kerravonsen: tea, nuts and noodle soup (Food)
[personal profile] kerravonsen
I now know why the strawberry "milkshake" flavour of Optifast tastes better than the vanilla flavour: the vanilla uses saccharin as a sweetener, the strawberry uses aspartame. I just checked the long, long ingredients list on both packets. Yes, I can detect the bitter aftertaste of saccharin.
(goes off to website to check the other varieties)

Looks like the chocolate milkshake flavour uses saccharin also, but the coffee milkshake flavour doesn't.

Checking up again on the entry on Wikipedia about saccharin, I deduce that they use saccharin in the vanilla and chocolate because they're more popular than strawberry and coffee, or some other reason which necessitates that they have a longer shelf-life, because aspartame doesn't stay stable as long as saccharin does.

Chocolate bar: uses sorbitol
Cherry crunch bar: uses fructose
Cappuccino bar: uses fructose also
Chocolate dessert: uses maltodextrin and glucose
Lemon dessert: uses maltodextrin, fructose, sugar and aspartame

Well, at least I know not to try the chocolate milkshake flavour.


I've been doing reading up and taste-tests on various artificial (and natural) sweeteners.
Name Taste Food energy Insulin reaction Other notes
Saccharin bitter aftertaste (ugh) none apparently yes
Sucralose (Splenda) like sugar, no aftertaste. The spoon-for-spoon is light and fluffy; forget fairy-floss, this stuff really melts in your mouth. none or low like sugar (high)
Aspartame (Equal) sweet, no aftertaste very low ? breaks down when heated
Stevia sweet, a slight chlorophyll-ish aftertaste, but only at high concentrations low ? natural
Xylitol compared with spoon-for-spoon Splenda, it has a crisper fresher wetter sort of taste, like menthol without the menthol. No aftertaste. medium low GI natural, possible laxative effect, tooth-friendly


So... there's trade-offs for the different sweeteners, as one might expect. But I really want to avoid saccharin if I can...

Date: 2008-09-13 10:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vilakins.livejournal.com
Do you prefer the Optifast to the muesli?

I thought Splenda was really good! If it gives an insulin reaction, doesn't that make it as bad as sugar? My sister swears by stevia but it's hard to get.

I tried the Optifast products for meal replacements when I'm unwell or just not able to eat a proper meal (the bars are good to carry round for when I get low sugar episodes--remember that one I had n the museum?) The vanilla drink's horrible (not bitter to me, just yuck unless I add fruit) but the coffee's rather nice, as is the coffee bar. I like the berry crunch bar too, but haven't tried chocolate in anything; it's too hard to get right.

I'm eating a modified Mediterranean diet now which I'm liking--lots of salads and lean meat hummus etc and pita bread--so I'm not having artificial sweeteners anyway, but I do have Splenda in the house in case I ever want to cook something desserty for guests. Not that I have yet. :-)

Date: 2008-09-13 04:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vilakins.livejournal.com
I've never heard of space food sticks, but I'll try the chocolate bars on your recommendation. What's the chocolate drink like? I like the coffee one.

What form is your stevia in? I got a little bottle of liquid from the health food shop but an not sure how to use it because it's apparently very strong.

Date: 2008-09-13 11:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vilakins.livejournal.com
The dessert isn't bad at all. I got it when I was off my food and gagging on the vanilla drink, and it's very nice with a spoon of unsweetened yoghurt stirred through to make it less sweet (your taste my vary). Because it's not a drink, I found it a lot more filling and satisfying, also maybe because I ate it a lot more slowly.

What are space food sticks?

Date: 2008-09-14 02:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vilakins.livejournal.com
I've never seen those! I really must try the chocolate bar. You can buy them in singles here so it's easy to sample.

Date: 2008-09-13 11:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thetisonline.livejournal.com
So that's why they taste so awful. I bought a packet of the chocolate, and it was so disgusting that I had to toss it out after only trying it once or twice. I was dreading the next serving (could be good, could be bad???).

I'm sensitive to insulin response too, so thanks for the table. It will be very handy.

Date: 2008-09-13 11:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vilakins.livejournal.com
If you like coffee, the coffee drink is very nice.

Date: 2008-09-13 11:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lonemagpie.livejournal.com
Aspartame is also hugely allergenic and potential carcinogen, though...

Xylitol sounds interesting, and I've never heard of Stevia

Date: 2008-09-13 02:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tptigger.livejournal.com
I haven't read the primary research, but my understanding is that the rats involved in the carcinogen study were given hugely disproportionate amounts of Aspertame. Let's put it this way: I wouldn't worry about the occasional diet soda or nutrasweet sweetened food, but in the longrun... well, honestly, I'd think the Splenda is safer based on what I know.

Which is not much. I know fly anatomy better than human anatomy don't forget ;)

Date: 2008-09-13 03:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] feliciakw.livejournal.com
but my understanding is that the rats involved in the carcinogen study were given hugely disproportionate amounts of Aspertame.

Um, are you sure you don't mean saccharine? Because yeah, with those tests, they were dosing the rats with more saccharine than any normal person would consume in a lifetime, I think.

As I've read it put: "If you consume more than 80 twelve-ounce diet [saccharine sweetened] sodas a day, you're at an increased risk of bladder cancer--good luck!"

Of course, for people who don't like saccharine to begin with, it's a non-issue. :-)

Date: 2008-09-13 06:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tptigger.livejournal.com
I thought it was aspertame people were pointing out was a possible carcinogen.

Basically, the greeks had it right: moderation in all things. :)

Date: 2008-09-13 12:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] feliciakw.livejournal.com
There was a time when I would have given you quite an earful on the evils of aspartame. I won't do that now, as I'm sure you're doing your research. I will simply point out that aspartame in large quantities can be detrimental to one's long-term health. Where it says it breaks down when heated? It breaks down into fermaldahyde at approximataely 86 degrees F (the normal human body temp being 98.6 degrees F. Um, I don't know what that translates to in Celsius). There's a lot of information out there regarding the dangers of aspartame, but I'm sure you're doing your own research and making your own decision.

If you can find at your library a book called You On a Diet, by Drs. Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz, you might look at page 98, which gives a list of suggested sugar substitutes, a brief account of their history, and the information these doctors suggest consumers know.

Another interesting bit of information from the book is why some people (such as yourself) get a bitter aftertaste from saccharine, while others (such as myself) do not.

Your insulin reaction info is very interesting, since controlling insulin reactions is, I think, the route I'm going to have to take. (Through trial and error, I'm finding that my body does weird things that it didn't used to do when I consume large quantities of sugar.)


Date: 2008-09-13 01:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] persephone-kore.livejournal.com
Hmm... I always thought I was more fussy than the people around me about bitter tastes, but I actually never picked up on saccharin, that I recall. (Then again, I like sufficiently sweet chocolate; maybe I'm just easily placated by sweet.) I'm hit or miss on identifying aspartame by flavor and aftertaste, which is somewhat unfortunate since it tends to make my head hurt.

Date: 2008-09-13 02:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] feliciakw.livejournal.com
which is somewhat unfortunate since it tends to make my head hurt.

This is another common side effect of aspartame consumption. If it helps, labels that have warnings to . . . a really long word that starts something like "phenyl . . . "-something . . . warning people who are allergic, that long "phenyl" word means that there's aspartame in the product.

You might already know that, though.

There's a test you can do to yourself if you want to find out if you're a supertaster (saccharine tastes bitter) or an undertaster (saccharine doesn't taste bitter) or are "normal" (as is about 50% of the population). I'll share, if you like.

Date: 2008-09-13 02:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] persephone-kore.livejournal.com
*frown* Phenylalanine? People with phenylketonuria should avoid aspartame, yes, but I'd be surprised if it's the only thing that gets a warning slapped on considering how many things phenylalanine is in. I admit I haven't paid that much attention to it, as I've never had a problem with it in general.

It doesn't actually come up all that often. I'm cautious around desserts bought or baked by/for people who limit their sugar intake, and I don't buy diet soda and read the labels on sugar-free gum. And there was this chewable painkiller once, in which the aspartame did not seem to have accomplished its intended function at all; it was one of the vilest flavors I have ever encountered, whereas aspartame does taste sweet to me, if a little weird. But it's been years since I've had trouble with anything besides a mislabeled soda can/bottle or a waiter accidentally bringing me the wrong thing.

At least, unlike one friend of mine, I don't hallucinate.

So what's the test? I did the taste-test strips back in high school biology, but I think we were just seeing whether we could taste it -- I don't know how we'd have distinguished "bitter" vs. "unbearably bitter and vile" exactly. I mean, surely even if you taste it at a normal level, there's some room for difference in how much you like or dislike it?

Date: 2008-09-13 02:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] feliciakw.livejournal.com
Yeah, that's the word, I think. And I've only seen the warning on products I suspect have aspartame. (Mind you, I've only check on things I suspect are sweetened with aspartame.) If they're labeled as sugar-free, but they don't say what they're sweetened with, I look for the phenylalanine warning and invariably, it's sweetened with aspartame in the ingredient list.

The "home" taste test in the book here says (from page 70 of You On a Diet):

If you're classified as a "supertaster," you tend not to eat fruits and vegetables because they taste very bitter . . . And if you're an "undertaster," you may be more prone to eating (and overeating) sweets because it takes more of a taste to satiate you. By the way, researchers say about 25 percent of us are supertasters, and 25 percent are undertasters, while the rest of us are regular tasters. . . .

The Saccharin Test: Mix one pack of saccharin (Sweet'N Low) into two-thirds of a cup of water; that's about the size of a tennis ball. Now taste the water. You'll probably taste a mix of both bitter and sweet, but see which taste is stronger. If sweet is dominant, then it means you're probably an undertaster, and if bitter is dominant, it means you're probably a supertaster. If it's a tie, you are like half the population, so don't sweat it. To be sure, you may have to do the test more than once to tease out the difference.

The Blue Tongue Test: Wipe a swab of blue food dye on your tongue and see the small circles of pink-colored tissue that polka-dot the newly painted blue canvas. Those are your papillae. Then put a piece of paper--with a 4-mm hole, or the size of a hole punch in a three-ring paper--over your tongue. Using a magnifying glass, count the little pink dots you see in the hole. If you have fewer than five dots, it means you're an undertastser, while more than thirty indicate you're probably a supertaster.


I've not tried either of these tests, but saccharin (unless it's too-too much in my drink) doesn't bother me.

Date: 2008-09-13 03:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] persephone-kore.livejournal.com
Hmm. OK, the blue-tongue one sounds fun. *g*

I think I've only had saccharin when they used to put it in Trident bubble gum (I think now they use aspartame in everything except cinnamon, and saccharin in that, wonder why?) and never noticed any bitterness. I suspect I'm a relatively normal taster and just don't like bitter. ;)

Date: 2008-09-13 02:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] feliciakw.livejournal.com
Right now, I'm reading a book called The Insulin Resistance Diet. We've also got a book around here that covers the glycemic index diet. And I need to look into borrowing a book or two on low-GI diets in regards to PCOS. I'll see if I can track down the book you mention.

You might recall that I was having horrible complexion problems. One of the things I've discovered over the past year is that if I keep my refined sugar intake to a minimum, the breakouts are much less painful. I still get them, and they still scar (which I hope will fade with time), but they don't wake me in the middle of the night with such pain.

Plus (and I realize that this probably isn't an issue for you :-) ) losing as little as 5% of her BMI can help a woman with PCOS be more likely to conceive.

Honestly, though processed foods have made a wider variety of foods available cheaply to those who need it, I think fast food (and super-sizing) is probably the worst thing to happen to American cuisine and health, like, ever.

Hmmm...

Date: 2008-09-13 02:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tptigger.livejournal.com
*tries to imagine a life without having to read the ingredients lists of everything she buys at the grocery store*

*epic fail*

Also, keep in mind things like Mercury and Arsenic are also natural. I'm just sayin'. :) I'm curious that Splenda can set off the insulin pathway. I guess the receptors are not keyed to the reversed -OH and -H groups. (Splenda is the mirror image of sugar--same composition, different confirmation. Fools the tastebuds, confuses the digestive system. :)

Re: Hmmm...

Date: 2008-09-14 03:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tptigger.livejournal.com
Huh. I thought I heard it was D sugar instead of L sugar. Or is it L instead of D? I can't keep them straight. (Though I have a natural distrust of Wikipedia....)

Date: 2008-09-13 05:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaffyr.livejournal.com
Wow. When I grew up, my mom and nana kept a bottle of little saccharin pills in with the rest of the spices and sugar. I think I tried one once, when I was really, really little (and have been addicted to too much sweet stuff ever since, perhaps.) I've never knowingly had it since then. My mother now uses Splenda, and I've been known occasionally to use Equal when I'm at a coffee shop and want my own version of Thai iced coffee. Xylitol is something I've heard of, I think, but Stevia is something completely new to me - is it available only on the right side of the Atlantic?

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Kathryn A.

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