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Published on September 11th, 2020 | by Katherine

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Sweeteners to fight kidney disease

It’s really incredible that I haven’t talked about this yet:
according to a recent study, Stevia could really be the sweetest news for people with kidney problems.
Stevia, is not just interesting for us because it’s sweet.
There’s the possibility that it can help you fight kidney disease, thanks to its blood pressure lowering and anti cholesterol properties.
And some other sweeteners could also have other unsuspected health benefits for your kidneys.
So today, I’m going to tell you all the truth about both artificial and natural sweeteners!
Yes, the times of bitter teas and coffees may be finally over!

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My name is Katherine and I’ve been working with kidney disease patients for 7 years now.
If you’re new here on 00kidney, welcome to our journey together to a better kidney health!
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Sugar vs FDA

It’s an undisputed truth that added sugar is really dangerous for everyone – but especially for people with kidney problems or diabetes.
There’s convincing evidence that excess consumption of added sugar won’t just cause unwanted spikes in blood sugar levels.
It can also increase bad cholesterol, high blood pressure, even more than sodium, and even risk for heart attack.
Not to mention that added sugar can be… well, LETHAL for people with diabetes.
Actually, I always suggest to avoid added sugar as much as possible. To everyone.

Now, more recently the FDA is starting to endorse this recommendation to avoid added sugar.
It’s a recent news that the FDA is requiring brands to list the added sugar as a percentage of the RDI, recommended daily intake.
This means that we know now that there’s a quantity of sugar even the FDA thinks you should not exceed:
It’s 50 grams a day, or 12 teaspoons of sugar.
This is less than what you would get from a 20oz soda or cola bottle.
Now, while it’s great that we have a baseline, my opinion on these recommendations it that they’re more based on realism than on optimum health.
I mean, it’s a bit like having a recommended daily intake of … tobacco smoke.

Sweeteners

Also, because added sugar gives you cravings. Yes, the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you want.
This also explains why it’s not your fault if you feel the need for sugar and sweets.
Humans crave sweets.
We evolved to enjoy sweetness because it meant lots of calories in times of famine.
Unfortunately, in an age of plenty, our prehistoric cravings are backfiring on us.
Now, the problem is that we are all so used to the taste of sugar that thinking about completely avoiding it it’s impossible for many of us.
The alternative?

Sweeteners

But are they safe for people suffering from kidney disease?
Let’s see what the options are and if kidney disease patients can consume them!

Aspartame

Now, the first alternative to sugar we will consider is Aspartame.
This is an artificial sweetener.
Now, aspartame is so common that chances are good that you or someone you know has consumed an aspartame-containing beverage within the past 24 hours.
It’s most commonly found in diet sodas, but also in sugar-free ice cream, reduced-calorie fruit juice, gum and diet yogurts.
It can be also bought stand alone. Brands such as Nutrasweet and Equal sell this sweetener.
But is aspartame safe for people with kidney disease?
Scientific research hasn’t shown any consistent proof of harm when using aspartame.
But, there’s a lot of public concern surrounding it.
There are even anti-aspartame activists claiming that it can cause any sort of illness, from cancer to weight gain.
And there’s even some scientific evidence to support, at least in part, some of these claims.
I must say that I’m not a fan of aspartame. Mainly because it was associated with kidney damage.
In a study on 3,000 women, those who drank two or more diet sodas a day, suffered a 30% greater reduction in kidney function in 20 years.
But, drinking one diet soda daily did not decrease kidney function more than normal.
Only drinking two or more diet sodas, appeared to cause problems.
And there are other criticisms surrounding this sweetener.
Still, the consumption of aspartame by people conscious about their sugar intake continues to soar.
And they may be right: aspartame is still better than sugar – no doubt about it.
But it’s not something you should eat with abandon.
When it comes to aspartame, your best bet – as with sugar and other sweeteners – is to consume it in limited amounts.
And, as usual, ask your doctor or dietitian before using any sugar substitutes if you have diabetes or kidney disease.

Now, maybe the best alternative to aspartame, the most common sweetener available is

Sucralose

It’s very commonly found in … everything from baked goods to beverages.
Frozen desserts, chewing gum, and gelatins are also commonly sweetened with this artificial sweetener; diet foods of all sorts contain it.
It’s the main ingredient of Splenda.
How does it work?
Just like aspartame, sucralose mimics the sweetness of sugar, without the calories.
Sucralose is a type of indigestible artificial sugar.
This is artificially made by replacing certain atoms in sugar with atoms of chlorine.
It is approximately 600 times as sweet as sugar, but it has a small effect on your blood sugar levels.
Not a lot, really, because you only need a tiny dose of it.
But are Sucralose and Splenda safe for people with kidney disease?
The FDA says that Sucralose is safe. There’s a large body of information about it, since it’s so widespread.
Splenda, for example, was approved for general use in 1999 and has not been removed from the list since then.
Still, sucralose is also highly controversial.
Some claim that it’s entirely harmless, but new studies suggest that it may have some effects on your metabolism.
It may raise blood sugar and insulin levels, especially for people who don’t consume it on a regular basis.
It may also damage the bacterial environment in your gut, but this needs to be studied in humans.
The safety of sucralose at high temperatures has also been questioned. You may want to avoid cooking or baking with it, as it may release harmful compounds.
My opinion? Treat with caution.
There’s enough data to say that sucralose is safe for people with CKD, and that’s a lot better than sugar. Just don’t overindulge.
It’s still an artificial product.

So you may want to consider some natural alternative to these artificial sweeteners

Honey

What about honey, for example?
Many people use honey because it tastes good, but also because this sweetener carries a healthier aura than table sugar.
And a lot of you guys are asking me in comment section if honey is better than sugar.
But is it?
Well, honey has the same effect on blood sugar levels as sugar.
And that’s unfortunate, because I really like honey.
But the composition of honey is really similar to that of table sugar.
And ultimately your body breaks down honey just like table sugar.
With similar effects on blood sugar levels.
Well, yes, that’s because honey is still sugar.
You’re not going to have any of the benefits you can have with sweeteners if you eat honey.
It will raise your blood sugar and can cause the same problems sugar causes.
And even if it has a couple of health benefits, studies show to get many of honey’s benefits you’ll need to consume 50 to 80 grams, or three to five tablespoons. Too much.
Especially if you have blood sugar imbalances, that amount’s drawbacks quickly outweigh honey’s benefits.
So, eat honey in small quantities and only because you like its special taste. It’s no better than regular sugar.

Stevia

So, let’s talk about the sweetener that’s making all the headlines.
I’m talking about stevia.
Why is it interesting?
Stevia is a no-calorie sweetener derived from components of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, and it’s over 200 times sweeter than table sugar.
This makes it a popular choice for many people looking to lose weight and decrease sugar intake.
And we’re talking about a natural sweetener here, unlike aspartame and sucralose.
Stevia also comes with some benefits for people with CKD.
And I’m not just talking about the reduced calorie intake, blood sugar levels, and risk of cavities and a great help in managing blood sugar levels – which you would be getting from the use of almost any sweetener.
ACCORDING TO A RECENT STUDY, STEVIA CAN HAVE THERAPEUTIC PROPERTIES IN THE TREATMENT OF KIDNEY DISEASE.
This study was conducted on 97 participants with chronic kidney disease stage I to stage III and lasted for 9 months.
According to the researchers, the patients in the treatment group, had significant improvement of some biochemical parameters in CKD patients such as Serum creatinine, Serum Uric acid and Fasting blood sugar.
What this means is that stevia could not just make your coffee sweeter, but also your kidneys healthier.
Because it would help Lowering High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol levels.
But obviously we need a lot more data before these findings may be confirmed.
So, before running to your nearest grocery store to stock up on stevia, let’s also consider the downsides.
Main downside is that, being a lot more recent than other sweeteners, stevia has not been researched and tested as carefully.
And, although generally recognized as safe, stevia may cause adverse effects in some people.
For example, one review noted that zero-calorie sweeteners such as stevia could interfere with concentrations of beneficial gut bacteria, which play a central role in disease prevention, digestion, and immunity.
Also consider that it’s a relatively new product, so there’s the need for more research before we can be 100% sure that it’s safe.
The bottom line about stevia?
Use in moderation. Absolutely don’t overindulge in this sweetener, ok? This would be the best way to get the benefits without the side effects.

Bottomline

So, we have seen that all non-sugar sweeteners have both health benefits and drawbacks.

What to do then?
if you want my advice, use sugar moderately. The less, the better. Same for honey. Eat it just because you like it, it doesn’t have any real health benefit.
But also, use sweetener in moderation.

There are various safe option, as we have seen, but they’re safety decreases as the quantity you eat increases.
Again, the less the better.
Read nutrition labels and try not to consume more than a few servings per day of any sweetener.
When choosing sugar substitutes, it pays to be a savvy consumer. Get informed and look beyond the hype.
While artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes may help with weight, diabetes and even CKD management, they aren’t a magic bullet.
The best way to avoid health issues is to drastically cut back on sugar all together; artificial and “real” sugar alike.
Because many researchers speculate that using sweeteners may cause cravings for sweet foods, alter taste perception, or change how nutrients are absorbed.
The alternative?
By sticking to whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains you can change your taste buds to enjoy the sweetness found in nature, while enjoying positive health benefits.
Yes, you can train your taste buds just like you would train your muscles.
And while getting rid of sugar cravings may be not the easiest thing to do, it may be the healthiest on the long run.
In the meantime, keep taking good care of your kidneys and be good to yourself.
A new video is coming next Tuesday, don’t miss it!
This is all for today, thank you for watching!

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