Monday, November 30, 2009


Some artificial sweeteners cannot be used in cooking; for example, aspartame. By contrast, natural sweeteners typically do not lose their sweetness when cooked. And studies have indicated that artificial sweeteners may backfire by shutting down the satiety signals that tell us when we’re full…in those studies the groups fed artificial sweeteners ate up to 3 times the calories as control groups. Sugar alcohols don’t raise blood sugar as rapidly as sugar does, yet they’re as bulky as sugar so they can be used “spoon - for - spoon” to replace sugar. But their level of sweetness may vary, with xylitol being the closest to sugar. Sugar alcohols have a range of sweetness and absorption; the amount that is absorbed from the GI tract affects the possibility of it being somewhat laxative at high levels, which can vary from person to person. Sorbitol may be laxative at moderate levels of 10 grams or more, mannitol at over 20 grams; xylitol at over 30 grams. Erythritol is virtually free of a laxative side affect even at higher levels, but is expensive. Also, sugar alcohols tend to have a cooling effect in the mouth and actually taste better when combined with a different type of sweetener. Sugar alcohols also boast an FDA-approved health claim: “Frequent between-meal consumption of foods high in sugars and starches promotes tooth decay. The sugar alcohols in [name of food] do not promote tooth decay.” A whole leaf, full spectrum extraction of Stevia should preserve the many phytonutrients naturally present in the plant. One study reported over 100 natural Stevia phytonutrients; the majority being polyphenols and other plant antioxidants. By contrast, there are about 9 steviosides. And the new Reb A fraction products being sold as food sweeteners are only a single chemical isolated from the stevia plant. There is a bitter aftertaste associated with traditional Stevia products. Some mix Stevia with sugar alcohols like erythritol in order for the sweetener to mask the bitter aftertaste. The recent crossover of a certain isolated fraction of Stevia (Reb A) as a mass market sweetener has some drawbacks: it doesn’t taste like either whole leaf or other traditional Stevia extracts, and is combined with both erythritol and natural flavors. Many stevia products are still only legal to sell as herbal dietary supplements, not as sweeteners. Some companies may think that all stevia products are now approved for use in foods, but that is not true. Retailers should take their cues from the packaging, and only carry reputable brands that strictly follow labeling laws. It is primarily the isolated “Reb A” fraction of stevia that can be used in foods. Most other stevias have not been approved for food use. There is a wide selection of natural/alternative sweeteners: Organic Agave Nectar, Barley Malt powder, Organic Brown Rice Syrup (some have no gluten [usually barley malt] added; some do), Beet Sugar (for those with cane allergies), Date Sugar (look for pure dried date pieces with no oat flour added), Dextrose, Fructose, Lactose, Organic Maple Syrup, Organic Sucanat®, and Organic Turbinado Sugar.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Boston Globe wrong on Vitamins, Supplements

Dietary Supplements Are Regulated In its Nov. 2 editorial, the Globe complained that the FDA is “powerless” to police dietary supplements and called for a repeal of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. Health and Education Act of 1994. I suggest that the editors read the law and see what it is that they would lose by doing so. Mandatory Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) were authorized by this law. GMPs control the manufacturing of all supplements, requiring quality controls, identity and safety testing. Federal GMPs are currently being implemented. No one in their right mind wants this to go away right when it is just getting started. Federal pre-approval of all new dietary ingredients (NDIs) is also required by DSHEA. Isn’t that close to what the editors suggest when they want pre-market approval of all new supplements? Adulterated products are already banned by this law. And steroids and steroid precursors are specifically banned under another more recent law that was supported by the dietary supplement industry. DSHEA bans misbranded products, such as those containing hidden drugs, and offers them absolutely no protection. In fact, the misbranded products that the editors complained about are actually defined as unlabeled drugs by the FDA, not as dietary supplements, so technically DSHEA does not even apply to them. Let’s leave out the evildoers who deliberately hide illegal drugs in bottles misbranded as dietary supplements. What does that leave us with? The vast majority of dietary supplement companies responsibly follow the law and do not have poor quality products. There are rarely cases of serious injuries or deaths from dietary supplements when you take away the products that are really illegal drugs made by outlaws who don’t care about the law or their own customers’ health. Responsible brands follow the new FDA dietary supplement GMPs, checking all ingredients for identity and purity and looking for contaminants and known adulterants. They truthfully declare all ingredients and correct dosages on the labels. They monitor product usage for adverse events and report serious ones to the FDA when they occur. They are not the criminals counterfeiting illegal drugs disguised as dietary supplements. What part of this cries out for such severe regulation that pre-market approval of new formulas is needed? How will new laws stop lawbreakers when their actions are already clearly illegal? Pre-market approval in Canada is a joke; many ingredients and formulas are not available there even though American citizens freely enjoy their use without serious issues. Some American manufacturers have already pulled out of the Canadian market, while others offer only small selections of their lines because of the bureaucratic hoop jumping required for government approval. If DSHEA is repealed, many safe legal products providing much-needed nutrients will disappear while the lawbreakers continue to do business, with a net harm to public health.