Towards the end of last year, I was lucky enough to attend a National conference called
Nutrition & Health Live
at London Olympia. This was its 14th year and in that time it has grown in reputation with some amazing and influential speakers taking part.
As a food blogger specialising in low fat recipes, I had a keen interest in many of the events and cookery demonstrations I went to. The talk I was most intrigued to attend was the one called;
"Uncovering the facts about
There are so many conflicting reports and advice given about the use of artificial sweeteners in our diets. In fact there is much confusion in the media about many food related issues (fat, sugar etc) and this was addressed at the conference-it's no wonder that we consumers feel confused most of the time!
Before I continue, please remember that unlike most of the attendees who were there, I am not a nutritionist or dietitian. I am a WeightWatchers gold member, blogger and food writer with a keen interest in cooking. I don't have a scientific mind…so I will share my findings with you in very simple terms.
The speakers were;
Professor Alan Boobis: Toxicology expert
Professor Marion Hetherington: Expert in human biology, appetite & eating
Professor Alan Boobis started the session by explaining to us that in terms of its safety, no substance can be approved unless it has satisfied a regulatory body and has been subjected to rigorous testing. This is supported in all the materials I have read and I have reference to the clinical trials supporting this fact.
Aspartame and even the more 'natural' plant-based sweeteners such as Stevia all break down in the gut into exactly the same natural amino-acids. Stevia is often combined with other artificial sweeteners anyway as it has quite a prominent aftertaste.
The conclusion from the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) on safety is that there are no concerns at the current ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake) which is
40mg per kg of body weight,
that artificial sweeteners can do any harm.
As with all food types, if eaten in moderation, at sensible levels, it is safe.
The upper limit (way too much!) would be the equivalent of;
20 cans of a diet drink PER DAY!
70 sachets of sweetener PER DAY!
Professor Hetherington went on to explain that as human beings, we have an innate love of sweetness. Breast milk is sweet. This is the first flavour we encounter so it should come as no surprise that many of us have a sweet tooth!
When a dietician asked if it was a good idea to 'wean' her patient off sweet foods, the professor said no, its better to have a small amount rather than deprive the patient. She explained that low calorie sweeteners can have a positive role in supporting dietary change in those people trying to lose or maintain their weight.
Finally, in a paper I read by Carrie Buxton PhD, RD and Freelance dietitian, she explains that
"There have been concerns that low-calorie sweeteners may be associated with cancer, however this has been consistently rejected by expert panel reviews of the evidence. Researchers from the Institute of Pharmacological Research Mario Negri, Italy, evaluated intakes of low-calorie sweeteners in patients with various types of cancers. Data was collected over a 13 year period on over 11,000 cases…results showed that the risk of developing cancer was not associated with consumption of low-calorie sweeteners".
(Bosetti C et al 2009)
So, to conclude.
I'm not dictating or recommending that you use artificial sweeteners because I want you to make your own minds up. If you wish to google the facts in more detail, please do so.
I came away from the talk reassured that, in the quantities I use them, I'm happy to continue to use artificial sweeteners in my diet as I have a sweet tooth and they help me to reduce my calorie/propoint intake on sweet foods.