Jack’s Blog: The Real Skinny on Sugar and Dogs

My pal, Jack is a very smart Cairn terrier. He and his pet parent, Dawn Celapino, operate Leash Your Fitness, a grrr-eat workout group in San Diego County that keeps people and dogs at their healthy best.
I love posting Jack’s blog advice on Four Legged Life. Here is his latest posting that separates fact from fiction when it comes to sugar and dogs – read on!

Artificial Sweeteners–friend or foe
What are artificial sweeteners and are they safe? That is where the controversy lies. The FDA has approved the use of many of the artificial sweeteners that you are aware of: saccharine, aspartame, acesulfame potasium and sucralose. A few of the highly refined stevia preparations have been deemed “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the FDA, which means that they do not require FDA approval. They have also set upper limits on how much is safe to consume each day. But what are these artificial sweeteners and are they really safe? ”Most” of the studies show that they are safe in reasonable amounts, studies in the 70’s showed the saccharin caused cancer in rats but after further studies, the findings were found to be false due to the extremely high levels that they fed them and that the results in rats did not translate to humans. Recent studies actually show that saccharin is one of the safest sweeteners on the market along with stevia.

Have you ever heard of sugar alcohols? They are 1/2 of the calories of regular sugar, not digested by the body but will still be listed on “sugar free” products like candy, ice cream, chocolate, jam, and baked products. When looking at the ingredients, look for anything that ends in -ol, for example: Sorbitol, Xylitol, Maltitol, etc. Sugar alcohols are not completely absorbed by the body so may cause stomach upset or diarrhea and since they are not absorbed, manufacturers can label the products “sugar free”. Xylitol is not safe for dogs, it triggers significant insulin release, which drops the blood sugar.

It seems that Aspartame is the artificial sweetener that has caused the most controversy in recent times. Most of the studies prove it is safe but people still claim to have a multitude of symptoms when ingesting it. Aspartame contains formaldehyde and our bodies actually digest it which may cause adverse reactions in people. Some studies do show that people that are prone to headaches, depression and mood swings may have worse symptoms after ingesting Aspartame, other symptoms are panic attacks, dizziness, irritability, nausea, intestinal discomfort, skin rash, and nervousness.

What about the new kids on the block: Sucrolose, aka Splenda and Stevia aka Truvia? Splenda is touted as being a “natural” sweetener because it is made from sugar. It may be true that the splenda molecule is made from sugar, it is also comprised of chlorine molecules that change the structure and may be toxic to our internal organs. After all, it was “discovered” while chemists were developing a new pesticide formula. There hasn’t been enough long term studies on it yet to know but it has taken the artificial sweetener industry by storm and has replaced aspartame in many “sugar free” products.

Stevia is a herb and has been used for hundreds of years in South America and Japan. FDA has approved it use as a food supplement but not as a food additive because of lack of studies therefore it is considered GRAS. It is 200- 300x sweetener than sugar so just a little is needed. It can be found in health food stores. So far, no known side effects occur when ingesting stevia in normal quantities.

There are a multitude of other things that people use as sweeteners but unfortunately this blog isn’t large enough to talk about them all. Some are safer, better tasting or sweeter than others. I would recommend doing research on the internet from reliable sources if consuming any on a regular basis. The chemicals that comprise artificial sweeteners are known hazards — the degree to which you experience side effects just depends on your individual biochemistry. Manufacturers choose what to use based on cost and taste and they are banking on the fact that our bodies won’t absorb very much of these compounds at any one time to notice anything but what about the long term? How much are you ingesting since they are in a multitude of products? They are also mixing them which may make matters worse since there are no long term studies on the effects.

Your health is your responsibility–choose wisely–but please don’t feed it to your dog!

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