Copyright 2005 Richard Keir
There seems to be fairly poor tracking by any formal standards once a product is approved as a food additive. Despite supposedly tracking adverse reactions, the reality has been different at the FDA. Aspartame is a case in point. Apparent collusion, distorted research reports, lack of funding for independent research, questionable practices in tracking adverse reactions and reporting them. It's a pretty ugly sounding story. It's been said that Aspartame is a contract on humanity. Here's one source you might find puts you off Aspartame for good: http://www.holisticmed.com/aspartame/suffer.faq - "Reported Aspartame Toxicity Effects".
Are the estimates (in the report above) of the real number of toxic reactions accurate? I'm no epidemiologist but what struck me was the large number of serious toxic reactions reported by pilots. My conclusion -- I won't use the stuff. And there are suggestions that the offshoot - Neotame - may be even worse.
Everyone pretty much knows the kinds of problems that have been reported with cyclamates and Saccharin. Weirdly - perhaps bad tracking? - the actual dangers still seem unclear after many years of use. However, as I read it, they seem to be substantially less toxic than some more recent artificial sweeteners.
Splenda is the latest and greatest. Reportedly manufactured from sugar by substituting 3 chlorine atoms for 3 hydroxyl groups, some claim that the end product is not what it should be. Apparently if it were made from sugar then when you dissolve it in water (hydrolyze), it ought to produce chlorinated glucose which is a known toxin. Instead it produces chlorinated monosaccharides.
Splenda, or sucralose, is a chlorocarbon. Chlorocarbons have an illustrious history, being known for causing organ, reproductive and genetic damage. Whether sucralose (Splenda) is as safe as the manufacturer claims (which is pretty much what manufacturers always claim) remains to be seen. Here is another reference worth taking a look at: http://www.mercola.com/2000/dec/3/sucralose_dangers.htm - "Secret Dangers of Splenda".
Andrew Weil, MD has some pertinent - and more moderate comments on Aspartame and Splenda here: http://www.drweil.com/u/QA/QA106654/ - "Aspartame: Can a Little Bit Hurt". He suggests using the "precautionary" principle - which basically says if there are questions about the safety of a product, don't use it.
At this point, I think it's my head that's spinning. I'm uncertain whether Splenda is safe, reasonably safe, slightly risky or seriously risky. When I looked at the manufacturer's site and a couple other sites that were all enthused about Splenda, I didn't see any answers to the points the critics are making. Mostly it's all lightness, sweetness and the miracle of modern science.
Like you I've seen some miracles of modern science turn into nightmares when the testing wasn't adequate, when the results were fudged, when coverups went on. So questions exist about all the artificial sweeteners. Splenda may be less dangerous than Aspartame (which I sure wouldn't recommend to anyone). Long-term and independent studies are lacking. And here's the real kicker:
***** From Consumers' Research Magazine "There is no clear-cut evidence that sugar substitutes are useful in weight reduction. On the contrary, there is some evidence that these substances may stimulate appetite."
Now that just tears it. Risk your health using one of these chemicals and then end up eating more because it stimulates your appetite. Terrific.
So what alternatives are there? Surprisingly there are quite a few. One interesting alternative is a South American plant called Stevia. Apparently once considered a potential threat to the sugar industry, it seems to have been deep-sixed early in the twentieth century. It has been used as a sweetener for centuries by South American natives. In the U.S., it seems (somehow) to have been kept from being available as an "additive" and the FDA has said not enough studies have been done. Yet it's widely used by diabetics and in countries such as Japan and Brazil. Stevia is available at health stores as a supplement (though without any indication that it could be used as a sweetener). It's a fascinating story which you can read here: http://www.stevia.net/ - The Stevia Story
More information on alternative sweeteners is in our article: http://www.carb.werkz.org/healthier-sweeteners.php - "Healthier Alternatives to Artificial Sweeteners."
Our health is challenged on all sides these days. New chemicals, new additives, genetically engineered foods, highly processed foods, empty calories, stress and pollution all pose threats to our bodies. I've come to the conclusion that the fewer highly processed, chemically enhanced, questionably assessed, factory created products we ingest, the better off we will probably be.
Our bodies evolved as a part of the natural world and though we are changing the world radically (which is only natural, it is what people do after all), our bodies do not evolve and adapt at the rate technology changes. And for scientific, political and economic reasons, the quality and thoroughness of evaluations done on newly created products don't match up to our industrial creativity.
Finally, balancing the need to lose weight (or maintain an optimum weight) against potential risks creates difficult choices. It's up to you to make the best choice you can for your specific situation -- just remember, that old saw still holds - Let the buyer beware.
About the author:
http://www.Carb.Werkz.orgis an informational site providing recipes, articles, news and diet resources. Since many recipes are designed to use Splenda, please take a look at http://www.Carb.Werkz.org/healthier-sweeteners.phpand http://www.Carb.Werkz.org/how-to-use-splenda.phpfor additional information.
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