By Dr. Sarah LoBisco, ND

On this beautiful day in May, I am so grateful to see the trees and foliage in glorious full bloom. Birds and animals alike are scurrying about with happy eyes, realizing that they can move about on soft, warm, ground.  If we allow ourselves to stop and notice, our immune systems can benefit from a boost of oxytocin or serotonin while viewing this joy filled landscape. Phew, what a winter, hello spring!

I don’t know about you, but I am SOOO done with the cooped out, cozy tea sipping, cold feet weather. I am happy to say, that the shovel has been put away or at least out of sight (in the car) so I don’t have to stare at it. (Hey, I’m a doctor, you always gotta be prepared!) It’s time to allow our bare skin to be embraced by the sun’s rays (Be sure to visit the Environmental Working Group’s summary of safe and non-toxic sunscreens.) It’s also a time where the sweet tastes of summer emerge, ice cream, frozen yogurt, and cold, “refreshing”, sweetened teas.

This week’s Sneak Peak is intended to make those more aware of choosing healthy sweeteners, which add yum to life without packing on the pounds or damaging the body. Below are some journal abstracts and articles that summarize why to stay away from excess sugars.

Contrary to popular perception, splenda is not a wise or safe natural alternative. Did you know this sweetener could be affecting your medication! One study showed how splenda reduced beneficial microflora in the gut and increased fecal pH, while also affecting the bioavailability of drugs.

Evidence indicates that a 12-wk administration of Splenda exerted numerous adverse effects, including (1) reduction in beneficial fecal microflora, (2) increased fecal pH, and (3) enhanced expression levels of P-gp, CYP3A4, and CYP2D1, which are known to limit the bioavailability of orally administered drugs. PMID: 18800291

Just Say No to Aspartame (Dr. Mercola)

Aside from very large and obvious tumors, Victoria also observed a wide range of other adverse effects in her aspartame-fed rats, including:

  • Neurological effects: difficulty walking, falling over
  • Paralysis
  • Torticollis (also known as wryneck: neck stiffness associated with muscle spasms, resulting in tilting your head to one side)
  • Symptoms of cerebral palsy
  • Eye disorders: infected eyes, bleeding, blindness, bulging eyes
  • Skin disorders: lesions, thinning and yellowing of fur
  • Obesity

Interestingly, she also found evidence suggesting genetic damage.

Sucralose, a non-caloric sweetener, can affect the guts’ hormonal signaling response. This sweetener was found to suppress glucagon-like peptide (GLP)-1 secretion and peptide YY (PYY). This affects insulin secretion and appetite control, and could explain why these sweeteners may cause long term weight gain. (GLP-1 is a hormone targeted by diabetic drugs to lower blood glucose levels)

Conclusions: At this dose, oral ingestion of sucralose does not increase plasma GLP-1 or PYY concentrations and hence, does not reduce appetite in healthy subjects. Oral stimulation with sucralose had no effect on GLP-1, insulin or appetite. PMID: 21245879


Dr. Mercola summarizes how processed foods with hydrogenated oils that contain fructose cause various health issues.

As described in Taube’s brilliant New York Times article, a calorie from glucose, such a potato or bread, is vastly different from a calorie from sugar (which is a 50/50 mix of glucose and fructose, or in the case of high fructose corn syrup, a 45/55 mix.) This is because they are metabolized differently, and hence affect your body in different ways.

As I’ve explained before, fructose (whether from regular sugar of HFCS) is metabolized primarily by your liver, whereas glucose is metabolized in every cell of your body. Making matters worse, when you consume fructose in liquid form, such as soda, the effect is not only sped up but also magnified.

Your liver converts the majority of this fructose into FAT.

Additionally, since all sugars raise your insulin levels, you eventually end up with insulin resistance. In response, your pancreas starts releasing higher amounts of insulin in an effort to curb your rising blood sugar levels. Eventually, your pancreas loses the battle; your blood sugar levels keep rising, and you end up with full-blown diabetes.

You’ve now also laid the groundwork for hypertension, heart disease, and cancer, just to name a few.

Additionally, sugar/fructose:

  • Leads to insulin resistance, which is not only an underlying factor of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but also many cancers. Researchers from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer have reported that those who are obese and/or diabetic are at greater risk of cancer.
  • Tricks your body into gaining weight by fooling your metabolism, as it turns off your body’s appetite-control system. Fructose does not appropriately stimulate insulin, which in turn does not suppress ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”) and doesn’t stimulate leptin (the “satiety hormone”), which together result in your eating more and developing insulin resistance.
  • Fructose rapidly leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity (“beer belly”), decreased HDL, increased LDL, elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure—i.e., classic metabolic syndrome.
  • Fructose metabolism is very similar to ethanol metabolism, which has a multitude of toxic effects, including NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). It’s alcohol without the buzz.

What about Sugar?? Well, it’s more of a non-food that robs your body of minerals and causes you to crave more and more as it packs on pounds from its addictive stimulation on dopamine receptors. Remember my newsletter on food addiction?

In an excerpt from Mark Hyman’s Newsletter, Dr. Hyman reviews the science behind the cycle of failed willpower:

Here are some of the scientific findings confirming that food can, indeed, be addictive (ii):

1. Sugar stimulates the brain’s reward centers through the neurotransmitter dopamine exactly like other addictive drugs.

2. Brain imagining (PET scans) shows that high-sugar and high-fat foods work just like heroin, opium, or morphine in the brain.(iii)

3. Brain imaging (PET scans) shows that obese people and drug addicts have lower numbers of dopamine receptors, making them more likely to crave things that boost dopamine.

4. Foods high in fat and sweets stimulate the release of the body’s own opioids (chemicals like morphine) in the brain.

5. Drugs we use to block the brain’s receptors for heroin and morphine (naltrexone) also reduce the consumption and preference for sweet, high-fat foods in both normal weight and obese binge eaters.

6. People (and rats) develop a tolerance to sugar-they need more and more of the substance to satisfy them-just like they do for drugs of abuse like alcohol or heroin.

7. Obese individuals continue to eat large amounts of unhealthy foods despite severe social and personal negative consequences, just like addicts or alcoholics.

8. Animals and humans experience “withdrawal” when suddenly cut off from sugar, just like addicts detoxifying from drugs.

9. Just like drugs, after an initial period of “enjoyment” of the food the user no longer consumes them to get high, but to feel normal.

How to Enjoy Food in an Addictive Food Society?

As a Naturopathic Doctor, I know that food is a source of pleasure, enjoyment, entertainment, and can effect emotions. Some people can become addictive or dependent on foods or substances due to the fact that food can and dose have biological effects, as Dr. Hyman highlighted.

In treatment plans, I even use particular diets and food plans for treating various conditions, such as toxicity, yeast, and hormonal imbalances. Still, it’s important to remember that the emotional connection of making things “good” or “bad” have a negative effect on the body, due to its effects on stress biochemistry. It’s important to have compassion for yourself.

Dr. Christiane Northrup discussed the pleasure of food in her recent newsletter:

Ultimately, reaching and maintaining healthy body composition and vibrant health through the right food choices happens in both your mind and body. Trust me—merely sticking to the latest fad diet or reaching for the perfect BMI won’t bring about the transformation. It is, indeed, personal.

What you eat—and when—affects your emotions and spirit as well. Of course you know there are often emotional reasons behind gain weight (or becoming too thin). Ignoring the emotional component of weight gain (or loss) can sabotage you when you’re in the midst of the diet wars. Some people eat because they’re bored, sad, or lonely. And you may be one of them. Women often drown their sorrows in a bowl of ice cream after a break up. We’ve all done it! It feels good for a few minutes. But it really doesn’t support the person you ultimately want to be—a happy, whole individual with a satisfying life.

I know many women who use food as a reward, too. You’ve all heard someone say: “When I finish this project, I’ll treat myself to a pizza.” (Or whatever.) Now that you’ve read Ani Phyo’s quote, is this how you want to reward yourself? And is it really a treat?

Now, I’m not saying you should never have pizza or ice cream, etc. Every once in a while, I crave garlic mashed potatoes or gooey chocolate brownies and I go for it! Without the guilt. That’s because I’m a big proponent of the 80/20 rule (or, realistically, the 90/10 rule). I also try to indulge with high quality choices. It’s OK to give into cravings sometimes. What’s important is you’re still choosing a better quality of life.

A good strategy is to find a healthier substitute. For example, I use Stevia in place of white sugar; savor a square of organic dark chocolate instead of gulping down a pile of stale, leftover Halloween candy; or eat a thin crust pizza with lots of veggies instead of a deep dish pizza with a thick crust.

My recommendations:

My favorite sweeteners are stevia, a natural herb with a sweet flavor, and xylitol, a natural alcohol sugar which tends to be less GI irritating than most sugar alcohols and actually has benefit on the teeth.

Also, remember that ultimately, your body is trying to heal itself. Addictive foods are hard to get over, but once out of the system for 2-3 weeks, your biochemistry is rebalanced and cravings for “real treats” such as organic dark chocolate or a savory bath become more dominant than the TV-ice-cream guilt fest.


Mercola, J. Study on Splenda and Tumors. Posted 3/9/2011.

Abou-Donia MB, El-Masry EM, Abdel-Rahman AA, McLendon RE, Schiffman SS. Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2008;71(21):1415-29.

Ford HE, Peters V, Martin NM, Sleeth ML, Ghatei MA, Frost GS, Bloom SR. Effects of oral ingestion of sucralose on gut hormone response and appetite in healthy normal-weight subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011 Apr;65(4):508-13. Epub 2011 Jan 19.

Bland, Jeffrey, Video from Dr. Bland’s panel discussion at Urban Zen in NYC with Dr. Frank Lipman, Dr. Mark Hyman, and Dr. Bob Rountree. Synthesis Staff. Posted date: 03/08/2011

Dr. Mercola. Fructose. Posted on 5/2/2011.

A Scheinin, KK Mäkinen, E Tammisalo, et al. Turku sugar studies XVIII: incidence of dental caries in relation to 1-year consumption of Xylitol chewing gum. Acta …, 1975 –

Curi R, Alvarez M, Bazotte RB, Botion LM, Godoy JL, Bracht A. Effect of Stevia rebaudiana on glucose tolerance in normal adult humans. (abstract). Braz J Med Biol Res. 1986;19(6):771-4. PMID: 3651629

Dr. Christiane Northrup. May Newsletter. Posted May 3, 2011.