The New Miracle Sweeteners, Part 1

 If you have been a longtime subscriber to What We Now Know, you may remember us ranting against artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (a.k.a. NutraSweet) and sucralose (a.k.a. Splenda) as potential mass killers of mankind. While we wrote about aspartame--which is found in nearly every diet drink, "light" product, chewing gum, and children's vitamin--at a time when scarcely anyone was paying attention, these days you can find an abundance of studies attesting to its harmfulness.

But then, what are the alternatives, you may ask--short of renouncing our sweet tooth forever?

Here's some good news: There are two natural but still little-known sweeteners out on the market that not only won't harm your health... in fact, they may even increase it.

For one thing, there's stevia, a sweetener made from a South American herb that is about 300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia has no calories, can be added to any food and is stable in heating and freezing. Stevia leaves have been used as a food product for 400 years, and a recent swath of scientific studies in various countries showed no negative effects on the health of lab rats and hamsters--even in high doses.

Interestingly, one 2-year study on 50 male and 50 female lab rats by the National Institute of Health Sciences in Tokyo, Japan, not only found that the rats who had been given stevia weighed less than their control group peers, they also had a lower incidence of *** cancer (in females) and kidney damage (in males).

In contrast, extensive studies on aspartame have shown declining T-maze performance in rats due to memory impairment, magnesium imbalances in the tissue, formaldehyde-caused shrinkage of rat thymocytes (precursors of the disease-fighting T-cells), and many other severe side effects.

A 1974 study on 440 rats, conducted by aspartame maker G.D. Searle itself, found that 162 (or 37%) of the animals had some kind of negative reaction to aspartame. 12 of the rats mysteriously died of brain tumors, a fact that was swept under the carpet by Searle.

M. Adrian Gross, Senior Science Advisor, Office of Pesticide Programs at the Environmental Protection Agency, who later reviewed the study, concluded that based on the study results, between 1 and 5 out of 1,000 users of aspartame would develop brain tumors.

An article on titled Aspartame--History of Fraud and Deception states that "In 1981, under pressure from the soft drink lobby, FDA Commissioner [Arthur Hayes Jr.] approved the initial use of aspartame in dry foods and as a tabletop sweetener, discounting public complaints as anecdotal" and ignoring three FDA scientists' objections. Notably, after his stint at the FDA, Hayes went on to work for Searle's own public relations firm. And the buck doesn't stop with Hayes, or aspartame would have been taken off the market at some point. Go figure.

This historical bias of the FDA also explains why you may not have heard of stevia, which has been around for hundreds of years and is used without ill effects by millions of people. Comment from Rob McCaleb, president and founder of the Herb Research Foundation: "Sweetness is big money. Nobody wants to see something cheap and easy to grow on the market competing with the things they worked so hard to get approved." [For more information, read McCaleb's article Stevia--Too Good to Be Legal?]

In that spirit and in rare mutual agreement, the U.S., Canada and the EU have been working hard to keep stevia off supermarket shelves. Japanese food companies have been using the herb since the 1970s to sweeten everything from pickles and soy sauce to diet coke--with no adverse reactions. Even though stevia is now available in American health food stores, due to strict FDA regulations, it has to be marketed as a dietary supplement, prohibiting U.S. food manufacturers from adding it to their products.

[In the next WWNK, read about the sweetener that looks like sugar and tastes like sugar, but actually prevents tooth cavities and gum disease.]

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Posted 05-30-2006 1:05 PM by Doug Casey
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What We Now Know wrote The New Miracle Sweeteners, Part II
on 12-11-2007 1:41 PM

In the last issue , we talked about stevia, the natural sweetener that poses a healthy alternative to