It’s a surprise to us at Homefield how often people automatically associate low calorie with low health risk. Diet drinks, for example, are seen as innocuous, pleasant (?) drinks which can’t possibly do any harm because they are calorie free.
But for years now, the evidence has been stacking up that artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame (Nutrasweet) are metabolic disruptors, can increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, brain damage, cancer and neuroendocrine disorders.
Despite all of this evidence, the food industry and various safety bodies have maintained that these sweeteners are perfectly safe for human consumption. However, a recent review of the research has detailed serious flaws in the reassurances provided by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2013. The new study by Prof Erik Millstone and Dr Elisabeth Dawson of University of Sussex, has suggested that commercial interests may have led to the unquestioning acceptance of studies that concluded sweeteners were harmless, while at least 73 studies that indicated sweeteners were harmful were discounted.
Professor Millstone is calling for a ban of the sale of Aspartame in the EU pending an independent and thorough re-examination of the evidence. He is also recommending a thorough overhaul of EU food safety procedures, including an end to “behind closed door” discussions.
He said “This research adds weight to the argument that authorisation to sell or use aspartame should be suspended throughout the EU, including in the UK, pending a thorough re-examination of all the evidence by a reconvened EFSA that is able to satisfy critics and the public that they operate in a fully transparent and accountable manner applying a fair and consistent approach to evaluation and decision making.”
Professor of Food Policy at City University of London, Tim Lang, who was not involved in the research, said: “The paper is both important and timely. The global health advice is to reduce sugar intake, yet much of the food industry – especially soft drinks – maintains the sweetness by substituting artificial sweeteners. Millstone and Dawson help expose that strategy for what it is, a continued sweetening of the world’s diet. The healthy strategy is surely to tackle the cultural reinforcement of sweetness and to encourage less sweet foods and drinks, full stop. Surely we now argue: reduce both sugar and artificial alternatives.”