For those of you who have watched this film and want an evidence based analysis of the facts do have a look at this.
Artificial sweeteners – friend or foe?
There has been a lot of press and confusion about the role and safety of artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are used to provide sweetness while containing little to no calories. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), highly regulates all artificial sweeteners giving them an acceptable daily intake (ADI) value. For example, the ADI for aspartame, a 70kg adult would have to consume over 5 litres of Diet Coke everyday over a lifetime.Artificial sweeteners are not recommended for children under three years old.
With the pressure on the food industry to reformulate and reduce the amount of sugar in our foods, they are appearing more often and we are consuming more of them. They are used in a huge variety of products such as: diet soft drinks, jellies, yoghurts, desserts, chewing gum, sweets, I’ve even found then in digestive biscuits!
So, what are the concerns? Although swapping sugars for sweeteners reduces calorie intake, and has benefits for our dental health, there are concerns that sweeteners may interfere with our metabolism and even increase our appetite. There have been other concerns that sweeteners can alter gut bacteria which may be harmful. This has mainly been found in animal studies and the results of human studies have been mixed. Other studies have found that changes in our gut bacteria can be been linked to our weight and overall health, so it is possible that sweeteners may promote weight gain via changes to our gut bacteria. What is clear is that more human trials are needed to test this, and the EFSA have decided to review all sweeteners.
I would argue that we need to exercise the ‘precautionary principle’ here, before we see the evidence from better, bigger and longer-term studies on artificial sweeteners use, to find out for sure their benefits and risks. The best way to avoid problems associated with sugar, and artificial sweeteners is to slowly reduce them in your diet and your taste buds will adapt. Do not underestimate the ability of your body to adjust.
Iodine – why its important not to overlook this mineral in our diet
Although iodine tends not to be the first nutrient that springs to mind as a concern, this mineral is an essential part of all our diets as it is not produced by the body. Iodine deficiency has been described by the World Health Organization as the ‘the world’s greatest single cause of preventable brain damage’. Its needed to make our thyroid hormones, and these hormones are essential for many body processes including growth, regulating our metabolism and for the development of a baby’s brain during pregnancy and early life healthy growth and development.
Most people in the U.K. reach their iodine requirements, but at-risk groups for iodine deficiency are: those who avoid dairy (this is our main source of iodine in the U.K.), pregnant & breastfeeding women (due to the increased requirements).
Fish and shellfish, milk and other dairy foods (e.g. yogurt) provide the most amount of iodine per average portion. White fish provides more iodine than oily fish. Non-animal products such as cereals, potatoes, nuts and fruit and vegetables also contain some iodine but at much lower concentrations than animal sources of iodine, and even if eaten in large quantities are alone unlikely to provide enough iodine to meet requirements. For most adults in the UK, on average, over a third of their iodine comes from milk and other dairy foods. About 300 ml of milk is enough to meet the UK recommendation of 140 µg of iodine per day for an adult. Plant-based milk alternatives contain negligible amounts of iodine, although a few iodine-fortified products are now available (check the label). Seaweed is another good source but isn’t recommended more than once per week, especially brown seaweed like kelp, as excessive iodine can also cause thyroid problems.
So be aware if your diet is low or contains no dairy, shellfish or white fish particularly if you are planning a pregnancy or breast-feeding. If you have just switched to plant milks, then find one that does fortify with iodine and if you are vegan consult your GP to find the right iodine supplement for you.