Monday, December 20, 2010

Corporate Sponsors and Medical Associations: Don't Bite the Hand that Feeds You or Your Patients

There is a lot of finger pointing in our health care system.  Fingers are often pointed at the pharmaceutical industry, the managed care organization, medical teaching institutions, etc.  Rarely does the finger land on the doctor or their organizations such as the AMA or the AAFP.  Recently the American Academy of Family Practitioners announced a corporate partnership with The Coca-Cola Co., in which the beverage giant will provide a grant for the Academy to develop consumer education content related to beverages and sweeteners for the AAFP's award-winning consumer health and wellness Web site,  Having spent over a decade in the medical industry I can assure you that Coca Cola will not casually stand by and have sweeteners (high calorie or low calorie) tarnished in any fashion.  Partnerships do not happen in any business unless there is a mutually beneficial outcome.

These partnerships are nothing new.  In March 2008 that American Diabetes Association (check out the press release) proudly declaring: American Dietetic Association Welcomes The Coca-Cola Company as an ADA Partner! Is this a conflict of interest or a case of don't bite the hand that feed you?

Several months ago I published a blog quoted research from University of Texas in regards to the metabolism and storage of aspartame in the liver.  The results of the study were not good and indicated that aspartame is metabolised into formaldehyde and then stored in the fatty tissues of the liver as an unrecognizable compound.  The long term implications of this were fatty liver disease.  I wonder if this will be part of the alleged consumer education funded by the Coca Cola grant.

Most people understand what happens when people consume too much sugar - weight gain, insulin fluctuations, etc.  Most think they are safe to consume artificial sweeteners which is absolutely false. Below is a compilation of different sweeteners and their potential sides effects as indicated by studies:

Aspartame (NutraSweet & Equal)Used in: Diet sodas, breath mints, sugar-free gums, frozen yogurt
What is it: Aspartic acid and phenylalanine
Tastes like: Chemical tasting
Strength: 150-200 times stronger than sugar
Calories: 0 calories
Possible side effects: Unless you have a rare genetic condition that does not allow your body to process phenylalanine (phenylketonuria), you should be fine. Although, some studies are trying link a multitude of illnesses such as headaches/migraines, dizziness, nausea, weight gain, muscle spasms, depression, fatigue, insomnia, heart palpitations, vision and hearing problems, anxiety attacks, vertigo, memory loss and joint pain, Emotional Disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, brain tumors, brain cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, Epilepsy, birth defects, and diabetes to the overuse of aspartame.
Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low)Used in: Some toothpaste like Crest and Colgate, as well as diet sodas
What is it: Sulfur dioxide, chlorine, ammonia, and biochemical acids
Tastes like: Bitter with a metallic finish
Strength: 400-500 times stronger than sugar
Calories: 1/8 calorie per teaspoon
Possible side effects: In 1977, the FDA made all products containing saccharin 
add a warning label stating that it was determined to cause cancer in laboratory 
animals. In May of 2000, it was removed from the National Toxicology Report on 
Sugar Alcohols (Low Carb Products)Used in: Low carbohydrate products
What is it: sugar with an added hydrogen molecule
Tastes like: Similar to sweetness of sugar
Strength: Similar to sugar, but with less impact on blood glucose levels
Calories: 25% less calories than sugar
Possible side effects: Deleterious effects such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, vomiting

Sucralose (Splenda)Used in: Numerous low carb or sugar-free products
What is it: Sugar bonded with chlorine atoms
Tastes like: Slightly chemical tasting
Strength: 600 times sweeter than sugar
Calories: 0
Possible side effects: Although there are many accusations, no side effects have been confirmed in 113 studies over 20 years. The upper limit is considered to be 1,500 12 once diet sodas a day. It’s important to note that although splenda contains chlorine atoms, it differs in the way it is structured and therefore does not resemble household chlorine. The human body also contains its own natural chlorine in the form of KC1 and NaC1.  However, Spenda is a chemical substance, not inherent to the body, and should be treated as such.