Sweet talk

Artificial sweeteners are a misunderstood scientific breakthrough. Unfortunately scientists and the government aren’t vocal enough to alleviate our safety concerns. Even as recently as five days ago, the Globe published an article on the confusion around artificial sweeteners.

Take for example saccharin, the artificial sweetener in the pink packets of Sweet’N Low.

It may come as a surprise that saccharin is currently banned in Canada as a food additive. It also has a warning on the back of the packet saying only to consume it under the advice of a physician.

However, at the same time Health Canada states that saccharin is permitted for limited use as a tabletop sweetener.

Naturally, this causes confusion and fear over the safety of these sweeteners.

The inconsistency began in the 1970s when a Canadian study found that saccharin was possibly linked to bladder cancer in rats. The chemical was labeled as a carcinogen and was ultimately banned in Canada.

It wasn’t until years later that scientists realized that saccharin didn’t have the same effect in humans. Interestingly, it was discovered that many things caused cancerous bladder tumors in rats, including high doses of vitamin C.

Finally, in 2006 Health Canada decided to re-evaluate the ban on saccharin.

The government is still in the process of changing legislation, and hopefully they’re not too late to change the stigma associated with artificial sweeteners.

It’s been widely accepted across the scientific community that artificial sweeteners are safe under normal consumption.

Saccharin doesn’t bind to your DNA and aspartame won’t cause seizures; these statements are exaggerated and misunderstood results from laboratory experiments.

Drinking a diet soda, often sweetened with aspartame, won’t harm your body any more than a regular sugar-filled soda will.

The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) measures the maximum concentration of substances before any negative side effects may possibly occur. For aspartame, the ADI is 50 mg per kg of body weight per day. This means that a 150-lb person needs to drink 20 cans of diet soda every day to be at risk of the negative side effects caused by aspartame. There have been studies linking artificial sweeteners to weight gain, so if that’s your concern it may be worthwhile to look into the science behind that research. But while you’re there, do a search on the toxicity of sugar — you may be surprised at what you find.

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