Saturday, June 25, 2011

Healthy Flavoring For Water? Crystal Light?

After my post, Water Is Not Water Anymore, a lot of questions have bee asked about Crystal Light and what to use in your water if all those things were so bad, and if there was anything out there to use in other drinks as well. Well, I think I found a solution!

First, the topic of Crystal Light. Ads for Crystal Light low-calorie powdered drink mixes say that "Women who use Crystal Light drink 20 percent more water." But what else are you getting with that water?

Some varieties of Crystal Light are vitamin-fortified: the "Enhanced" formulas, for instance, contain mixes of small quantities of caffeine, vitamins A, C, E, B6 and B12 to promote, variously, "Energy," "Immunity," or "Hydration." The "Sunrise" series provides 100 percent of the DV for Vitamin C and 10 percent of the DV for calcium. A "Skin Essentials" line promises to "nourish your skin from within" with vitamins A, C and E plus a "plant extract containing lutein and xeaxanthin." (These last two are thought to help combat macular degeneration, an eye condition, but aren't established as helping the skin in any particular way.)

I'm all for vitamins and minerals, but I'd just as soon get mine from whole fruits, vegetables and other real foods. And don't be fooled by the names of Crystal Light products: there's nary a pomegranate, strawberry or mango in the bunch. But my real gripe with Crystal Light is that, despite the Web site's admirable provision of information about the importance of keeping your body hydrated and water's effect on your health, their products depend for their low calorie content on two artificial sweeteners that I just don't trust: aspartame and acesulfame potassium.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest maintains a list of food additives that advises as to whether they're safe to consume. Both aspartame and acesulfame potassium receive big Xs, which indicate the ingredient is something to "AVOID. Unsafe in amounts consumed or is very poorly tested and not worth any risk." the Blue 1 artificial coloring used in at least one Crystal Light product (Immunity Cherry Pomegranate) is on CSPI's X list, and the commonly used Red 40 and Yellow 5 are to be used with caution, as CSPI deems them not fully tested.

Of course, Crystal Light is far from the only product to contain these artificial sweeteners and colors. But weighing the potential health benefits of drinking Crystal Light against the potential harm, though perhaps small, makes me wonder why people would take the risk.

If you drink diet sodas or add Equal or NutraSweet to your coffee, listen up. These sweeteners also contain aspartame, which was first approved by the FDA in 1974. That approval was rescinded because of two studies showing that the substance caused brain tumors in laboratory animals.

These studies were never refuted, and the additive was approved in spite of these studies, in 1981, and for soft drinks in 1983. According to National Cancer Institute data, there was an alarming jump in the incidence of brain tumors in 1983 - 1987. The estimated annual percent change (EAPC) rose from 2.1% to 8.1% in males, and from 2.1% to 11.7% in females. This could be related to the consumption of aspartame-sweetened products. In fact, more than 75% of all non-drug complaints to the FDA are about aspartame. These complaints include headaches, dizziness, mood changed, numbness, vomiting or nausea, muscle cramps and spasms, and abdominal pain and cramps. There are also sizable numbers reporting vision changed, joint pains, skin lesions, memory loss, and seizures. Five deaths were reported to the FDA prior to 1987 as possibly attributed to aspartame. Aspartame has both potential and real toxicities.

SOOO now that everything I thought I was doing right to help me drink more water has been blown out of the water, what to do? STEVIA! Stevia is an all natural, no calorie sweetener that is 100% safe and FDA approved! If you’ve ever tasted stevia, you know it’s extremely sweet. In fact, this remarkable noncaloric herb, native to Paraguay, has been used as a sweetener and flavor enhancer for centuries.

But it is not just a plain sugar replacement, It not comes in flavored liquid drops! From chocolate to hazelnut for coffee and desserts, Kahlua and Rum for alcohol drinks, to Fruit and Tropical flavors for water and other drinks, like lemonade! The best ones I have found are YUM DROPS or SWEET LEAF.

What is Stevia?

Stevia is an herb that has been used as a sweetener in South America for hundreds of years. It is calorie - free, and the powdered concentrate is 300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia is widely used all over the world. In Japan, for example, it claims 41% of the sweetener market, including sugar, and was used in Japanese Diet Coke until the company replaced it with aspartame to "standardize" worldwide. There have not been any reports of toxicity with stevia, which is consumed by millions of people daily and the benefits of Stevia in many situations are great.

Diabetes and No Sugar Diets
Those who have a predisposition to diabetes will have a marked rise in blood sugar levels. The volunteers on stevia were found to have significantly lower blood sugar levels after ingestion of stevia. This is a positive indication that stevia can potentially be beneficial to diabetics who substitute stevia in order to decrease their sugar consumption. Even if stevia by itself is not able to lower blood sugar levels, just the fact that a diabetic would consume less sugar is of significant importance in maintaining better blood sugar control.

Weight Loss
It would seem quite obvious that substituting a no-calorie sweetener to sugar would help reduce caloric intake and thus contribute to weight loss. If you are the type of person who adds sugar to your morning coffee or tea, or to iced tea, lemonade, and a variety of desserts and baked goods, then, over time, the elimination of these refined sugar calories could make a significant difference.

Sweet Teeth with No Cavities
Even a five-year old child knows that sugar causes tooth cavities. There are certain bacteria in our mouths, particularly streptococci mutans, that ferment various sugars to produce acids. These in turn eat through the enamel of the tooth causing pockets or cavities. For a long time, scientists have searched to find alternative sweeteners that are not fermentable by bacteria and hence do not cause cavities. Artificial sweeteners have been helpful in this regard. It appears that the chemicals within the stevia plant that impart its sweetness are not fermentable, and thus do not cause tooth cavities.

Use in Children
Candies, sodas, ice cream, pies, cakes... it's disturbing how many sweet products are ingested by children on a daily basis. All that sugar can lead to tooth cavities and obesity. We believe that partially substituting with stevia can help children satisfy their sweet tooth while decreasing the risks from excessive sugar intake.

Blood Pressure
In 1991, Dr. M.S. Melis, from the Department of Biology at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, gave a one-time high dose injection of stevioside to rats and found that it caused a reduction in blood pressure as well as an increased elimination of sodium (Melis, 1991). A slight diuretic effect also occurred. The effect was additive when stevia was combined with verapamil (a medicine used to lower blood pressure in humans who have high blood pressure).When normal human volunteers between the ages of 20 to 40 years were given a tea prepared with stevia leaves, a lowering of blood pressure occurred (Boeck, 1981). This study was done in Brazil. Certainly more human studies are needed before we can come to any conclusions regarding the full effect of normal daily ingestion of stevioside on blood pressure.

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