So Who and What Do You Believe About The Safety of Sweeteners?

So Who and What Do You Believe About The Safety of Sweeteners?
By Dr. Janet Starr Hull
Illustrations by Lynn Townsend Dealey

Consider saccharin. Research history proves that saccharin is safe for human use, and always has been. The pink stuff never caused cancer in humans after over one hundred years of use, nor was the 1960s laboratory study submitted for its public banishment ever proven to be legitimate.1 Saccharin has merely received a total of six FDA complaints in its 100+ year history of use, whereas aspartame, found in the blue packet known as NutraSweet's Equal®, had already received over 10,000 FDA complaints after ten years of use.  

Aspartame is proven in laboratory studies to eat holes in the brains of lab animals, cause mammary gland and testes tumors, lower fetal IQs and adversely affect fetal formation, yet it has no danger warning other than for Phenylketonuria (PKU), the inherited inability to process the amino acid phenylalanine.2 Now we question the safety and approval process of Splenda's sucralose, which has been found in laboratory studies to shrink the thymus gland while enlarging the liver and kidneys, generate infertility in male rats, and create negative maternal gastrointestinal effects.3

So why, then, was the pink packet labeled a carcinogen and the blue and yellow packets deemed as safe when it actually appears the other way around?   And now the sweetener industry has gone a step further in their quest to capture your sweet addiction, by mixing together Splenda and NutraSweet and other artificial sweeteners, called "sweetener blends. One thing we know for sure, the race is on to win favor in the sweetener market, and the competition is extreme.

But, there's a catch to all the marketing hype touting sweetener safety - these sweeteners have not been proven safe for long-term use, nor safe for use during pregnancy, for fetuses, or for children. It's a "he said - she said" situation, and the one with the most money seems to win.

Equal® began its first big advertising campaign using high profile celebrities like Cher, Lauren Hutton, and Raquel Welch who promoted the Blue-sweetener in the 1990s. Ads also featured B. Smith, the popular restaurant owner and celebrity chef, who touted Equal and his famous cheesecake recipe that now included the "newest sweetener product." Advertising spots took constant digs at saccharin's Sweet' N Low® saying: "No aftertaste, like with some sweeteners."

One of the original television advertisements for NutraSweet /Equal was taken off the air shortly after its debut in the early 1980s due to its misleading implications that NutraSweet was all natural and produced from cow's milk.   Jersey cows were pictured grazing in a meadow. As one cow looked up at the camera, the announcer voiced-over: "NutraSweet.   It's made from pure ingredients."  

Aspartame has been the low-calorie sweetener of choice for soft drink makers since 1981 when saccharin was falsely labeled a carcinogen. Here's a bit of news I discovered through my research that I bet you didn't know: the saccharin toxicity study was actually done using a blend of cyclamate and saccharin, and the results were "interpreted" as linking cyclamate - not saccharin - to the bladder cancer in rats.4

Researchers fed the laboratory mice sweetened water equivalent to 800 cans of saccharin/cyclamate every day from birth until death. In this one test, one mouse developed bladder cancer, and the results were submitted to the FDA requesting a cancer warning be placed on all saccharin products. Cyclamate was banned in 1970. No further testing was performed. So, it appears saccharin was sacrificed to make room in the market for a new more profitable sweetener, NutraSweet/Equal®. Aspartame managed to hold the market until Splenda broke their monopoly in 2002.

And why don't we hear much about natural sweeteners such as stevia - are they safe? Preliminary scientific evidence (performed by independent researchers) shows stevia may improve the function of cells required for insulin production in the pancreas, and may also improve glucose tolerance in people with diabetes. But stevia isn't FDA approved as a "sweetener" in the USA. Actually, no one is allowed to label stevia a "sweetener" - you have to state that stevia is a dietary supplement that merely "tastes sweet."

Prior to the onslaught of chemical sugar substitutes, the need to "test" stevia for negative health effects had never been necessary after 1,500 years of its use. People have used stevia for generations in South America, Japan, China and Indonesian countries. Further research will be required for stevia safety, though, because as stevia becomes more competitive on the modern sweetener market, it will become more of a threat to the chemical sweetener companies. After years of political scrutiny and stonewalling in Europe, nonetheless in October 2004, stevia was finally approved by the European Commission for use as a "sweetener."5

So who and what do you believe concerning the safety of sweeteners?   Well, me, of course!



1 Saccharin Final Rule Report On Safety. Rules and Regulations. 3357 Federal Register. Vol. 69, No. 115. Wednesday, June 16, 2004.

2 Hull JS. Sweet Poison: How The World's Most Popular Artificial Sweetener Is Killing Us-My Story. New Horizon Press, 1997.

3 Bellin J. New Scientist. Pg 13. Nov 23, 1991.

4 Saccharin Final Rule Report On Safety. Rules and Regulations. 3357 Federal Register. Vol. 69, No. 115. Wednesday, June 16, 2004.

5 Stevia and Stevioside. Foods Stands Agency. March 27, 2002.

Posted on May 1, 2006 in Safety | Link

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