becoming less active. All told, however, consumption of HFCS in the United States increased by more than 1,000 percent between 1970 and 1990, and a study published in the April 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, concluded that Americans over the age of two consume more than 300 calories daily from caloric sweeteners, one-sixth of their average daily calories. HCFS may also promote weight gain because it behaves in the body more like fat than glucose, the blood sugar derived from other sweet foods. Some evidence suggests that fructose may disturb liver function, and unlike glucose, doesn't appear to trigger the process by which the body tells us it is full. What's more, in men (not in women) HFCS appears to elevate triglycerides, blood fats that increase the risk of heart disease.

As far as HFCS being "natural," this was a recent FDA decision based on whether or not HFCS constituents come into contact with a synthetic fixing agent during manufacturing. If not, the FDA said, products containing HFCS can be labeled "natural." The other side of this argument, advanced by the sugar industry and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group, is that HFCS can't be considered "natural" because its chemical bonds are broken and rearranged during manufacturing. I don't much care if it's called natural or not; it's not good for us.

And then there's the environmental impact, a serious concern. Journalist and agriculture industry critic Michael Pollen points out that growing all the corn needed for HFCS depletes soil nutrients, which increases the need for pesticides and fertilizer. In March 2008, theWashington Post quoted Pollan as saying that a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where "virtually nothing will live" has been starved of oxygen by the fertilizer runoff coming down the Mississippi from the corn belt. Pollan also notes that federal corn subsidies keep prices of products containing HFCS low, and that - plus the sweetness - feeds the public demand for these foods.

Giving up products containing HFCS will benefit your health, help control your weight, and if enough people get the message, protect the planet as well."  Andrew Weil, M.D. From: 



"Scans showed that drinking the glucose-sweetened beverages turns off brain areas that stimulate the desire for food, but this didn’t happen when the drinks contained HFCS."    More at:


On This Day:

U.S. takes possession of Alaska, Oct 18, 1867:

"On this day in 1867, the U.S. formally takes possession of Alaska after purchasing the territory from Russia for $7.2 million, or less than two cents an acre. The Alaska purchase comprised 586,412 square miles, about twice the size of Texas, and was championed by William Henry Seward, the enthusiastically expansionist secretary of state under President Andrew Johnson.

Russia wanted to sell its Alaska territory, which was remote, sparsely populated and difficult to defend, to the U.S. rather than risk losing it in battle with a rival such as Great Britain. 

The name Alaska is derived from the Aleut word alyeska, which means "great land."  Most Americans recognized that Seward had made a smart deal with the Alaska Purchase. Still, a few ill-informed critics did not miss the opportunity to needle the Johnson administration by calling the purchase "Seward's Folly" and "Seward's Icebox," or joking that the administration had only bought the territory to create new political appointments like a "Polar Bear's Bureau" and a "Superintendent of Walruses."

Within a few decades, Alaska would prove to be an amazing treasure trove of natural resources from gold to oil, proving Seward's wisdom and exposing the shortsightedness of those who had once poked fun at the purchase."


U.S. takes control of Puerto Rico, Oct 18, 1898:

"Only one year after Spain granted Puerto Rico self-rule, American troops raise the U.S. flag over the Caribbean nation, formalizing U.S. authority over the island's one million inhabitants.

In July 1898, near the end of the Spanish-American War, U.S. forces launched an invasion of Puerto Rico, the 108-mile-long, 40-mile-wide island that was one of Spain's two principal possessions in the Caribbean. With little resistance and only seven American deaths, U.S. troops were able to secure the island by mid August. After the signing of an armistice with Spain, the island was turned over to the U.S forces on October 18. In December, the Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the Spanish-American War and officially approving the cession of Puerto Rico to the United States.

Movements for Puerto Rican statehood, along with lesser movements for Puerto Rican independence, have won supporters on the island, but popular referendums in 1967 and 1993 demonstrated that the majority of Puerto Ricans still supported their special status as a U.S. commonwealth."


R. Buckminster Fuller tries to patent his Dymaxion Car, Oct 18, 1933:

"On October 18, 1933, the American philosopher-inventor R. Buckminster Fuller applies for a patent for his Dymaxion Car. The Dymaxion—the word itself was another Fuller invention, a combination of "dynamic," "maximum," and "ion"—looked and drove like no vehicle anyone had ever seen. It was a three-wheeled, 20-foot-long, pod-shaped automobile that could carry 11 passengers and travel as fast as 120 miles per hour. It got 30 miles to the gallon, could U-turn in a distance equal to its length and could parallel park just by pivoting its wheels toward the curb and zipping sideways into its parking space. It was stylish, efficient and eccentric and it attracted a great deal of attention: Celebrities wanted to ride in it and rich men wanted to invest in it. But in the same month that Fuller applied for his patent, one of his prototype Dymaxions crashed, killing the driver and alarming investors so much that they withdrew their money from the project.

Sculptor Isamu Naguchi helped the inventor with his final design: a long teardrop-shaped chassis with two wheels in front and a third in back that could lift off the ground. In practice, this didn't turn out to be a great idea: As the vehicle picked up speed (theoretically in preparation for takeoff) and the third wheel bounced off the ground, it became nearly impossible for the driver to control the car. In fact, many people blamed this handling problem for the fatal crash of the prototype car, even though an investigation revealed that a car full of sightseers had actually caused the accident by hurtling into the Dymaxion's lane.

Many elements of the Dymaxion Car's design—its streamlined shape, its fuel efficiency—have inspired later generations of automakers, but Fuller himself was probably best known for another of his inventions: the geodesic dome. Geodesic domes are built using a pattern of self-bracing triangles. As a result, perhaps unlike the Dymaxion Car, they are incredibly strong and stable—in fact, as one historian writes, "they have proved to be the strongest structures ever devised.""



Another day that we couldn't work on the water leak, as Ray and Shay were helping someone down the street.  Time for me to go shopping, as Misty seemed to be feeling better.

Even after I had the bad vacuum hoses and injector replaced in my van, I could still feel a vibration in the seat and steering wheel.  When Jim the mechanic down the street serviced it, he discovered that the front tires were wearing unevenly.  So, yesterday I took it to Pete's mechanic shop in Conroe, and he took it for a test drive.  Then he drove it over his front-end alignment pit and checked the front end.  I have to take it back when I can leave it, as the upper ball-joints need to be replaced. 

The new camera that I had bought at BestBuy, wouldn't work, so I took it back.  They didn't have another one like it in stock, so it is ordered. I was at BestBuy for ages getting that done, it is a busy place.  Any pictures that I have taken recently have been with my old camera.  The little green light which won't turn off, was running the battery down.  Now I keep the battery loosened so it isn't making contact until I'm ready to use it.  Not a very handy solution, but it works, for now.

I had some items to return to Home Depot, but as it was over the time limit, they gave me a store credit.  The only thing I really needed was another circular saw.  I used to have three.  My nice little lightweight one was so popular with everyone that it finally gave up.  Another one was stolen, and the remaining one has a faulty switch. At my age, I hadn't intended to buy any more power tools, but it seems that we always need them to do something.  I bought the lightest one, as it is easier for me.

As I had to go to Pete's first, I was doing my rounds in Conroe backwards, so then I dropped off the paper recycling at St. Mark's thrift shop.  I quickly looked at their wares, but nothing attracted me.

A troll around Conroe Kroger's found some food bargains, and then I came home. 

Nala and Peekers, my foster cats, are getting used to each other, and sort of play.  Nala follows Peekers, then when he turns around they have a 'claws-in' boxing match.   He, being so young, gets into everything, so at night and when I am gone, I put him in his cage.  He is safer that way, and then he gets to chase around the house for the rest of the day.


Dizzy-Dick said...

I have been using agave as a sweetener and thought it was healthier than sugar or honey. Guess I was wrong. What do you use?

LakeConroePenny,TX said...

Hi DD,

I don't put salt or sugar in or on food, but I do like my morning cup of coffee slightly sweet.

Sometimes I use Coconut Palm Sugar, sometimes Xylitol, and sometimes real unprocessed, unbleached sugar. It depends what I have on hand, and which was on sale!

Now, after reading these doctor's recommendations, I am thinking about getting some glucose.

Happy Tails and Trails, Penny.