8

votes

Gary Taubes on Artificial Sweeteners

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created October 02, 2011 at 2:26 AM

Via http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/10/02/magazine/29mag-food-issue.html?ref=magazine#/health

Should I Be Afraid of Low-Calorie Sugar Substitutes? BY GARY TAUBES

There's not nearly as much reason to fear sugar substitutes as there is to fear actual sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. The assumption that these noncaloric or low-cal sweeteners are likely to be cancer-causing agents, and that sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are not, is as much a sugar-industry invention as anything else.

The two oldest and most undeservedly infamous sugar substitutes ??? saccharin and cyclamate ??? were first used widely in the United States in the early 1960s, when diet soft drinks came into vogue. The sugar industry responded by financing research into potential health risks of the two sweeteners ??? spending half a million dollars on cyclamate alone, which was a lot of money at the time. "If anyone can undersell you 9 cents out of 10," one sugar-industry executive explained to The Times in 1969, "you'd better find some brickbat you can throw at him."

The brickbat was the notion that cyclamate could cause bladder cancer in rats. Or at least it could when they were consuming the equivalent of several hundred soda cans each day. Regardless, the Food and Drug Administration promptly banned its use. In the early 1970s, when a few studies suggested that saccharin could do the same ??? if consumed at the rate of 800 soda cans daily ??? the F.D.A. moved to ban that as well before settling for a warning label that would stay on packets of Sweet'N Low for the next quarter century. (Congress passed a bill to remove it in 2000.) To further confuse matters, the Canadians banned saccharin but left cyclamate unregulated, so Sweet'N Low in the United States is made from saccharin and in Canada from cyclamate.

As it turns out, the bladder cancer in male rats appears to be promoted by a protein in their urine that's not present in male humans. And despite numerous studies, precious little evidence can be found that humans consuming Sweet'N Low anywhere in North America have more bladder cancer than those who don't.

This suggests that despite the checkered history and the F.D.A. actions, cyclamate and saccharin might actually be as safe as any sugar substitute on the market.

Stevia, however, gets my vote as the best noncaloric sweetener, by virtue of being the only one that's truly "natural." It comes from a Southern Hemisphere herb, stevia rebaudiana, known colloquially as sweet leaf or sugar leaf. Extracts of the herb have been used as a sweetener for centuries. In Japan, Stevia has been sold widely as a sugar substitute since the early 1970s without any documented ill effects. Stevia leaves are 30 times as sweet as sugar itself, and the purified extracts are 200 times as sweet, meaning that it takes less than a calorie's worth to sweeten 12 ounces of soda.12 ounces of soda.

Thoughts? Is he catering to a more mainstream audience? He doesn't even mention insulin.

858035cde2c86dd28d071c0404478f11

(0)

on October 05, 2011
at 03:54 AM

@TheQuilt, care to explain that at all, or at least point to some links please? Is this the "it causes insulin reactions similar to sugar" hypothesis? If so, is it well supported?

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

(5152)

on October 04, 2011
at 04:26 PM

Cyclamate seems to be basically saccharin (SweetnLow) at least the version you can taste in Twin offered at Tim Horton's or Coffee Time. When I go to Canada, I ask for powder Splenda but realized that Twin does the job as well.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 02, 2011
at 11:07 PM

+1 for the real men not using sweeteners. LOL

145d4b0f988af15acc6b26eccc1f4895

(1932)

on October 02, 2011
at 06:57 PM

I was almost afraid to read this. So glad to hear your common-sense thoughts. I live in the U.S., but I order my cyclamate online from Canada. NOTHING else does the job as well, not stevia, erythritol, sucralose. None of them. I keep hearing rumors that cyclamate is going to be allowed back in the U.S. but I somehow doubt that the other manufacturers will ever allow it.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on October 02, 2011
at 05:52 PM

truvia is mostly erythritol

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on October 02, 2011
at 04:22 PM

truvia is mostly erythritrol.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on October 02, 2011
at 01:14 PM

a voice of reason;)

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on October 02, 2011
at 08:03 AM

I actually found the Zevia Ginger Ale to be tasty, but didn't care for the other flavors.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 02, 2011
at 06:47 AM

U obviously know nada about cold fusion :P. Italians invented it: http://pesn.com/2011/01/27/9501752_Italian_cold_fusion_saga_continues_with_new_papers_released/

B1859f696e88d25460a6b8a333412ea3

(837)

on October 02, 2011
at 04:36 AM

Zevia is also sweetened with Erythritol, in addition to the Stevia.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on October 02, 2011
at 03:40 AM

Caution: After months on primal I tried stevia and it made me sick. I had headache, dry eyes aching in their sockets and my guts swelled up worse than they do from wheat. Nothing else changed so I'm 99% sure it was the stevia. I stopped using it and felt fine within 2 days.

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8 Answers

10
3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

on October 02, 2011
at 05:06 AM

I actually agree with Gary on all the points made. Most sugar substitutes are harmless and the association with cancer and other ill effects are exaggerated or due to administration of massive doses to lab rats. Stevia is slightly hypoglycemic and completely harmless. Splenda (sucralose) probably is as well, despite the association with pesticide.

I believe most reactions to sugar substitutes are either (i) psychosomatic or (ii) due to differences in sweetness -- all of the above sugar subs display different degrees of bitterness or mediciney after taste, when compared to sugar; however, this usually goes away once you stop consuming sugar.

If you continue to consume sugar while trying to switch to sugar subs, you'll not succeed. This is because the taste of sugar will serve as a benchmark of comparison. You need to change that benchmark. If you do that, then sugar becomes unbearably sweet and sickly tasting as it did to me today when I accidentally ingested it.

As for these sugar subs eliciting insulin. It's psychosomatic. Most of these (except sugar alcohols and those containing maltodextrin like powder Splenda) are non-glycemic. So get over it. It's not sugar.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on October 02, 2011
at 01:14 PM

a voice of reason;)

145d4b0f988af15acc6b26eccc1f4895

(1932)

on October 02, 2011
at 06:57 PM

I was almost afraid to read this. So glad to hear your common-sense thoughts. I live in the U.S., but I order my cyclamate online from Canada. NOTHING else does the job as well, not stevia, erythritol, sucralose. None of them. I keep hearing rumors that cyclamate is going to be allowed back in the U.S. but I somehow doubt that the other manufacturers will ever allow it.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

(5152)

on October 04, 2011
at 04:26 PM

Cyclamate seems to be basically saccharin (SweetnLow) at least the version you can taste in Twin offered at Tim Horton's or Coffee Time. When I go to Canada, I ask for powder Splenda but realized that Twin does the job as well.

3
667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on October 02, 2011
at 01:18 PM

i agree with him that they don't harm us in the small doses MOST people consume them in. The problem they present for most people I'd say is that they still make things taste too good. They make people think that everything should be very sweet. People then prolly have more of that food than they otherwise would.

I don???t think he???s catering to a mainstream audience. I don???t think you have to mention insulin regarding them because they don???t elicit insulin response.

1
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on October 02, 2011
at 01:52 PM

The best thing about stevia is not that it's natural, it's that until recently, it had a bitter aftertaste to most people, which keeps it from making your foods very rewarding. I'm concerned that refined versions of Stevia, such as Truvia, which have been altered to remove or blunt the bitter taste, would lead to addictive eating habits in some people. I used the stevia extract that still tastes a little bitter when I make things like Chai and it is sweet enough to allow for that nice chai flavor, but not too sweet to be addictive.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on October 02, 2011
at 05:52 PM

truvia is mostly erythritol

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on October 02, 2011
at 04:22 PM

truvia is mostly erythritrol.

1
8287c6ddae0d78eae0a09fdd5999617c

(2581)

on October 02, 2011
at 03:51 AM

I think sugar is healthier to eat than aspartame. Aside from the alleged cancer link, there is evidence that aspartame is the cause of thyroid issues especially hyperthyroidism and Graves' disease. Doctors were puzzled when George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush both were diagnosed with Graves' disease. It is supposedly rare for two people living under the same roof that aren't related to both be diagnosed with Graves' disease.

Both Bush and his wife used a lot of Equal, a sugar substitute made out of aspartame.

http://www.aspartamesafety.com/Graves.htm

http://www.sweetpoison.com/

This is not to say people should be eating/drinking loads of refined sugar. But it is very ironic that Taubes, who considers all sugar to be toxic (never mind that the body runs on glucose) will defend the safety of an artificial sweetener (cyclamate) that was banned decades ago by the FDA for being toxic.

As for stevia, which is natural and therefore popular for being healthy, the main challenge is taste. Zevia, the main brand of stevia soda available right now in the US, is not only very expensive, it tastes TERRIBLE. I would love if there was a good tasting diet soda made out of stevia that wasn't expensive, but for now I guess I will have to drink only water.

B1859f696e88d25460a6b8a333412ea3

(837)

on October 02, 2011
at 04:36 AM

Zevia is also sweetened with Erythritol, in addition to the Stevia.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on October 02, 2011
at 08:03 AM

I actually found the Zevia Ginger Ale to be tasty, but didn't care for the other flavors.

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 02, 2011
at 06:56 AM

The only sweet thing I keep in my house is Stevia, I don't even buy sugar for the guests any more :P

I use Stevia only with some salads, not in drinks. No harm detected.

Aspartame has well known brain influence. Alcoholic sugars are probably harmless in low doses, just as alcohol is (I am judging by the logic of thing, never actually researched those as I am a man, and real man don't use sweeteners).

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 02, 2011
at 11:07 PM

+1 for the real men not using sweeteners. LOL

0
25b139cc1954456d9ea469e40f984cd3

on October 02, 2011
at 05:52 AM

**> Stevia, however, gets my vote as the

best noncaloric sweetener, by virtue of being the only one that's truly "natural."**

1) Stevia isn't noncaloric, although this is nitpicking, and 2) Would Gary rather ingest two grams of completely natural dried http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanita_phalloides or two grams of synthetic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paracetamol ?

-1
1a98a40ba8ffdc5aa28d1324d01c6c9f

(20378)

on October 02, 2011
at 03:02 PM

I would say Taubes got this portion wrong. However I agree on the Stevia portion however I prefer fruit or even straight sugar to Stevia.

-5
Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on October 02, 2011
at 02:56 AM

Gary should stick to fighting Guyenet or cold fusion. He knows nada about excitotoxins.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 02, 2011
at 06:47 AM

U obviously know nada about cold fusion :P. Italians invented it: http://pesn.com/2011/01/27/9501752_Italian_cold_fusion_saga_continues_with_new_papers_released/

858035cde2c86dd28d071c0404478f11

(0)

on October 05, 2011
at 03:54 AM

@TheQuilt, care to explain that at all, or at least point to some links please? Is this the "it causes insulin reactions similar to sugar" hypothesis? If so, is it well supported?

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