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What we put in our bodies

What we put in our bodies

Well, thank you so much for clicking onto this page – Welcome!!

I am really pleased to have been chosen to be the new Banburyshire info Health and Well-being Editor, and so for those of you who have not met me, a very brief introduction might be in order!

My name is Tanya Collins, and I have a longstanding interest in the health and wellbeing of the folk around me – albeit often wearing very different hats at different points in my life!! I have an old degree in Physiology, which helps me sort some of the wheat from some of the chaff from that vast plethora of information out there, and I am currently an Emotional Coach and Therapist in my “day job”.

And so, enough about me for now – what of Health and Wellbeing? What I would like to do with this column is bring to life some information that might be quite current in the newsworthy stakes, pull it apart a bit, and add my two-pennorth of opinion, for what it is worth! Over the weeks, I would like also to introduce you to things or people you might not have considered before that could impact you positively around your health and wellbeing.

Well, with such a huge remit, where do I start?

At the beginning, I hear you cry!……well – where exactly is that?…..

I suspect I might just start on the inside and work my way out. After all, our wellbeing is felt on the inside, and our health is felt on the inside: although both of these are massively impacted by what goes on, on the outside, and what we choose to put into the inside, or onto the outside…….Lost yet?

For example, isn’t it interesting that we wouldn’t dream of putting diesel into a petrol engine car, or as a good friend (Sindy Matthews of Kick Start Fat Loss Banbury, www.kickstartfatlossbanbury.co.uk/) pointed out recently, we wouldn’t think of giving fizzy drinks to a dog, we would give it water instead. And why would that be then?

A good starting point for wellbeing does indeed start with what we put into our bodies. We are indeed complicated beings, with amazing mechanisms inside to sustain and promote life, but if we give our bodies the wrong fuel and the wrong energy, our complex mechanisms are going to be put out of balance in some way. Food has an amazing capacity to heal, to promote a better emotional state, and to create the right balance of energy at the right time. Unhelpful foods have the capacity to screw up our moods, our energy balance and also our health.

Before we go on, please be aware that I am not a nutritionist, nor a doctor. I bring you a selection of information, that I have done my own research on, but please be advised to seek professional advice before you make changes to your own diet or lifestyle.

Sugars / sweeteners

Sugars / sweeteners

Did you see the recent news about Tesco banning Ribena and other high sugar drinks such as Capri-Sun, from its shelves? It was news to me, but the backdrop to this came out in 2013 when Tesco brought out a ten point plan to fight obesity, where the overall aim was to reduce sugar in own-branded drinks, without resorting to sweeteners, and removing full sugar options from the checkouts, whilst driving low calorie brands. [www.thegrocer.co.uk/channels/supermarkets/tesco/tesco-unveils-10-point-soft-drinks-plan-to-tackle-obesity/351488.article].

Doesn’t this start an interesting debate? Nanny-state-like impositions versus personal choice? Removing foods which have potentially harmful ingredients, whilst supporting or approving other types which might have similarly potentially harmful ingredients? Where does it stop? What will they take off the shelves next? How did they make that decision about a handful of products, when so many others contribute to the obesity issues we see today? I get why Tesco did what they did and I actually applaud it on some level, but there are some much bigger questions to answer including regulation around food advertising and the promulgation of information around nutrition that is out of date and inaccurate.

Take low fat products for instance

Take low-fat products for instance.

Given that fat is a dietary component that assists with flavour, often these foods have additives or sweeteners to compensate for the flavour loss due to less or no fat. And quite often, if you look, you will find that the artificial sweetener is aspartame.

Aspartame is one of the most common artificial sweeteners in use now.
It is made up of 50% phenylalanine, 40% aspartic acid and 10% methanol.

Phenylalanine has been shown to decrease serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is the “happy hormone” – a neurotransmitter that is linked to feelings of wellbeing [http://truthstreammedia.com/food-for-thought-aspartame-and-ssris/]. Less of the happy juices means that folk can be more susceptible to depression and mood disorders.

Additionally some studies have shown that people who already had a pre-existing mood disorder were even more sensitive to the negative effects of aspartame. Serotonin can also affect sleep patterns and levels of aggression too.

Go figure…..

Methanol is a wood alcohol used in antifreeze. In addition, because we humans cannot convert the methanol into formic acid, like most creatures can, we convert it by using alcohol dehydrogenase, into formaldehyde. Yes, you read it correctly. And if you don’t know, formaldehyde is the stuff they use in the morgue to preserve dead bodies. Formaldehyde wreaks havoc on your DNA and proteins, all of which are essential for normal functioning. [http://www.mercola.com/article/aspartame/hidden_dangers.htm]

Aspartic acid is an excitotoxin. Excitotoxins are substances, usually amino acids, that stimulate taste receptors on the tongue. They are not preservatives and have no nutritional value: excitotoxins are nothing other than chemicals added to foods to make them tastier. Some excitotoxins, including aspartic acid can cause your brain cells to fire off crazily until they burn out – and after they have burnt out, those neurons die. Once dead – those brain cells are not replaced. Excitotoxins also generate extreme levels of free radicals which cause additional cell death. [http://www.honeycolony.com/article/excitotoxins-the-fda-approved-way-to-damage-your-brain/]

(FYI the other most common excitotoxin added to food is MSG – Monosodium Glutamate. Do you remember Chinese Restaurant Syndrome?).

So as you can see, aspartame is a heady cocktail of tasty goodies that you would really want to think twice about.

In addition, some medics even also state that too much aspartame can decrease the threshold for seizures and fits, which can potentially lead to a misdiagnosis of epilepsy, and a subsequent inappropriate prescription of anticonvulsants. It can also mimic or exacerbate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) and paradoxically produce carbohydrate cravings and weight gain.

And so, Aspartame, or sugar?

And so, Aspartame, or sugar?

Although we actually need sugar (specifically glucose) to survive on a day-to-day basis, we can get that from a healthy diet of protein, fruit and veg, without having to resort to sugary treats.

🙂 Did you know, for example that the brain, your wonderful pinky- grey convoluted organ, uses pretty much purely pure glucose as its energy?
Because it lacks fuel stores, it requires a continuous supply of glucose.

🙂 And did you also know it consumes approximately 120g daily?
That corresponds to an energy input of about 420kcal – which is approximately 60% of the utilisation of glucose by the whole body in resting state.

🙂 And that glucose consumption by the brain is pretty steady, only increasing a little for some tasks?

Fascinating isn’t it? In addition, all other cells use glucose for energy.

When we see sugar on the label it is, more often than not, sucrose or other sugar derivatives. If you are curious as to what other names sugar goes by have a look at this site: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/topics/show/821596-257-names-for-hidden-sugar. Companies get ever creative and the more you learn about hidden sugars, the more astonished you will become!!

Sucrose – contains two molecules – glucose (the good stuff that actually every cell in our body needs – but can make by itself from healthy foodstuffs without resorting to the sweet treats) and fructose (which we can’t make by ourselves, and very few cells can use directly).

Excess glucose in the bloodstream, which is not taken up by cells for immediate use, is stored as glycogen in the liver, or is converted to fatty acids. Dietary fructose is converted into more useful energy by the liver.

Sugars are now known to contribute to obesity in several ways.

Firstly, those fatty acids made from the excess glucose get taken up into, yes, you’re ahead of me, the fat cells. Secondly, too many sugar spikes can impact our sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that promotes the mopping up of glucose from the bloodstream to store it as glycogen in the liver and muscles. When we become insensitive to insulin, glucose levels can rise to toxic levels. If you become insulin resistant or insensitive to it, you will have more insulin in your blood, since the brain won’t recognise that it needs to be reduced after doing its job after a meal. The problem is that insulin also tells the fat cells to absorb fatty acids from the bloodstream to store it, and to prevent the burning off of the fat that we already have. So too much insulin over time = more fat.

This is just one way that sugars can contribute to obesity. Fructose also impacts the hunger and satiety mechanisms quite profoundly – unsurprisingly making us not feel full, and promoting continued eating, whilst also affecting how our own bodies “fail to see” their own fat stores. As nature intended us as Cavemen to keep on eating if we weren’t fat enough, if our body doesn’t recognise how fat it actually is, guess what – we keep eating and fail to burn what we do have!!……..

Fructose and Sugars can have a negative impact on your mood by affecting the serotonin (“happy hormone” pathways), in addition to not being as helpful for your healthy lifestyle goals. So, the rub here is to eat your fruit and veg, in the recommended amounts, and if possible reduce your intake of refined sugars. Give it a go, and you will find that this will affect your mood for the better once they’ve gone!! (small disclaimer – and if you’re really going to ditch the sugar, be prepared for some detox symptoms as they go…)

There is also mounting evidence that refined sugars do things to our brain akin to a good snort of cocaine, in that there is a release of opiates in the brain, and the “reward” pathways (dopamine) are activated. Sugar, refined sugar, is indeed addictive.

So back to Tesco:

I applaud Tesco for taking a stand and starting to readdress the balance by reducing some availability of the high (refined) sugar content goods.

But given the quantity of food in supermarkets that is processed, and has added sugars, or replaced with artificial sweeteners, I think there is a much bigger debate to be had around education, and sharing knowledge of what exactly all the additives and ingredients in foods do. I find it fascinating that there is a general push by many advertisers and food producers around low-fat or calorie reduced foods – many of which are laden to the hilt with artificial sweeteners, which can have a really detrimental effect on our metabolism, and actually sabotage the aims of exactly what we were trying to do in the first place, (e.g. keeping our weight down, or even losing a few pounds around the midriff). Furthermore, our bodies were not designed to cope with the levels of refined sugars that are found in the common Western diet.

So, Tesco’s actions – a drop in the ocean? Or the start of a sea change which sees better information for all about what is actually in our food?

What do you think?……..Thank you so much for reading, and see you next time!

And always, be kind to yourselves!

©Tanya Collins

Banburyshire Info Health and Wellness Editor Tanya Collins

Banburyshire Info Health and Wellbeing Editor

Creating Core Change, Emotional Coach and Therapist

Tanya can be found on Social Media at



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