When I was a young Dietitian just starting out in the field I recommended to the family doctor in the health centre I worked in that he give ginger tea to the pregnant clients who were having a lot of nausea and vomiting. I even offered to make up a batch and explained that the trick was not to peel the fresh ginger root because the effective ingredients were in the papery brown skin. He gave me that look that all allied health providers would instantly recognize it’s that look that says can we leave medical practice up to real doctors or more bluntly get thee behind me Satan! Needless to say ginger tea was not tried but a few months later he did make a point of coming by my office to show me an article in some prestigious medical journal suggesting Ginger Tea might be an effective way to treat pregnant clients with severe nausea and including a recipe, I gave him back the same look and he got out fast!
On September 28th the Toronto Star published a column by Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen on the steady drop in sales of diet soda because people were getting a lot of negative news about no-calorie sweeteners. This news may have been news to our esteemed Physicians but it comes as no surprise to many dietitians or to any member of my family. You see, we are a family that lives long and fairly well with diabetes, we are old school, we were genetically predisposed to diabetes long before it reached epidemic levels in North America and yet my grandmothers lived to be 97 and 99 years old. Among the family members with diabetes there is no one who uses no-calorie or artificial sweeteners. I’m not sure if I have ever seen diet soda at a family function and they all know that The Canadian Diabetes Association guidelines allow for a small amount of sugar, honey etc. at each meal so there is absolutely no need to buy fake sugar.
From the day I started practising as a Dietitian I have never asked a client to use a no-calorie sweetener, I have never accepted anything from the companies that made them and I have thrown out any samples they sent to me because common sense told me that what we needed is a gradual lessening of our love of the taste of sugar not a substitute for sugar. And I have been proven correct because family members who have had diabetes for many years tell me even 2 teaspoons of sugar in a drink is way too sweet and they can get by with one or even a half of a teaspoon; they have lost the taste for it.
The one thing in The Star column that was a surprise to me is how much of an effect these non-calorie sweeteners have on the brain and your metabolism. I knew that clients who used them often appeared to be hungrier and ate more but now it seems they are also implicated in metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes and diabetes. So I now ask myself, even if you do not have diabetes could a steady intake of diet soda and no-calorie sweeteners be putting you on the path to diabetes? Why take a chance, might I suggest some fresh ginger tea sweetened with a bit of honey instead!