April 20, 2009

Fiber & Your Heart


You hear a lot today about fiber. What is fiber? Dietary fiber is the part of the plant food source that your body cannot break down - it is not digested. There are many health benefits associated with eating a diet rich in fiber. This article will focus on the benefits associated with heart disease prevention.

Diet & Blood Cholesterol --
How you eat greatly affects your blood cholesterol. A diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat is one nutritional change you should make. Another important change to make is to eat foods high in fiber.

Types of Dietary Fiber --
There are two kinds of dietary fiber: (1) soluble fiber, and (2) insoluble fiber.

Insoluble fiber (also known as "roughage"):
Found in whole grains, vegetables, wheat bran, nuts, and beans. This type of fiber is not absorbed by the body. Insoluble fiber's health benefits include aiding digestion and promoting regularity by adding bulk. The "bulk" keeps other foods moving through the digestive tract.

Soluble fiber:
Offers the real heart disease benefit by reducing blood cholesterol levels. Food sources include oats, barley, beans, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds, apples and other types of fruits, and vegetables. Soluble fiber helps lower blood cholesterol by binding to cholesterol in the digestive tract. Basically, it locks up the cholesterol causing it to be eliminated from the body naturally.

How much fiber should you be getting through your diet?
Try to eat between 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day. On average, most of us eat less than half the fiber we should be eating - 10 to 15 grams per day.

How can you increase your fiber intake?
* Substitute high-fiber foods such as whole-grain bread, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables for low-fiber foods such as white bread, white rice, candy, and chips.
* Eat more vegetables and fruits WITH their skins on, when appropriate. The skins are a good source of fiber.
* For breakfast, eat cereal made from whole grains, bran, or oats. Include a tasty fruit with your morning cereal.
* Include 2 servings of vegetables at lunch and dinner, again with skins on when appropriate.
* Consider eating cooked oatmeal. Eating just 1-1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal (about 3/4 cup uncooked) per day has shown to help reduce blood cholesterol levels.
* All the above, of course, is best when also eating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

One final note on adding fiber into your diet: Do it GRADUALLY!! Too much too soon can cause bloating and abdominal cramps. Try adding about one serving of a fiber-rich food source every 3 days. AND, be sure to drink plenty of WATER!!
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Written by: Laura S. Garrett, RD -- Registered Dietitian & ACE Certified Personal Trainer --Keep Laura's advice at your fingertips, wherever you and your cell phone go with"Text ur R.D." -- Learn more at: http://www.NutrActive.com

The Nutty Truth About Nuts


Did You Know ... The number one killer of American women is heart disease. Heart disease is not isolated to men. Women need to be just as careful with their lifestyle to reduce their risk of developing heart disease. This is especially true if you are post-menopausal.

Did You Know ... Eating nuts a few times per week may significantly lower risk for developing heart disease. Eating nuts 5 times per week or more may reduce risk by over 50% when compared to those who don't consume nuts!

What makes nuts so special?
* Usaturated fat-- While the total fat content of nuts is high (48-74% by weight), the type of fat is mostly unsaturated. Importantly, most nuts are rich in oleic acid (a monounsaturated fat).
* Fiber -- Nuts are high in dietary fiber.
*Vitamin E -- Nuts are an excellent source of vitamin E which is known to be beneficial to heart health. In fact, nuts contain more vitamin E than any other food apart from extracted vegetable oils. The best nuts for vitamin E content are almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans.
* Minerals -- Nuts are a rich source of copper and magnesium. These two minerals have positive effects on the level of blood serum lipids.

Caution --
It should be noted that nuts are still high in fat, thus, calories. If you struggle with weight problems, be sure to substitute nuts for foods you would normally eat. Do not include them in addition to your diet, else, you are very likely to gain weight.

Here's a list of nut serving sizes --
Note: For each serving of nuts, there are 45 calories and 5 grams of fat (the "good" kind!). The serving sizes are not very big!

Type of nuts....................Amount
Almonds...........................6 nuts
Cashews...........................6 nuts
Mixed nuts(50% peanuts)...6 nuts
Peanuts............................10 nuts
Pecans..............................4 halves

If you do not like to eat nuts plain, add them to foods. You can add them to salads, yogurt, vegetable dishes, or try blending them in as part of a milk shake. Enjoy something nutty today!

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Written by: Laura S. Garrett, RD -- Registered Dietitian & ACE Certified Personal Trainer --Keep Laura's advice at your fingertips, wherever you and your cell phone go with"Text ur R.D." -- Learn more at: http://www.NutrActive.com

Burn More Calories -- Faster!


Have you ever wondered how you can make your body burn calories faster? Can that really be done? Yes! With a long term commitment, you can actually speed up the rate at which your body burns calories (known as metabolism). In fact, there are many factors that affect your metabolic rate.

The 3 Basic Aspects of Metabolism (or total energy expenditure):

(1) Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) -
RMR is the amount of energy (calories) needed to run the vital functions of your body (i.e. breathing, heart beating). RMR is believed to account for about 65 to 75% of the calories your body burns in a day. Consider this -- As the percent of body fat increases, the RMR decreases, or you burn fewer calories at rest. Additionally, muscle deterioration will also decrease the RMR. Muscles deteriorate when you don't challenge them! To ultimately combat a decrease in RMR, build more muscle and shrink those fat stores.

(2) Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) -
TEF involves the work associated with digesting the food you eat. Yes, your body is actually burning calories as you eat them. Don't get too excited -- The amount of energy used here ranges from just 5 to 15%. Wondering how to burn more calories just by eating? The composition of your diet has an effect on this part of metabolism. When the ratio of carbohydrate to fat is high, metabolism is higher. The body has work harder to convert carbohydrates to fat than it does dietary fat which is already in a storable form. Thus, eating a diet low in fat is not only heart healthy, but will help you burn a few extra calories.

(3) Effect of Physical Activity -
This is the energy your body burns while performing daily activities, exercise, play, etc. On average, physical activity accounts for 20 to 40% of the calories burned by your body in one day. It is the component of metabolism that you have the most control over. It should be obvious that a person who is sedentary (inactive) versus a very active person will burn far fewer calories. Factors that affect calories burned, or metabolism, include the intensity of the activity, how long the activity is performed, and the frequency (or how often the activity is performed). This is probably a no-brainer, but the more intense the activity, the more calories are burned; the longer you do the activity, the more calories you are burning; and the more often you do the activity, the more calories are used up.

Unfortunately for us women, we tend to have less muscle mass than men. This is the way we are made, (no, guys, this is not an excuse, just the facts). Thus, women typically have a lower RMR than men. People under the age of 30 usually have a faster metabolic rate for the same reason - higher muscle mass. However, this does not have to hold true. Maintain your muscle mass by lifting weights three days a week. Studies have shown that in as little as three months of moderate weight training, RMR increases. Remember, that's your RESTING calorie burn!


The Effects of Food on Metabolism:

* Anything that speeds up the heart rate, such as stimulants, will temporarily increase your RMR. Examples of food stimulants include caffeine and spicy chili peppers (the key being spicy).

* Complex carbohydrates (i.e. bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, beans, lentils, fruits and vegetables) contain about half the calories by weight of fat. Plus, it is more work for the body to convert carbohydrates to body fat.

* Alcohol is a concentrated calorie source and contains few nutrients. It actually reduces the body's ability to burn fat.

* The soluble fiber in oat products not only lowers cholesterol but enhances weight loss.

BONUS: Walking within 10 minutes of eating can actually boost your TEF helping your body burn 10% more calories than normal. Eating every 3 to 4 hours (6 to 7 small meals per day) will increase your TEF, thus your metabolism.


Power List of Ways to Increase Metabolism:

* Never ever skip meals, especially breakfast.
* After lunch and dinner, take a brief walk (10 to 15 minutes).
* Do NOT eat LESS than 1200 calories per day.
* Eat 50 to 60% of your calories from carbohydrates.
* Train with weights at least 3 days a week.
* Perform some form of aerobic exercise most days of the week.
* Drink plenty of water.
* Get Plenty of Sleep.
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Written by: Laura S. Garrett, RD -- Registered Dietitian & ACE Certified Personal Trainer --Keep Laura's advice at your fingertips, wherever you and your cell phone go with"Text ur R.D." -- Learn more at: http://www.NutrActive.com

April 18, 2009

Cholesterol - All you need to Know!


When you go to the doctor and he tells you your cholesterol level, you typically are told your TOTAL blood cholesterol level. Ever wondered how cholesterol gets into your blood? The body's liver makes most of the cholesterol it needs - yes, NEEDS. Some cholesterol is absorbed from the food you eat.

Why does the body NEED cholesterol?
The body needs cholesterol to make several important hormones including estrogen and testosterone. In addition, cholesterol is part of the protective covering that surrounds nerves and other cell membranes.

Why is having a high blood cholesterol level bad?
Elevated cholesterol levels are associated with heart disease. For a better assessment of your risk of heart disease, it is important to know not only your total cholesterol but also your HDL. The total cholesterol consists of HDL (high-density lipoprotein), LDL (low-density lipoprotein), and VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein). LDL is the bad guy. HDL is the good guy. Why? LDL cholesterol sticks to your the walls of your blood vessels and can cause blockage. VLDL is the precursor to LDL cholesterol. HDL goes around in the blood stream, collects bad cholesterol, and carries it back to the liver where it is broken down.

What is considered a healthy level in the blood?
It is desirable to keep total cholesterol levels below 200mg/dl. Values above 240 mg/dl are considered significantly elevated. If you know your LDL value, it is desirable to have this type of cholesterol below 130 mg/dl. Values for LDL above 160 are considered significantly elevated. Because HDL is the good guy, you want this level high. Values below 35 mg/dl are a HIGH risk indicator for heart disease. It is more desirable to have HDL levels close to 50 mg/dl or higher.

The Total Cholesterol:HDL Ratio is a good indicator of risk. To calculate this important ratio, divide your Total cholesterol value by your HDL value. The HIGHER the ratio, the GREATER the risk of heart disease. For example: Total = 240 mg/dl HDL = 30 mg/dl Ratio = 240/30 = 8.0
*This is a high risk ratio.

--IDEAL RATIO FOR MEN IS LESS THAN OR EQUAL TO 4.0.
--IDEAL RATIO FOR WOMEN IS LESS THAN OR EQUAL TO 3.5.

What is cholesterol?
It is a waxy, fat-like substance.

What foods contain cholesterol?
Foods of animal origin are the ONLY foods that contain cholesterol. Foods of plant origin, even those naturally containing fat, DO NOT contain cholesterol.

Cholesterol in food:
There are a number of factors that affect your blood cholesterol level. One factor, is a diet high in dietary cholesterol. Moderation is advised to keep cholesterol levels in check. The American Heart Association and the National Cholesterol Education Program recommend that you consume 300 mg of cholesterol or less per day.

As stated above, foods of animal origin are the ONLY foods that contain cholesterol. Foods of plant origin, even those naturally containing fat, DO NOT contain cholesterol. Are certain foods of animal origin higher in cholesterol than others? Yes.

Not many people enjoy eating organ meats, such as liver. If you are someone who does, you should know that organ meats are high in cholesterol, 270 mg per 3-ounce serving of liver. While liver is nutritious, if you are at risk for heart disease then you need to limit your intake.

Egg yolks have gotten a bad rap in the past. Why? It is because egg yolks are high in cholesterol, 215 mg per yolk. The yolk is definitely nutritious, its purpose is to provide nutrients for a chick embryo to develop. Unfortunately, it contains too much cholesterol to eat it as you please. You should limit the number of yolks you eat to 3 or less per week. What about the whites? Eat as many whites as you like. The white part of an egg contains no cholesterol and is a rich, complete source of protein.

To limit the number of egg yolks, you can substitute 2 egg whites for one whole egg when baking. For example, a recipe calls for 2 eggs. You could either use 1 whole egg plus 2 egg whites OR 4 egg whites. By doing this simple substitution, you will decrease the cholesterol content. Another option is to use an egg substitute, check label for egg equivalent.

As for meats, look for leaner cuts of meat, fish, and poultry. Cut away excess fat before cooking. Choose low-fat dairy products. By following these steps, you will not be able to eliminate all the cholesterol but you are taking important steps towards healthy eating.

Read food labels for foods low in cholesterol or foods that are cholesterol free. How do you know if a product is low in cholesterol? Here are the food label requirements (government regulated):

Label claim: Per Serving:
Cholesterol Free - Less than 2 mg cholesterol and
Less than or equal to 2 g of saturated fat
Low Cholesterol - Less than or equal to 20 mg cholesterol and
Less than or equal to 2 g of saturated fat
Reduced OR Less - At least 25% less cholesterol than the original
Cholesterol and Less than or equal to 2 g of saturated fat

The above shows requirements for saturated fat. This is because blood cholesterol levels are significantly affected by dietary saturated fat intake. Cholesterol and saturated fat usually are found in the same foods, thus sometimes get confused. In animal products, both the lean portion (flesh or muscle) and the fatty tissue contain cholesterol. This is why some low-fat foods (animal) can be relatively high in cholesterol. Foods such as shellfish and organ meats are high in cholesterol yet low in saturated fat.

Quiz question:
Nuts are high in fat, 80-89% of calories coming from fat. Do they contain cholesterol?
A: No. Nuts are from plant origin therefore they contain NO cholesterol.

Do not assume that dishes that contain vegetables or grains are cholesterol free. Vegetables and grains start off cholesterol free BUT most recipes include egg yolk, milk, meat, or butter. The cholesterol content depends on the recipe ingredients as a whole.

Effects of Saturated Fat:
If you have heart disease or have a family history of heart disease, it is likely your doctor has asked you to follow a diet low in fat and cholesterol. The fat to watch is saturated fat. Saturated fat INCREASES the level of "bad" LDL cholesterol in your blood. This is why it is so important to pay attention to the amount of saturated fat that is in your diet.

You do not have to avoid all fats. Unsaturated fats actually lower LDL cholesterol levels. "Unsaturated fats" includes polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fat is considered better than polyunsaturated fat. Why? In addition to lowering the "bad" LDL cholesterol, polyunsaturated fat lowers the "good" HDL cholesterol. As discussed above, HDL is beneficial because it collects LDL and brings it back to the liver where the LDL is broken down. Monounsaturated fat leaves the beneficial HDL cholesterol intact.

*Sources of Polyunsaturated Fat: Corn Oil, Sunflower Seed Oil, Safflower Oil, Soybean Oil
*Sources of Monounsaturated Fat: Olive Oil, Canola Oil, Peanut Oil

The main sources of saturated fat are from foods from animal origin and some from plants. Animal foods that are high in saturated fat include beef, veal, lamb, pork, butter, cream, milk (whole and 2%), cheese, and other dairy products made from whole milk. Plant foods that are high include coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, and cocoa butter. Check food labels to see which type of oil or fat was used in production.

The American Heart Association's dietary guidelines recommend (1) Total Fat intake should be Less Than 30 Percent of daily calories, and (2) Saturated fat intake should be Less Than 10 Percent of calories.

Cooking Tips from the American Heart Association --

To reduce saturated fat in meat:
(1) Use a rack to drain off the fat when broiling, roasting, or baking. Instead of basting with drippings, keep meat moist with wine, fruit juices or an acceptable oil-based marinade.
(2) Cook a day ahead of time. Stews, boiled meat, soup stock or other dishes in which fat cooks into the liquid can be refrigerated. Then the hardened fat can be removed from the top.
(3) Make gravies after the fat has hardened and can be removed from the liquid.
(4) Broil rather than pan-fry meats such as hamburger, lamb chops, pork chops, and steak.
(5) When a recipe calls for browning the meat first, try browning it under the broiler instead of in a pan.
(6) Avoid adding butter or margarine to vegetables when cooking. Instead use herbs and spices for flavor

Cholesterol-Lowering Medications:
If you have high cholesterol and you make the necessary changes in your diet and activity level, your cholesterol level should begin to go down after three to six months. If not your doctor may recommend cholesterol-lowering medication. If you are prescribed a cholesterol-lowering medication, remember that this is only the part of the plan. For maximum benefit and effectiveness, you must continue eating foods low in fat and cholesterol and continue exercising.
Other lifestyle changes you should make to avoid heart disease include losing weight if you are overweight, stop smoking if you smoke, control high blood pressure, and manage stress in your life. Traditionally, physicians have used medication to control blood cholesterol.

Here is a fact for you to think about before you decide to take cholesterol-lowering medication:
75% of all heart disease can be prevented by lifestyle changes including dietary changes and increased activity.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs are known as "antihyperlipidemic agents". There are five major groups: (1) Fibric acid derivatives - Atromid-S (clofibrate) and Lopid (gemdibrozil), which work by preventing the liver from making or releasing cholesterol into the bloodstream, (2) Bile acid sequestrants - Questran (cholestryamine) and Colestid (cholestipol), which bind to bile acids and prevent their absorption, (3) Nicotinic acid - Nicolar (nicotinic acid), which decreases the secretion of VLDL thus the formation of "bad" LDL cholesterol, (4) Probucol - Lorelco (probucol), which enhances the clearance of cholesterol including LDL and HDL cholesterol, and (5) HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors - Mevacor (lovastatin), Pravastatin, and Zocor (simvastatin), which work to help lower LDL cholesterol.

Now that you know which drugs are available and their general method of action in the body, you can hopefully make an educated decision along with your doctor on whether or not cholesterol-lowering drugs are necessary. Again, it cannot be stressed enough, a proper diet and exercise regimen can help you in your fight against high cholesterol. Good luck!

"Perfect Portions Digital Scale with Nutrition Facts Display in Red"
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Written by: Laura S. Garrett, RD -- Registered Dietitian & ACE Certified Personal Trainer -- Keep Laura's advice at your fingertips, wherever you and your cell phone go with "Text ur R.D." -- Learn more at: http://www.NutrActive.com

April 7, 2009

Chocolate - No Longer Junk Food!


Enough is known about chocolate now to justifiably make the following statement, "Chocolate is good for you and no longer just an empty calorie junk food!" Did you know chocolate has been linked to lower blood pressure? Lower cholesterol? Increased insulin sensitivity? Improved blood flow to the brain? Reduced inflamation? Improved texture of the skin? Happiness -- well, that last one is no surprise to a chocolate lover!

What is it that makes chocolate so wonderful, not just to the taste buds, but all the health benefits just listed? The positive health benefits can be attributed to flavonol antioxidants (flavonols). Flavonols come from ground, fermented cocoa seeds. Take out the cocoa butter and sugar from chocolate and flavonols are what's left. Dark chocolate has more flavonols than milk chocolate and forget white chocolate which is not a true chocolate. White chocolate is made from cocoa butter and sugar containing no flavonols. The darker the chocolate, the better it is for your body because there are more of those wonderful flavonols. However, not all dark chocolate is created equal. Flavonols can be destroyed during processing, i.e., dutched and alkalized cocoa products.

Moderation is, of course, a must for healthy chocolate consumption. Cocoa powder itself is virtually fat-free. Chocolate, however, contains a significant amount of sugar and fat thus calories. Just one ounce of chocolate contains abut 200 calories and 10 grams of fat .. BUT 1 oz. is an adequate amount to reap the benefits noted in this article! So, eat smart. If you are going to begin including an ounce of chocolate in your diet, counteract the extra calories by eliminating it somewhere else in your diet. Last note -- If you want the health benefits of cocoa without the calories added to make chocolate, try adding cocoa powder in a smoothie made from banana, yogurt, milk, frozen berries and a touch of honey - yum!

For more information on chocolate and a list of some of the top rated flavonol-containing chocolates, go to: http://www.astrologyzine.com/healthy-chocolate.shtml

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Written by: Laura S. Garrett, RD
-- Registered Dietitian & ACE Certified Personal Trainer
-- Keep Laura's advice at your fingertips, wherever you and your cell phone go with "Text ur R.D."
-- Learn more at: http://www.NutrActive.com

Multivitamin = Better Health?


Trying to incorporate healthier lifestyle changes often brings into question multivitamin use -- Should you take a daily multivitamin? Which of the many choices on the market is right for you? Fact is most Americans fall short of consuming many of the recommended nutrients necessary to maintain optimum health. Taking a basic daily multivitamin is a good preventive action. Convenience foods and fast foods are much to blame. We are busy and too often opt for the quick and easy when it comes to meals.

While Western countries are no longer afflicted with vitamin deficient disease such as scurvy (not enough vitamin C) or rickets (not enough vitamin D), degenerative diseases such as heart disease and osteoporosis are still on the rise. So, what's commonly missing in our diets? Less than 1 in 5 Americans consume enough vitamin E. Only 1 in 4 get enough vitamin K. And, fewer than 1/2 get enough vitamin A or calcium in their diet. It's these types of nutritional inadequacies that may be setting us up for the common degenerative diseases such as heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer and others. Simply taking a daily multivitamin is an easy, inexpensive way to bridge these nutritional gaps. It should be noted that a standard multivitamin will not contain enough calcium. A separate calcium supplement is advisable unless you truly include 3 to 4 servings of dairy in your diet every single day.

A basic multivitamin is one that doesn't go beyond 100% of the recommended amount. What about super formulas that go beyond the RDAs? Taking a supplement that goes above and beyond 100% can introduce new health problems. You will be consuming more than the recommended safe upper limit. What about taking more than one supplement formulation? Let's say you start taking high dose multivitamin and also want to take a separate antioxidant formula. You would potentially be getting more than 10,000 IU for vitamin A exceeding it's safe upper limit and this is not even counting the amount of vitamin A naturally consumed in your diet. Studies have shown over supplementing with one antioxidant can cause health risks. Taking a high dose multivitamin with a prostate formula or immune boosting formula could put your consumption of zinc over 50 mg ultimately interfering with copper absorption resulting in a copper deficiency! Bottom line -- extra nutritional supplementation does not = better health!

Summary ---
Eating a healthy, well balanced diet is the best defense against nutritionally related diseases. Including a basic daily multivitamin is recommended. Antioxidants can help prevent diseases when they come from food sources, but not excessive amounts via supplements which can actually have the opposite effect. Remember -- Fresh is best!

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Written by: Laura S. Garrett, RD
-- Registered Dietitian & ACE Certified Personal Trainer
-- Keep Laura's advice at your fingertips, wherever you and your cell phone go with "Text ur R.D." -- Learn more at: http://www.NutrActive.com

April 6, 2009

Sucralose - Risky Sweetener?


Sucalose is a zero-calorie sugar substitute -- brand name Splenda®. On the internet, you will find unfounded claims regarding the safety of sucralose.

The Facts:
* Sucralose is made from sugar, altered chemically and actually has a sweeter taste than sugar -- about 600 times sweeter! Chemically, three hydrogens are replaced with chlorine molecules. The reason sucralose is "calorie-free" is our bodies do not have enzymes to break it down.

* Much of negative claims against sucralose revolve around the issue of chlorine. While it is not evident that the elemental chlorine is released from sucralose, consider that chlorine is part salt's chemical structure (NaCl) and is in thousands of other foods that contain some form of chlorine.

* No scientific data links sucralose to negative effects -- just observations. Two case studies have been published regarding the relationship of migraines and sucralose:
(1) Bigal ME, Krymchantowski AV. Migraine triggered by sucralose--a case report. Headache. 2006 Mar; 46(3):515-7
(2) Patel RM, Sarma R, Grimsley E. Popular sweetener sucralose as a migraine trigger. Headache. 2006 Sep; 46(8):1303-4
>>> Flawed -- ALL patients in these studies had a variety of other possible migraine triggers. The writers were not researchers rather physicians writing about their observations in patients they were treating for migranes. No cause and effect was established with a single subject and only two were found who reported that sucralose might have been a trigger.

* Center for Science in the Public Interest (a consumer advocacy group) ranked sucralose as "safe". Sucralose is the only artificial sweetener they have given this ranking.

* The FDA reviewed more than 110 studies (in both humans and animals) many of which tried to identify possible bad side effects. No such effects were found thus FDA approved sucralose for human consumption in 1998.For more information on sucralose, go to:http://www.sucralose.org/about/default.asp
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Written by: Laura S. Garrett, RD-- Registered Dietitian & ACE Certified Personal Trainer-- Keep Laura's advice at your fingertips, wherever you and your cell phone go with "Text ur R.D." -- Learn more at: http://www.NutrActive.com