Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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July 13, 2009

Dear Readers

By Mark Sisson
55 Comments

Two things have happened since I launched the forum a couple months ago.

1. The number of emails sent to me by readers has dropped a bit. It seems as if readers are hitting up the forum boards for answers to many of their Primal questions.

2. I’ve come to understand how intelligent (and opinionated!) MDA readers really are. (There have been some fantastic debates and discussions in the forum. If you haven’t already joined take a few moments to create an account and introduce yourself to the community.)

With that said I still receive dozens of reader emails every day. This fact coupled with observation number 2 above equals another round of “Dear Readers“! Check out what Primal newbies and veterans alike are wondering about the PB lifestyle and chime in with your thoughts below. (And keep sending me your thoughts and questions. I do my best to answer every one.)

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Question 1

Perhaps you’ve seen those Dove ads where they turn a normal looking woman into a supermodel using make-up, lighting, and photoshop? I admire Dove’s body image campaign and similar positive-message movements like Operation Beauty. Though I can’t help but feel the “you’re-beautiful-just-the-way-you-are” message is slightly counter to the Primal message of “you-can-be-healthier.” Admittedly, health and beauty are not the same, but am I wrong to think that improving body image is inseparable from, or at least to some degree linked to…total body improvement?

Carmela

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Question 2

Is it better to make a recipe with a real, organic source of sweetener like honey, or an artificial source that contains 0g of sugar like Splenda?

Elizabeth

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Question 3

I have a question about IF. I’ve been having periods of IF days – some days have been 100% and some days I’ll have a small snack (like today I ate 4 teaspoons of unsweetened organic coconut flakes). All in all the flakes aren’t really a full meal, but I’m technically not on a full fast.

Does your body react differently to the fast if you just eat 4 spoons of coconut flakes or 5 cashews one day.

I’m thinking our ancestors didn’t always have food, but they maybe didn’t always full fast either.

Maybe while on a hunting trip they ran into some berries and were able to have a handful to hold them down for a little bit.

Bottom line, should I feel guilty if on an IF day, I take a few snacks?

Shawn

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Question 4

I recently got into an argument with my brother over how Primal cycling is. And more specifically, mountain biking. I believe it is, he believes it’s not. Who’s right?

Hamed

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Question 5

How do I lose 12lbs in 9 days?

Anthony

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55 Comments on "Dear Readers"

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gcb
7 years 2 months ago
With regards to question five… Discounting “water weight” loss, it’s impossible. A pound of fat is about 3500 calories, give or take. To burn twelve pounds of fat off, you’d have to burn about 39,000 calories in nine days, in *excess* of the 2000 or so calories you already need a day. So you’d have to find a way to burn 60,000 calories in 9 days. Basketball burns about 250 calories an hour, from what I’ve read. So you’d need to play basketball for 240 hours to burn 60,000 calories – in other words, play basketball virtually nonstop for ten… Read more »
jdl409
jdl409
7 years 2 months ago

For #5: A good bout of food poisoning can do it. I caught something nasty in Peru and lost 10lbs in 4 days (I was already 17% bf, female). I felt like death and couldn’t leave the bathroom for more than an hour. It was the worst 4 days of my life. The kicker was when I went back to work, all my co-workers told me how good I looked. 🙁

gcb
7 years 2 months ago
I think that was probably at least partly the “water weight” I mentioned in my original reply. One of the big complications of diarrhea is often dehydration (in fact, simple, otherwise non-life-threatening diarrhea is a big killer in third-world countries for this very reason). I discounted this sort of weight loss in my original post because it will generally come back within a few days once you go back to your normal routine, particularly if that normal routine includes a high sodium intake. My understanding is that part of the “big weight loss” that accompanies the first couple of weeks… Read more »
Clint
Clint
7 years 2 months ago

I’ll do you one better. I’ll tell you how to do it in one day.

Cut off your arm!

Seriously, I completely agree with the above posters. There’ no HEALTHY or even realistic way to achieve that kind of weight loss, much less fat loss.

Madame P
Madame P
7 years 2 months ago
#1 No, you’re not wrong. Being healthy by way of proper diet and exercise will confer sense of well-being that simple self-esteem bolstering just cannot. Looking better is just a side benefit. #2 Neither is good… but if you must have that sweetener, go for the honey. #3 I’m not sure. But, in my experience, if I have a few snacks while fasting, I get hungrier than if I eat nothing at all. #4 Obviously Grok did not mountain bike. However, as far as activities go, I think it’s pretty primal. It’s a variable activity that requires good reflexes. #5… Read more »
Jane
Jane
7 years 2 months ago

Does anyone have any advice for a long time migraine sufferer? I’m living primal – following the diet/exercise plan at least 80/20. I take a multivitamin and omega-3 supplement daily. I have even started taking butterbur as per Mark’s advice. I am on 150 mgs of Topamax as a preventative but still have violent migraines 10-20 days out of the month. I will do anything to get rid of them (especially if it is grok-esque!)

Mac
Mac
7 years 2 months ago
I have pretty much come to the conclusion that my ‘migraines’, which I have suffered since childhood are directly related to caffeine. Although I have only recently discovered this. Headaches had pretty much subsided since childhood, I would get one every now and then but not an a regular basis. Then I totally cut out caffeine (Oh the withdrawl!)Since then I have adapted a healthier lifestyle and I started eating 88% dark chocolate for my sweet fix as well as the vasodilation effect (which is tremendous) well, the headaches came back, every afternoon. I stopped the DC and no more… Read more »
Karsk
Karsk
7 years 2 months ago
I get migraines as well. At this point in my life,(55) I manage them successfully by paying attention to lots of things. For me, the triggers for migraines are complex. Types of food, stress, strain from exercise in my left trapezius area, contrasting light conditions (in a dark room looking out into brightness). I do not drink coffee and when I did it seemed to make migraines worse but now that I don’t I can drink a couple of cups of string coffee to prevent the development of migraines once the auras show up. AS far as foods go, I… Read more »
Karsk
Karsk
7 years 2 months ago
I just noticed that you were eating dark chocolate? Dark chocolate is a big migrainogenic. To further my earlier post, if you have not already done so start keeping a journal for every time you get a migraine. Try to notices what foods you eat, whether you are exercising and how intensely, the light conditions, temperature, any special aches and pains…anything out of the ordinary. Stress level too. It might take you a year of data gathering before solid patterns emerge. Look for combinations of triggers or potential triggers. Finally start paying attention to how you feel. Its hard but… Read more »
Simone
Simone
7 years 2 months ago

I recently began supplementing magnesium as low mg has been linked to migraine in many sufferers. The recomendation was 600mg a day (after 9 weeks sufferers had a 41.6% decrease in frequency)
Also feverfew (no dosage info) and 5-htp (600mg/day) have both been shown to provide significant effects, as well as the butterbur you’ve also mentioned.
As an aside, nuts are particularly high in magnesium so feel free to munch on them lots!

MarissaOch
MarissaOch
7 years 2 months ago

I second the 5-htp, but unlike Mac, caffeine actually helps my migraines go away. What keeps mine away is a combination of chiropractic work, yoga, 5-htp, and a little caffeine. Also: if you take birth control, pay attention to the effects it has on you. Changing mine up helped a LOT.

Hilary
Hilary
7 years 2 months ago
I have had migraines since my early teens. They progressively worsened until I was getting one every other day, with the severity varying when I was 25 (I’m now 27). I had a lot of other symptoms, including joint pain and stiffness, fatigue, brain fog, and chronic hives pretty much daily. I started thinking food allergies might be an issue. I first eliminated dairy and then found wheat to be a problem as well. I wasn’t even trying to affect the migraines but when I first eliminated these foods, I did not have a migraine or any hives for more… Read more »
Nancy R.
Nancy R.
7 years 2 months ago

As someone else mentioned, look into magnesium supplementation for migraines. I suffered from migraines for years and my internist recommended that I try 400-600 mg of chelated magnesium daily, along with 100-200 mg of CoQ10. I have to say I was skeptical, but since I’ve supplemented, I’ve had a massive reduction in migraines. In his book, “The Brain Trust Program”, Dr. Larry McCleary also recommends magnesium as well as CoQ10 and discusses why these help. It may or may not work for you, but it’s worth a try. Good Luck.

Greg at Live Fit
7 years 2 months ago

No 2. If you’re going to use a sweetner, go for the real stuff -sugar, honey, agave. The artificials have the potential for all sorts of nasty side effects.

No 5. There’s nothing good or healthy about trying to lose that much weight in such a short timeframe. Don’t do it.

Avashnea
Avashnea
7 years 2 months ago

sugar , honey, agave all have nasty side effects if you’re diabetic.

Lauren B
7 years 2 months ago
Go for the zero calorie sweeteners over the so called “natural” sweeteners, any day. The side effects of artificial sweeteners (excluding aspartame) are likely negligible in the amounts you use on a plan like the Primal Blueprint. Go for the lower carb option rather than the one we KNOW is hard on the human frame, i.e. the sweetener that contains carbs and causes an insulin response (or taxes your liver like agave and honey). There’s nothing natural about consuming that many empty carbohydrates at once, even if they come from a plant derivative. It comes down to how the sweetener… Read more »
Jane
Jane
7 years 2 months ago

I think you need to better understand the impact of “lower carb options” – “natural” or not – on your body. They cause just as much of an insulin response as natural sweeteners, if not more so in the case of stevia. If you choose somethihng like maple syrup, which has a low glycemic index, you’re much better off sacrificing a few calories in exchange for a lower insulin response.

Marc
Marc
7 years 2 months ago

I’d really like to see where you get that artificial sweetners produce as great or greater insulin response than traditional carbohydrate sources. As a type one diabetic I can personally attest that they do not subsequently raise blood sugar levels, and without elevated blood sugar levels there is no insulin response. Although the carcinogenic aspects of sweetners is unknown, in the quantities he is likely to consume, my favour would go towards the substitute without an insulin response.

Bryce
7 years 2 months ago
The idea that there must be glucose to have an insulin response is FALSE. Cephalic (of the brain) insulin spikes caused by the mere taste or smell of something your body has been conditioned to associate with food/carbs can induce a significant insulin response within SECONDS. If you smell apple pie, and youre body WILL start releasing a little insulin. If you taste something sweet, even a zero calorie sweetener, it will do the same. The reason is that the insulin helps to stop the flow of FFA’s and remove other nutrients from your blood to facilitate the impending uptake… Read more »
Robert Gioia
Robert Gioia
7 years 2 months ago

I was under the impression that splenda was recommended for diabetics. I know its not natural but I can’t see small amounts being that bad.

Sonagi
Sonagi
7 years 2 months ago

Adding to Bryce’s comments, some high-protein foods like cheese, beef, and fish are insulinogenic. I do not know how type I diabetics metabolize these foods, but non-diabetics experience a significant rise in insulin. In fact, some high protein foods stimulate more insulin production than low GI foods like barley and lentils.

jellysoda
jellysoda
7 years 2 months ago

have references about stevia + relative insulin response as compared with other sweet substances? i am skeptical.

Marc
Marc
7 years 2 months ago
@Bryce: First of all the pre-digestive insulin spike is relatively small in comparison with the post prandial insulin response. Secondly it is as Taubes mentioned a “Pavlovian” response. Such that I’m certain that if your body gets used to there being no caloric value in the associated food, it will cease to provide that insulin response. Just as the rat previously mentioned in the book will no longer feed from the bottle of saccharine with the Pavlovian response telling it there is no caloric value in it. In the end, insulin is nothing more than the counter balance to glucose… Read more »
Joanne of Open Mind Required
7 years 2 months ago

I got rid of my chronic headaches when I started making healthier choices and especially when I stopped taking pain relievers. But I had to put up with a few headaches for a while, which came further and further apart.

SerialSinner
SerialSinner
7 years 2 months ago
1 – beautiful and attractive are not necessarily the same thing. I personally don’t like the “you’re-beautiful-just-the-way-you-are” message. I think it’s pusillanimous. If your ugliness can be fixed, then fix it (going primal is a very good way to do it). If not, don’t lie to yourself and embrace your ugliness. A confident ugly person is more attractive than a delusional one. 2 – I know many disagree with this, but I think sometimes it’s better to go with the artificial sweeteners. They helped me a when I decided to go low-carb. And there is no solid evidence about they… Read more »
FlyNavyWife
7 years 2 months ago

Hee hee… just have to say that with liposuction, you’ll have significant swelling and bruising (and with the swelling a small amount of fat gone won’t be noticeable for a long time, until the swelling goes down).

I know it was a joke, but… yeah.

Jerry
Jerry
7 years 2 months ago
Regarding question 4… I’m a mountain bike racer, so here’s my 2¢… I think it shouldn’t really be treated differently from running. You can stay as paleo as you want when you’re not doing it, obviously. When you do, you can control the kind of riding you do. Mountain biking has a lot of short, intense efforts which works in pretty nicely with the blueprint. You can do a bunch of those with easy spins in between to get your heart rate back down. If you keep your daily carb load low, you’ll have to keep hitting carb intake targets… Read more »
Dave, RN
Dave, RN
7 years 2 months ago

Question 2: Personally, I avoid all synthetic sweeteners . Google aspartame, splenda etc and you’ll know what I mean. It’s one of those things you just leave behind when you eat Real Food… If I want sweet, I just grab a kiwi fruit and down it, fuzzy skin and all!

Henry Miller
Henry Miller
7 years 2 months ago
1: What passes for good looks on TV/magazines and what I think looks good are vastly different. Going primal will generally improve some parts. However there is also individual taste. I like long hair (ankle length) on girls, but long or short hair has no bearing on health. 2: depends. Assuming you are not diabetic: If you are making a wedding cake go for real sugar over honey. People don’t get married often so it will do no harm to go out when it happens. Sugar tastes better, so use it. If you trying to make your lunch and supper… Read more »
Peggy
Peggy
7 years 2 months ago
1: I agree with you on that! I am not what society would consider “attractive”, but then I’ve never let that dictate my life. However, lately I have had more compliments than any time previously. 2 main reasons, I believe. One is my self-esteem has improved immensely. Two is my switch to PB & becoming fitter. A part of that is also proudly embracing the silver of my hair – I have had so many complete strangers stop & compliment it! I agree with shawn’s thoughts on #3. I’m thinking some days Grok might not have full meals,but might grab… Read more »
samantha
samantha
7 years 2 months ago

@serialsinner,

you are a man with a vocabulary after my own heart. i had fun looking up pusillanimous. but don’t tell my husband 😉

SerialSinner
SerialSinner
7 years 2 months ago

My personality profile says I’m a verbal gymnast 8)

Vin - NaturalBias
7 years 2 months ago
Here are my 2 cents. 1. I think health and beauty are two separate things, but there is definitely some overlap. “Accepting yourself for who you are” when you’re 100 lbs overweight is a lot different than accepting the appearance of your facials structure. 2. Honey is natural, and even though it may contribute to blood sugar fluctuation, I’d choose it over an artificial sweetener any day. Since I’d only use a sweetener as part of my 20%, I’d prefer to enjoy the real thing. Furthermore, splenda is nasty stuff! 3. Sorry, I don’t know much about fasting. 4. From… Read more »
jennifer
jennifer
7 years 2 months ago
#1-the question of beauty and health is like comparing apples to star fruit. beauty..as defined by whom? it is a highly suggestive, personal esthetic that is paradoxically controlled by the media. the same folks who like to undermine health. 100 years ago, beauty was a plump, pale woman and now it is a silhouette that more closely resembles a 14 year old boy with huge knockers. that said, the social pressures for women (face it they get it 1000x more than men) to look a certain way is (just like the advice to eat carbs for health) is impossible. so,… Read more »
jennifer
jennifer
7 years 2 months ago

and #5….nope.

John Sifferman
7 years 2 months ago
1. Carmela, I’ve always said that a beautiful physique comes as a byproduct of vibrant health and abundant vitality. Health and beauty are definitely linked, but it’s poorly represented by today’s supermodels who live radically unhealthy lifestyles. If you put health at the top of your priorities, your natural beauty will always improve. 2. Elizabeth, I always prefer natural over manufactured/processed. 4. Hamed, If cycling makes you “come alive,” then it’s primal enough by my definition. You don’t need to spear wild boar to incorporate healthy lifestyle principles from our ancestors, and you don’t need to justify how cycling makes… Read more »
Adam Kayce
7 years 2 months ago
#2 : I’d stick with natural. Grok didn’t have aspartame, and I doubt you should either. The artificial stuff is straight up bad for you, I’d say. #4 : I’d say cycling is totally primal. You’re propelling your body through space, right? So what if you’re using a tool? Keep it in moderation, and don’t forget to lift heavy stuff up off the ground from time to time, and you’ll be fine. #5 : Just do it the healthy way. You’ve probably got some event you want to look good for (high school reunion, big date, etc.), so I understand… Read more »
Ryan Denner
7 years 2 months ago

Ah, something related to endurance activities… nice! As an avid endurance athlete who believes in the PB (I basically eat only as many carbs as I need), I have this to say:

Why cycling is not primal:
* Not a natural motion
* Grok didn’t do it
* Can require extensive CHO for fueling
* Road riding is typically done at high intensities for long periods of time

Why cycling IS primal
* Can be done at low intensities, keeping the fat burning (alternative to hiking)
* Is fun!
* Especially for mountain biking: connect with nature, short and intense efforts, along with easier spinning

Donna
Donna
7 years 2 months ago
#1) When a person wants to improve their body image, that person is the only one who knows how much improvement they need. I’m working with 2 people now and they both have different goals on how they want to look. To get to that “total” body improvement for one person may be just leg exercises just needing that improved while another may just need their abbs improved which both are improving body images, just different needs. #2) I’d say it depends on what the recipe is. I do believe it’s OK to use splenda, but if your recipe (whatever… Read more »
Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later
Question 4: It depends what you mean by primal. If you are asking whether it’s something Grok would have done, then by definition, it’s not primal. But if you are asking whether it’s something that can fit into a modern day interpretation of primal – i.e. what Mark sets out in the Blueprint – then absolutely mountain biking is primal. My reading of exercising according to the Primal Blueprint is that it’s primarily about patterns of intensity rather than the exercise of choice, although I think you do get extra ‘points’ for making what you do functional. So if you… Read more »
Tim Rangitsch
7 years 2 months ago

My take:
#1 Yes, inseparable.

#2 No sweets! Sorry. If you want honey, suffer many hundreds of bee stings as penance.

#3 Never feel guilty, that’s bad Primal form! “I” is for intermittent after all!

#4 Certainly can mimic Primal activity.

OnTheBayou
OnTheBayou
7 years 2 months ago
Agave is as natural as HFCS. Oh, it’s the same process!!! How about that. If you think using 90-95% fructose is primal, have at it. If you think it’s a disaster, dump it. I dumped mine as soon as I learned that it is not just agave sap or something. At this time when I’m trying to avoid every calorie and carb, I’m appreciating diet sweeteners. Being skinny most of my life I never thought I would be consuming them. In sodas, never a big user of, some liquid variety. I like the sugar free Jello’s a good flavor event.… Read more »
SugarCookieBrooklyn
7 years 2 months ago
On Migraines: I think you should reconsider the Topomax, you’re on a high dose and it comes with side effects after long term usage, plus…it’s not working. I tried Topomax but then my neurologist told me the thing that has made all the difference in the world. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin). At high doses, every single day, it has worked WONDERS and no side effects. I’ve recommended it to many fellow migraine sufferers and everyone much happier. They are sold in 100 mg capsules (avoid the tablets, they don’t go down well). 200 mg in the AM and 200 mg in… Read more »
lightcan
lightcan
7 years 2 months ago

It seems from the previous discussion that insulin doesn’t always just deal with glucose. I don’t understand why would cheese be insulinotropic. When I hear that beef and fish have the same effect (do you have references?) I get very confused and sad. I am trying to deal with acne and according to Cordain I should give up dairy products. It’s not really clear though. Dairy products means cow milk products. Does that mean that sheep and goat milk products are OK? I don’t think this is what they mean.
Can somebody help?

OnTheBayou
OnTheBayou
7 years 2 months ago

Lightcan, dairy is dairy, no matter the type of mammary gland. Cow, sheep, goat, yak, water buffalo, camel. It’s milk and milk products.

SerialSinner
SerialSinner
7 years 2 months ago

About Migraines, I read sometime ago that ketogenic diets help a lot of people with migraines and epileptic attacks.

Could it be that the brain works better with ketones than glucose? I wouldn’t be surprised…

Angela
7 years 2 months ago

SerialSinner: I doubt that this is the reason for the effectiveness of ketogenic diets against migraines. While the body can run off of ketones quite well, the nervous system is a different story. It tends to not work so well without any glucose at all (in the primal blueprint, I believe that fruit and other “primal” sources of carbohydrates are sufficient for adequate nervous system functioning).

But if you’re comparing JUST ketones or JUST glucose for brain functioning, glucose wins without a doubt.

Like I said…not the same for other systems, though.

Matt
Matt
7 years 2 months ago
Angela: “But if you’re comparing JUST ketones or JUST glucose for brain functioning, glucose wins without a doubt.” I am not 100% sure of this: “Ketones are a high-energy fuel that nourish the brain,” Dr. Theodore VanItallie, a medical doctor and professor emeritus at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City. He has been researching ketones for more than 35 years. Dr. VanItallie studied the ketogenic diet’s effect on Parkinson’s disease. In his study, five patients stuck to the diet for one month, and all of the participants’ tremors, stiffness and ability to walk… Read more »
Trevor Peckham
Trevor Peckham
7 years 2 months ago
#4- As a long time mountain bike racer, I’ve thought about this a bunch. Obviously, Grok didn’t have a 5″ travel trail bike with Sram X.0 or anything with wheels for that matter….so he wasn’t doing a whole lot of bike riding. I think mountain biking bounces between interval training (though often longer than other types) and active play, fitting in into the Primal Blueprint (even if not perfectly). I think the thing that pushes it over the edge to primal-enough is the fact that it gets you in the woods and connects you to nature more than anything in… Read more »
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[…] for visiting!I thought I’d forgo my regularly scheduled “Dear Mark” Monday post (or “Dear Readers” as the case may be) for a subject very near and dear to my heart: the constantly-evolving, […]

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[…] on this topic.I thought I’d forgo my regularly scheduled “Dear Mark” Monday post (or “Dear Readers” as the case may be) for a subject very near and dear to my heart: the constantly-evolving, […]

ebrunner
ebrunner
7 years 2 months ago
#4: I’d say mountain biking (and even road cycling) definitely fits in with PB: downhills, flats are done at relatively low intensity (i.e., low-level aerobic work), and the hills are high intensity spurts. I was watching the Tour de France, and the TV station would put up the heart rate readings of some of the riders during various portions of a stage. On flat stages during the middle of the race, many riders would have heart rates of 140-150 BPM, which is probably 70-75% of VO2 max for them. And they’re COMPETING in one of the most intense endurance events… Read more »
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7 years 1 month ago

[…] “Dear Readers” blog posts (1, 2, 3, 4) have started some great discussions. As I always say, I’m lucky to have some of the most […]

Trey
Trey
4 years 2 months ago

Sucralose and most other artificial sweeteners do NOT cause an insulin spike.

You can say a lot about the neurological problems that come from artificial sweeteners but there are many studies on the effect of artificial sweeteners on insulin production, and the only sweetener that has ever had the slightest correlation with insulin production is xylitol.

Lastly, there is anecdotal evidence that these sweetners can increase your appetite for sugar and to that point i don’t know. However, it is an urban myth that these sweeteners trigger insulin production.

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