Sweeteners – are any OK?

The most frequently asked question is still about sweeteners. I have lost count of how many sweeteners are out there already (e.g. Sucralose, Splenda, Saccharin, Aspartame, Acesulfame-K and various derivatives of these). There are also ‘natural’ sweeteners, such as fructose – fruit sugar – which are unnaturally added in unnatural quantities to processed foods. (Fructose found naturally in a piece of fruit is one thing, fructose concentrate added to a cereal bar is quite another). There has also been a flurry of new sweeteners in the past few years – e.g. Agave nectar, Xylitol, Stevia – all coming with various health claims and big PR budgets. As the top frequently asked question, there is an answer to this in Stop Counting calories, but I am going to be even more forceful here. If you want my opinion on sweeteners – here it is: Don’t eat them! Food manufacturers will bring out new ones continually, not least so that, by the time we have worked out how bad one is for us – we have another one to investigate. They always seem to be a step ahead. To take Aspartame as an example: Dr. Ralph Walton, Professor and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry Northeastern Ohio University Colleges of Medicine, undertook a comprehensive review of studies available for just one sweetener: Aspartame. It was called "Survey of aspartame studies: correlation of outcome and funding sources." The summary of the report stated: "Of the 166 studies felt to have relevance for questions of human safety, 74 had Nutrasweet® industry related funding and 92 were independently funded. One hundred percent of the industry funded research attested to aspartame’s safety, whereas 92% of the independently funded research identified a problem." Walton's overall conclusion was "We have also become much more sophisticated about the impact of a variety of toxins on psychological processes. I am convinced that one such toxin is aspartame." (Note 1)

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