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Sweet news: No evidence that artificial sweetener aspartame’s bad for you

Everyone who works in a chemistry laboratory knows that you don’t use your taste receptors to check if an unknown chemical is safe or deadly poisonous (or if you do, you may do it only once). But if this…

Aspartame contains virtually no kilojoules in the minute quantity needed to sweeten a beverage or solid food. Pascal/Flickr

Everyone who works in a chemistry laboratory knows that you don’t use your taste receptors to check if an unknown chemical is safe or deadly poisonous (or if you do, you may do it only once). But if this hadn’t inadvertently happened in one lab, the most commonly used artificial sweetener today may never have been discovered.

In 1965, a chemist working with amino acids (the building blocks of protein) created a new chemical by combining the amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine. He didn’t realise that some of this novel substance had spilled onto a piece of paper lying on the laboratory bench. The chemist licked his finger to pick up the paper and inadvertently transferred some of the chemical into his mouth.

Luckily, he lived to tell the tale. What he had to tell was extraordinary and completely unexpected. By combining two of the building blocks of protein (which has no sweetness), he had created a substance that was about 200 times as sweet as sugar!

Dubbed “aspartame”, the newly-created chemical was found to provide virtually no kilojoules in the minute quantity needed to sweeten a beverage or solid food.

After extensive safety testing, aspartame was approved for use in Europe and the United States in the 1980s. Its use as a sweetener in a range of foods at specified levels is also permitted in Australia and New Zealand.

Indeed, it is now the most widely used artificial sweetener in the world, and is sold in Australia most commonly under the brand names NutraSweet and Equal.

Hoax claims about aspartame have been circulating on the internet for many years. They suggest it was first developed as an ant poison, and that it is broken down in the body to release formaldehyde, leading to health problems such as severe seizures, brain damage, lupus and birth defects. No credible scientific evidence has ever been found for any of these claims.

Of more substance is the claim that artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, may be a cause of cancer. Rat studies have shown an association between the consumption of these sweeteners and cancer incidence.

But, as the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) pointed out in 2007, the rat studies involved intakes “far greater than humans could consume in foods and drinks”. The WCRF concluded that “The evidence … does not suggest that chemical sweeteners have a detectable effect on the risk of any cancer.”

Another comprehensive review of the safety of aspartame, also published in 2007, came to a similar conclusion: “The weight of existing evidence is that aspartame is safe at current levels of consumption as a non‑nutritive sweetener.”

In 2010, two studies reported possible associations between aspartame and a slight increase in adverse health outcomes. After carefully reviewing these studies the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) concluded that these studies “do not give reason to reconsider previous safety assessments of aspartame …”

But taking an appropriately cautious approach, the report also stated that “… the EFSA will continue monitoring the scientific literature in order to identify new scientific evidence for sweeteners that may indicate a possible risk for human health or which may otherwise affect the safety assessment of these food additives.”

The most recent (March 2013) review of the literature by the EFSA concludes that “There is no consistent evidence that aspartame has adverse effects, either in healthy individuals or in potentially susceptible groups …”

The 2012 position paper of the US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also endorses the safety of aspartame by stating that “… consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive sweeteners and non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS).” Aspartame is included in the seven non-nutritive sweeteners that are approved for use.

The position paper also points out that the estimated safe level of daily intake of aspartame over a lifetime is 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. With typical intakes estimated to be in the range 0.2 to 4.1 mg/kg, the rate of consumption of aspartame by virtually everyone is likely to be less than 10% of the maximum recommended level.

But there is one potential adverse health effect associated with the use of aspartame – a metabolic genetic condition called phenylketonuria (a mutation that makes an enzyme non-functional) affects about one person in 10,000. People with phenylketonuria cannot metabolise phenylalanine (which, you will recall, is one of the two protein building blocks that make up aspartame), so those people need to minimise intake of all sources of phenylalanine, including aspartame.

So, can I put my hand on my heart and swear that aspartame is safe for everyone other than people with phenylketonuria?

No, I can’t. Still, based on the evidence currently available, if I wanted to reduce my sugar intake but still enjoy sweetened tea or coffee, I would have no hesitation in using aspartame (or any of the other approved non-nutritive sweeteners).

Join the conversation

222 Comments sorted by

  1. Gary Cassidy

    "if I wanted to reduce my sugar intake but still enjoy sweetened tea or coffee, I would have no hesitation in using "

    Thats the key message. Occassional use. When used to enable concoctions of highly processed edible stuff to taste good thats a problem.

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    1. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Gary, I will avoid all artificial sweeteners after having very bad withdrawal symptoms from diet coke, (I thought I was doing the right thing and not drinking sugary drinks, but found out that these drinks are as addictive as smoking), these artificial sweeteners also messed with my blood sugar levels, causing hypoglycemic episodes after consuming these chemicals in soft drinks. I used a blood glucose meter to measure my blood sugar levels, and the results were what put me off ever consuming these chemicals again. Twice I actually passed out from low blood sugar levels, ending up in hospital.

      This is one chemical that I personally will never consume again, better to get rid of the craving for sweet drinks and foods, (go without for a while and the cravings disappear, just as the withdrawal symptoms do), and drink water. Far safer than any chemically sweetened drink or food.

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    2. Gary Cassidy

      In reply to Judith Olney

      I also wonder the effects of these sweeteners on overall diet composition. Salad or vegetables doesn't really go to well with Coke Zero, although fish and chips goes really well. Or is that just me?

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    3. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Hi Gary, interesting observation, in my own case I consumed the diet drink at work, and not with food, so don't know if it would go better with salad or chips.

      I do know that if I didn't drink this chemical, I would have severe headaches and the cravings were obvious and frightening. I have no doubt about the dangers of artificial sweeteners myself, or of the vested interest of those corporations that promote them.

      James Hardy industries assured people that asbestos was perfectly safe, and chemical companies told us we could eat handfuls of DDT, perfectly harmless they said. What about burning fossil fuels has nothing to do with climate change, or so say the fossil fuel companies, CSG mining doesn't damage the ground water, so say the CSG companies, without any data to prove this.
      Nuclear power is safe and cost effective, says the Nuclear power industry, but tell that to the people that once lived in Fukushima.

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    4. Mia Masters

      pensioner

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Interesting! My migraine medication (Maxalt) comes laced with aspartame (for truly unknown reasons, please Merck & Co do explain!). I wonder if the frequent and swift recurrence of the migraine is not linked to the aspartame itself.

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    5. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Mia Masters

      That is interesting and frightening. I also wondered if the aspartame was causing the headaches, but they were most severe if I did not ingest aspartame for a day or more. Diet coke is a cocktail of chemicals, so its actually hard to know what did the damage, but I'm one for erring on the side of caution, particularly when it comes to things that are not essential for life, and diet drinks sure aren't essential.

      I have noticed that since I got rid of any and all chemical sweeteners, I do not suffer from headaches at all, and I have had stable blood sugar.

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    6. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Hi, Judith,

      I agree with you about over-consumption of artificially-sweetened cool drinks - in my view, the lack of energy from sugar makes people less cautious about the volume of consumption, and encourages the habit that cool drinks should be sweet.

      Having said that, though, I wonder whether your apparent addiction was to the caffeine in diet coke rather than the sweetener. Are you aware of any mechanism by which aspartame could cause low blood sugar (rather than failing to raise it?)

      As I mentioned in another thread some time ago, there is a behaviour difference between the use of cold drinks and hot drinks. Hot coffee with milk (or short black) is unlikely to be "thrown down" quickly because of temperature as well as richness or flavour density (and the culture of consumption). Sweet cold drinks are much more amenable to rapid consumption.

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    7. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Hi, again, Judith,

      I suspect your withdrawal cravings and headaches may have been from the caffeine rather than the sweetener.

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    8. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Good point about the caffeine Sue, I can only judge from my own experimentation in this area, where even drinks without caffeine, had the same effects, if they also contained aspartame. I still had episodes of low blood sugar, when drinking diet sprite. The common factor seemed to be the artificial sweetener, rather than the other ingredients.

      The only mechanism that I could think of, is that perhaps our body responds to the sweet taste of the drink, and reacts as though the drink contains sugar…

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    9. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Hi Sue, I'm not saying that caffeine could not have been a factor, but please see my post above for my own findings on this issue. The same symptoms occurred whether the diet drink contained caffeine or not.

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    10. Eric Glare

      HIV public speaker & advocate

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Did you ever try aspartame without a massive whack of caffeine AND without a massive withdrawal of sugar compared to your usual consumption at that time of the day? If you dramatically increased your caffeine intake but didn't take on extra water, its diuretic effect would have made you urinate more and that too would influence your blood glucose. Have you discussed this with your diabetes support team because it sounds like a classic case of sugar-diet management where aspartame is a relative bystander?

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    11. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Eric Glare

      Yes Eric, see my posts above. I don't have diabetes so I do not need a support team.

      I have very little sugar in my diet, as I have removed from my diet most processed foods, and I drink water. The only caffeine I have is my one coffee in the morning, which does not give me any noticeable symptoms at all.

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    12. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Hi, Judith

      Insulin secretion is primarily stimulated by glucose levels in the blood, detected by the pancreatic islet beta-cells. Other stimuli to insulin secretion include some proteins and gut hormones (incretins, like glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). The incretins amplify the glucose-response of insulin after a meal.

      Here is an article about the regulation of insulin secretion:
      http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/438368

      and a less academic article here:
      http://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/diabetes/normal-regulation-blood-glucose

      It seems unlikely that aspartame would trigger the same response as it is not a protein or hormone.

      There has also been at least one study that looked at non-nutritive sweet taste as a potential stimulus for insulin secretion - and found no insulin secretion from aspartame
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/003193849400373D

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    13. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith - I hope you don't mind me asking, but, if you are not diabetic, why do you measure your blood glucose levels?

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    14. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Thanks Sue, I was posting because these were the results from my own blood samples, and it was also the result of the blood sugar levels taken at the hospital. My doctor could also give no explanation of why diet drinks caused this reaction in me, but the reaction was there. My doctor ran several tests, to see if I was pre-diabetic, or diabetic, and the results were negative. He also ran tests for several other factors, and they were all normal.

      My doctor thought that I may have reactive hypoglycemia but he wasn't sure on this diagnosis, but did say that as the episodes seemed to be triggered by the diet drinks, to just stop drinking them. I took his advice, and have not had an episode since.

      http://diabetes.about.com/od/whatisdiabetes/qt/reacthypoglycem.htm

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    15. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Hi Sue, I don't mind you asking at all, I measured my blood sugar levels at the time, because I had researched the symptoms, and they were all indicative of hypoglycemia. I was concerned about diabetes because I have a family history of diabetes type 1.

      On the advice of my doctor I monitored my blood sugar levels, and kept a diary on when the drops occurred, and of my activity level, and anything I was eating and drinking before the episodes. See my above post for the conclusion my doctor came to concerning these episodes.

      My doctor is one of that rare breed of doctors that is happy to admit when he just doesn't know.

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    16. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith - could it be that you drank these drinks when you felt hungry but, because they don't supply energy, your glucose dropped?

      (I am a member of the common breed of doctors who keep trying to find a physiological mechanism).

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    17. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      No Sue, although I did drink these drinks at work between meals, I was not drinking them because I was hungry. I drank them because there was no other cold drinks available at my workplace, other than soft drinks which contained sugar or aspartame. I did go through all these factors with my own doctor when we were trying to figure out what was going on.

      I agree with my doctor, in that we don't need this stuff in our diets, and if there is any risk at all to our health, (and so far there are no studies to show conclusively that aspartame is safe to consume, despite the title of this article), we should avoid consuming this substance. Erring on the side of caution is what my doctor suggested and I took his advice.

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    18. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Mia Masters

      Ms Masters - perhaps you are using the Maxalt (rizatriptan) WAFERS, which are flavoured for palatability.

      The aspartame can be avoided by taking some other formulation of triptan as a tablet - there are lots of examples, including generic brands.

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    19. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Blue Cheese and cola drinks go OK together. My son introduced me to that. But its only a party trick.

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  2. Mia Masters

    pensioner

    "After extensive safety testing, aspartame was approved for use in Europe and the United States in the 1980s."
    Please provide references.

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    1. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Mia Masters

      I didn't have internet access until last night (14 April, so please excuse the late responses to questions/comments directed specifically to me. I'll try to answer every question or respond to every comment that I believe hasn't already been adequately addressed by someone else, but I'll do so in individual comments.

      Mia Masters wrote:
      "After extensive safety testing, aspartame was approved for use in Europe and the United States in the 1980s."
      Please provide references.

      My response: Go to http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/dataclosed/call/110601.htm
      This site provides access to references from different periods, "including the 112 original studies on aspartame which were submitted to support the request for authorisation of aspartame in Europe in the early 1980s."

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  3. ian cheong

    logged in via email @acm.org

    But there is evidence that artifical sweeteners may actually increase obesity by dissociating sweetness from calories. Read for example:

    High-intensity sweeteners and energy balance.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20060008

    Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892765/

    The probem is that research is biased by who wants to fund what. Follow the money trail if you are interested in knowing…

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    1. Mia Masters

      pensioner

      In reply to ian cheong

      There was also a study published recently (if needed I can dig it out somewhere), that showed that people using aspartame were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes (like this report: "It's long been known that sugar-sweetened drinks raise a person's risk of Type 2 diabetes. But now, a new study from French researchers at Inserm suggests sugar-free diet drinks could also play a role.

      The research, to be published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shows an association between consumption…

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    2. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to Mia Masters

      Not sure that there is a Chicken and egg issue here. If you have a problem with Type 2 Diabetes and are trying to reduce, sucrose use, (is the story still out on fructose?) one will go for low sugar items. The use of Aspartame does allow one to shift consumption to manage quality of life as well. Ie a biscuit (high GI of course) with ones coffee sweet but no sugar. Some of us do like the sugar taste hit.

      Such individuals are I would suggest be more likely to be at risk from Type2 D, as our…

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    3. Leigh Miranda

      Gym Owner

      In reply to Mia Masters

      I read two articles a few years ago that were adamant about the role of aspartame in metabolic syndrome. I've found one.

      http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/704432

      The other earlier article was in the New York Times and was a report on a study of 9500 men and women aged 45 to 64 tracked over a nine year period. They found a 34% increase in the risk of developing metabolic syndrome among those who drank one can of diet soft drink per day compared with those who drank none.

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    4. Leigh Miranda

      Gym Owner

      In reply to Judith Olney

      A pleasure Judith.The only direction I can give you about the other article, assuming you want to try to ferret it out, is that it was in the NYT late Jan or very early Feb 2008.

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    5. Glenn Jennings

      eLearning Specialist

      In reply to Mia Masters

      Mia, a link to the research paper you mention:

      Fagherazzi, G., Vilier, A., Saes Sartorelli, D., Lajous, M., Balkau, B., and Clavel-Chapelon, F. (2013). Consumption of artificially and sugar-sweetened beverages and incident type 2 diabetes in the Etude Epidémiologique auprès des femmes de la Mutuelle Générale de l'Education Nationale–European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohort. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 97(3), 517-523. doi: 10.3945/​ajcn.112.050997

      So…

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    6. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to Glenn Jennings

      The first question I would ask is 'Are the users of artificial sweeteners addicted to huge sweetness hits?'

      This was an observation of mine in a T2D seminar on how to manage it, when discussing the use of non sugar sweeteners, as several sufferers including myself made this observation. We were discussing can you drink unsweetened coffee or tea etc.

      If this is so, then is what we are seeing are high use rates as a measure of an underlying craving coupled with a desire to reduce sugar intake? Again, only one replication so the stats are a bit dodgy, but I have had a very sweet tooth since I was 5-6.

      Significantly higher intake of sugars seem to be linked with higher BSL for me next morning.

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    7. Glenn Jennings

      eLearning Specialist

      In reply to John Holmes

      While acknowledging your experience John, I personally don't have a sweet tooth (other than for spearmint as a flavour, oddly), don't like that artificial sweetness of diet soda, drink my hot beverages unsweetened, and don't see a correlation between late-night natural sugar consumption and morning BSL - the range of experiences between T2D patients is bewildering. Personally, I'm just starting the "Sleep apnoea is causing your T2D and it's associated complications, so let's treat the SA" journey, and it makes very great sense in my circumstance. According to my diabetes control team, most GPs and endocrinologists are yet to upskill for this latest train of thought.

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    8. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to Glenn Jennings

      I noted a reference to a claim that perhaps there has been too much emphasis on the role of insulin re diabetes and that there are other control mechanisms based in and or mediated by the brain. I guess we will need to watch that space. In some respects - the old 'Mind Body' enigma.

      I all ways get a bit cautious re very simple systems in biology. Things are often a bit more complex. (Much experience at looking at weeds in crops and saying we have fixed that problem, only to wonder how they adapt to that?) So when the simple / establish explanations are questioned, one should ask who pronounced those cows as holy or is it time for a BBQ?

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    9. Glenn Jennings

      eLearning Specialist

      In reply to John Holmes

      Indeed. I've just left a consultation with my pharmacist/apnoea specialist in which we were discussing the 'holy cows' (to use your term) of diabetes definition, accepted causes and treatments, and his strong view is that mainstream accepted practice is about to be turned on its ear - that population health is more greatly impacted by conditions that were unknown when most GPs and medical specialists trained, such as apnoea, than currently understood, and, as has been my recent experience, 'the establishment…

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  4. Gideon Maxwell Polya

    logged in via Facebook

    To necessarily be precise, Aspartame is a methyl ester of the aspartic acid/phenylalanine dipeptide or, more specifically, N-(L-α-Aspartyl)-L-phenylalanine, 1-methyl ester (for details of plant-derived and synthetic sweet-tasting compounds see pp397, 400-406 and p414 of Gideon Polya, "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds": http://www.amazon.com/Biochemical-Targets-Plant-Bioactive-Compounds/dp/0415308291 ).

    By replacing sugar (sucrose) as a sweetener, Aspartame is important for tackling…

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  5. Laurie Willberg

    Journalist

    This ad for aspartame has been brought to you by Monsanto which doesn't give a rat's ass whether it's safe or not. It sells.

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    1. Tony Grant

      Student

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Yes, Monsanto...NationOfChange online coverage many important issues is running a campaign against Monsanto/Koch et al.

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    2. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      From my personal experience and observations, Monsanto is a lawyer driven company. The response is determined primarily by the likelihood of failing in court. or losing market share by damaging customers. Big bucks tends to win in the USA.

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    3. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Skeptic blogs brought to you by armchair critics (Armchairus Quarterbackerus) who perform no research but always uphold the money stream.

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    4. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      And more logic and rationality fails from Laurie.

      This article references science, where are your references for your counter claims? Where are you references for Chris' payments from Monsanto? Don't have any, do you? And another fail. For someone who claims to be a journalist, you really fail to grasp the first step: fact checking!

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    5. Audrey D

      Student

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Actually Tyson, this article doesn't reference science but reports form government agencies or NGOs. The author did not include one single reference to peer reviewed scientific research.

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    6. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Audrey D

      So, I'm imagining the link to the article titled "Aspartame: A Safety Evaluation Based on Current Use Levels, Regulations, and Toxicological and Epidemiological Studies" in the review journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology.

      Am I also to believe that all the agency reviews did not reference any science? Like say the reference section of the WCRF report, that mustn't contain any science references. http://www.dietandcancerreport.org/cancer_resource_center/downloads/chapters/pr/References.pdf

      Odd. My eyes must be playing tricks on me.

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    7. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Laurie Willberg wrote:
      "This ad for aspartame has been brought to you by Monsanto which doesn't give a rat's ass whether it's safe or not. It sells."

      My response: Sorry Laurie, but you are wrong on both counts. Not only am I funded by the Australian Department of Defence (and no-one else), Monsanto hasn't produced aspartame since the year 2000. See the news item at: http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/Pages/aspartame-nutrasweet.aspx

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    1. Gary Cassidy

      In reply to Rob Blakers

      Very good point Rob.

      "when so many health-giving natural sweeteners exist" - like apples :-)

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    2. Stephen Prowse

      Research Advisor at Wound CRC

      In reply to Rob Blakers

      This article is reviewing safety and comes to the conclusion that there is no evidence that aspartame is dangerous in the levels normally consumed. The manufacturer is a different issue.

      As to alternative "health giving" natural sweeteners, sugar consumption is one of the major contributors to obesity and clearly a huge problem. Recognizing that there are a raft of other problems associated with the consumption of sweet foods, the reduction in calories associated with the replacement of sucrose with aspartame would seem to offer benefits.

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    3. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Check the GI and total sugar loads for Type 2's. Not always a good idea if can OD on them.

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    4. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Like APPLES, Gary? But Gillespie says that fructose is POISON!

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    5. Geoff Ahern

      Interested Reader

      In reply to Rob Blakers

      Well said. Get off your bum and move a little and eat some healthy food. It's pretty bloody simple for the vast majority of us.

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    6. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Stephen Prowse

      ASPARTAME, SUGAR, OBESITY AND SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY

      Stephen, you claim that "sugar consumption is one of the major contributors to obesity and clearly a huge problem".

      Are you sure about that? After all, there's "an inverse relationship" between the consumption of added sugar and obesity: yes, eat more sugar and get thinner!

      Look it up: this "Australian Paradox" is a "peer reviewed" scientific fact, the major finding of a formal paper self-published by two senior University of Sydney…

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    7. Gary Cassidy

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Hello Sue,

      I'm not a Gillespie fan boy. I haven't read any of his books. I agree with his message to cut out added sugars.

      Although I say MOST of the time - I don't know if Gillespie says most of the time or all of the time. Regardless, the message from a pop-author who says cut out sugar all the time is far better than the message from a nutritionist saying sugar is OK in moderation.

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    8. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Gary - you say " the message from a pop-author who says cut out sugar all the time is far better than the message from a nutritionist saying sugar is OK in moderation."

      What do you mean by "better"? It doesn't seem to correspond with "based on evidence'.

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    9. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to rory robertson

      Rory Robertson wrote:
      "Chris Forbes-Ewan on this site last year confirmed that the University of Sydney's claim of a "consistent and substantial decline" in our average consumption of added sugar between 1980 and 2010 is false."

      Although I'm struggling to find relevance to aspartame in Rory's message(s), I will respond to the above claim, which is not only false, it is one that I have corrected previously.

      To set the record straight, I have never "confirmed that the University of Sydney's claim ... is false". In fact, I have no idea whether sugar intake is increasing, decreasing or remaining the same in Australia, and I don't believe that anyone else does either. The 'Australian Paradox' may be true or it may be false; I simply don't know. And the Australian Paradox paper plays a very minor role (at most) in the global debate about the contribution of fructose to the obesity epidemic.

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    10. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Gary Cassidy wrote (with reference to lawyer David Gillespie, author of 'Sweet Poison' and me):
      "... the message from a pop-author who says cut out sugar all the time is far better than the message from a nutritionist saying sugar is OK in moderation."

      My response: Gary is referring to my commentary on the revised dietary guideline for sugar. Here is my exact wording:
      "Because sugar intake is relatively high in Australia, it is concluded that most people would be well advised to reduce their…

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    11. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Sure, Chris, whatever you say. Readers, a slow-motion replay of Chris's extraordinary public backflip on the Australian Paradox paper is available at the bottom of this post. This evening, trying to pretend he has said nothing bad about his long-time colleagues' now-toxic Australian Paradox "finding", he's got himself in a rather silly intellectual tangle.

      Amusingly, Chris again wants to pretend that replacing "Until better evidence comes along, I will accept that sugar (and therefore fructose…

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    12. Gary Cassidy

      In reply to Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Hi Chris,

      Thank you for your response.

      But why would you write this in response to the dietary guidelines. I perceived your response as meaning that you don't agree with the revised statement in the guidelines?

      Coming from an engineering background, I see the role of the nutritionist as similar to the role of the engineer. To take science and make it work. Not to just faithfully organise, interpret, and present the science to the public in a digestible way (pardon the unintentional pun…

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    13. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Gary Cassidy drew an analogy between exceeding the speed limit occasionally and eating sugar occasionally.

      My response: I don't believe this is an appropriate analogy. A more appropriate analogy would be between driving fast occasionally (e.g. at 110 kph when this is the speed limit on the open highway and driving conditions are optimum) and eating the occasional sugar-sweetened snack.

      There is no evidence that added sugars are harmful unless taken in large quantities (for example, WHO recommends…

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    14. Gary Cassidy

      In reply to Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Hi Chris,

      In regard to my "ambiguous" statement I was referring to this (aspartame) article. I had made the assumption that the last two paragraphs were an attempt to say that "occasional" aspartame use in tea or coffee is OK, while the contrary may not be OK? Similarly if one was trying to advise against binge drinking, the statement "A couple of beers after work is OK" would be ambiguous.

      RE: "I'm struggling to see what is ambiguous about the message that moderate use of sugar"

      For a nutritionist…

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    15. Glenn Jennings

      eLearning Specialist

      In reply to Geoff Ahern

      As a T2D sufferer, that is probably the single most tosser comment I've seen on The Conversation to date. Your ignorance to the science and intolerance to the suffering of people with a condition that you clearly know nothing about, is up there with the best.

      On the other hand, if you're simply trolling, you're doing it right.

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  6. James Hill

    Industrial Designer

    In the famous book "The Politics of Cancer" the author ( sorry, can't remember the name) alerts his readers to the problems with the LD50, or lethal dose measure that kills 50% of the test animals, being used to establish a safe dose.
    If you are in the general population and correspond to the 1, 2 or 3% of the animal population for which this is in fact a lethal dose, well it looks like your death is somehow stastically insignificant, a sort of collateral damage in the marketplace.
    Too bad…

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    1. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to James Hill

      As well as the LD 50's, the NOEL levels need to be observed. We can get caught in the area between ''can we demonstrate it has absolutely no harmful effect" eg the attitude that Green Peace seems to push re pesticides, and we have reached an exposed level below which we cannot demonstrate any harm. Some suggest that in this messy area, the universe is not big enough to run all of the trials required.

      If we can demonstrate that the hazard is less that say that of developing skin cancer for a red head from say 5 min of direct summer sun exposure at mid day in a lifetime, I would suspect that we tend to accept that risk.

      Of course when dealing with the hazard of trace element toxicity such as selenium where the desired levels are just about the levels at which hazards appear, one has an interesting case to deal with.

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  7. Harry Banaharis

    Evidence Based Nutrition

    "Hoax claims about aspartame have been circulating on the internet for many years. They suggest it was first developed as an ant poison, and that it is broken down in the body to release formaldehyde, leading to health problems such as severe seizures, brain damage, lupus and birth defects. No credible scientific evidence has ever been found for any of these claims."

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9714421
    http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/579335
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17684524

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    1. Robert Tony Brklje
      Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Harry Banaharis

      Hello out there, Chris Forbes-Ewan, Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation, please respond or are you claiming those organisations to be "Hoax sites", to which they would likely take offence.

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    2. Eric Glare

      HIV public speaker & advocate

      In reply to Harry Banaharis

      Humphries et al are not very conclusive despite being a review: "we propose that excessive aspartame ingestion might be involved". And then it gets canned by a comment in the same journal: "The following comments relate to the review by Humphries et al. (2007). The premise of the review, that the high-intensity sweetener aspartame is neurotoxic, ignores a very large scientific literature to the contrary, recently comprehensively summarized (Butchko et al., 2002; Magnuson et al., 2007)." http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v63/n5/full/ejcn20085a.html

      In contrast the new EFSA report is 5.3 Mb and 359 pages long -you should look to see how your papers are quoted.

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    1. Sjoukje Klaassen

      Indescribable

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      " Since none of them contribute anything of value, they all contain artificial colourings and preservatives of no positive value and since we have tap water as a ready (and cheap) alternative, it's a place we can save money at the supermarket and the dentist."

      Thank you rosemary! This is the kind of blunt logic I am using to successfully impact awareness of choices people have. People who did not realise they were making choices based on anything other than....mmmmm, would I like to eat/drink…

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  8. Geoff Ahern

    Interested Reader

    Am I the only one who feels like this is a "dumbed down" article aimed at high school students or people who need to read something really, really simple to help assure them that ingesting a vast array of chemicals in their diet, aspartame being just one of them, is not a problem?

    C'mon......this site can produce better than this, surely. No offence to the writer, it's a quaint little piece but I feel it would be better suited to a private blog than a primalily academic site.

    Anyways, I'm off the Maccas to grab a big mac and large fries with my large diet coke :)

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    1. Lorraine Hunter

      Retired

      In reply to Geoff Ahern

      After wasting some time reading of attempts of many writers to justify ingesting toxic chemicals albeit at safe levels :-) for some unknown reason, (maybe because it may spoil Friday night at the pub with a rum and diet coke) I think it's time to close the book on this one.

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    2. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Geoff Ahern

      Mr A wrote:
      "Am I the only one who feels like this is a "dumbed down" article aimed at high school students ..."

      Here is the relevant extract of the brief I received from The Conversation when I agreed to write the article:
      "Remember that you are writing for a lay audience and ensure your article will be easily understood by a 16-year-old."

      So the second part of your impression is appropriate, but I don't agree with the descriptor 'dumbed down' to describe the level of expression. I would prefer 'plain English'.

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  9. Sue Ieraci

    Public hospital clinician

    This discussion thread illustrates, again, how our community has a tendency to take moderate messages from nutrition experts and exaggerate them to extremes.

    The author is not saying that everyone should do and guzzle down an excess or "diet sodas". He is saying that there is no evidence of DIRECT harm from aspartame, and that there is nothing wrong with sweetening your tea or coffee if you want to.

    Many people who grew up with sweet tea or coffee, particularly in an era where life was more active, have now substituted an artificial sweetener as they get older and find their girth less slim than when they were younger. If they other wise eat food, and drink water, the author is saying that they don;t need to worry that the aspartame will directly harm them. Sounds sensible to me. Why do we need conspiracy theories every time a nutritionist advises moderation?

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sorry - typos - "not saying that everyone should GO and guzzle down an excess OF..."

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    2. Mia Masters

      pensioner

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      "there is nothing wrong with sweetening your tea or coffee if you want to"

      and he is also saying:
      "So, can I put my hand on my heart and swear that aspartame is safe for everyone other than people with phenylketonuria?

      No, I can’t."
      What kind of evidence is that!?

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    3. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at University of New South Wales

      In reply to Mia Masters

      Mia

      Chris Forbes Ewan was referring to a recent report from the European Food Safety Authority which checked over 600 research papers relating to aspartame. As the authors of EFSA report noted, however, after reading the 219 submissions received, they may need to better explain why they include or exclude certain studies from their risk assessment as well as the uncertainties and limitations of some of the studies available.

      I think what Chris Forbes-Ewan has written is what any scientist must say. None of us can predict what some future research may reveal but we can summarise what the overall current research shows.

      No one needs aspartame and we are all entitled to avoid foods that contain it just as we are entitled to avoid foods made by companies whose ethics or practices we do not like.

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    4. Gary Cassidy

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue,
      given that "our community has a tendency to take moderate messages from nutrition experts and exaggerate them to extremes", why do nutritionist keep with the moderation message. Maybe that's why it hasn't worked, because moderation is different for different people?

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    5. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Actually Sue, I haven't seen anyone here taking this message to extremes, I have seen people questioning whether aspartame is safe at any level and as it is not something we need in our diet at all, then avoiding it is the safest option. If we simply remove it from our diets we don't need to worry that we may be being lied to about its safety, and we don't have to worry about what effects it might be having on our health. Questioning seems to be the new "extreme" these days.

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    6. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Mia Masters

      If you have phenylketonuria you need to control your diet in a certain way to exclude all kinds of different proteins, it doesn't make sense to single out aspartame.

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    7. Betty Martini

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Judith Olney

      I'm not quite sure how to post directly and hope this will appear in the forum. Aspartame is a deadly excitoneuroxic, genetically engineered drug and adjuvant. The medical text, "Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic" by H. J. Roberts, M.D., www.sunsentpress.com is over 1000 pages on the diseases and symptoms precipitated or triggered by aspartame. The Aspartame Resource Guide I will gladly send anyone who wants it - bettym19@mindspring.com

      In the meantime here is what I've written to EFSA…

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    8. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at University of New South Wales

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Gary

      This is straying from the original topic, but check the new Dietary Guidelines at www.eatforhealth.gov.au. The sugar and salt ones say to 'limit' foods containing added sugars and added salt. The text gives the reasons. You may consider 'limit' a bit vague (better than consume only moderately?) and I'd welcome your suggestion for wording you think be more effective.

      The guidelines are evidence-based with the evidence collected and summarised in a defined and systematic way. They relate…

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    9. Fern Wickson

      Researcher at GenØk - Centre for Biosafety

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      I agree with Rosemary here - EFSA needs to better justify their cherry picking of studies in risk assessment processes and better document the uncertainties and limitations involved in all of the research conducted. This article is incorrect and misleading in claiming that there is 'no evidence' of harm - there is evidence as other commentators and indeed EFSA point out, but there is also counter evidence. To understand scientific and regulatory controversies like this one we have to be much more nuanced and look into the detail of the studies conducted, asking: how they were performed, for how long, with what organisms, with what endpoints, asking what questions, using which statistical tools etc. There is no singular science, risk-based research can be framed in many different ways and unfortunately if we do not go into the devil of the details we end up with articles like this that are not very helpful for understanding the complexity of the issue.

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    10. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at University of New South Wales

      In reply to Fern Wickson

      Fern

      The comments from EFSA were that they needed to better explain the systematic way they conducted their assessment and why some studies were not included. The point they were making was they looked at over 600 studies, selected according to defined criteria to avoid 'cherrypicking'.

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    11. Gary Cassidy

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      Thanks Rosemary,

      It must have been a real struggle to change the sugar guideline. In light of what it was 'consume only moderately' which easily reads as 'consume in moderation' I think the current wording is a very positive step. I would like to see it framed in the future as 'mostly avoid', or 'mostly eat foods not containing', etc.

      For example if you take the guideline on dairy - "Include milk, yoghurt and cheese and/or alternatives - mostly reduced fat" and change it to ".... - limit full…

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    12. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at University of New South Wales

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Gary

      You're correct and the omission of 'only' was used by some confectionery salespeople to try to convince school tuckshops that they should stock lollies.

      I'd have no problem with 'mostly avoid'.

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    13. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Mia Masters

      "What kind of evidence is that!?" Realistic, I would say.

      Anyone who wants absolute and incontrivertable certainty will need religion or ideology because science doesn't work that way.

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    14. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Judith Olney

      "It amazes me how people who question the advice we are given by those in authority, are accused of being conspiracy theorists."

      Judith - I was referring to this: "This ad for aspartame has been brought to you by Monsanto which doesn't give a rat's ass whether it's safe or not."

      As skilled person has written an article discussing the evidence as they understand it. You may not like their "authority" - but it's based on their training and experience. If others had different evidence or understand the same evidence differently, their should outline their evidence - not just resent people writing in their own field.

      If we don't want people with relevant training and knowledge in an area writing the articles because we don't like "authority", who should we get to write them?

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    15. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      By the same token, the poster was entirely correct, Monsanto doesn't give a rat's arse whether aspartame is safe or not, and have a reputation for commissioning studies that prove exactly what the corporation wants to prove, or studies that are so ambiguous that I would challenge anyone, even those trained in the field to make a judgement if a chemical is safe or not.

      No-one is suggesting that we don't want people with the relevant training and knowledge writing articles, we do, and they should, always remembering that training and knowledge doesn't mean they can't be wrong, or duped, or have conflicts of interest.

      The jury seems to still be out on the question of whether aspartame is safe or not, going by the many peer reviewed studies that suggest it is not, or do you think we shouldn't question the studies that don't fit the view of the author?

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    16. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Yes, Judith, it seems we all need to be alert to being led astray by industry misinformation on important matters concerning public health.

      For example, in the US in the 1950s, "Big Sugar" set out to scramble and mislead science on the links between modern sugar consumption and chronic diseases. Along the way, Harvard University in the 1960s and 1970s became America's "most public defender" of "modern sugar consumption" as harmless, its "science" reportedly corrupted by heavy funding from…

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    17. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to Judith Olney

      http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2013/02/15/artificial-sweetners-diet-nutrition.html?cmp=rss
      "Diet pop and other artificially sweetened products may cause us to eat and drink even more calories and increase our risk for obesity and Type 2 diabetes, researchers are learning.

      Former McGill University researcher Dana Small specializes in the neuropsychology of flavour and feeding at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. Small said there's mounting evidence that artificial sweeteners have a couple…

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    18. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Thanks Laurie, just more in a long line of dodgy, dangerous dealings from Monsanto, and you can bet your life that they aren't the only multinational lying, cheating, and profiteering from the destruction of the health of human beings, and the planet.

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    19. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith - in this article, the author reviews the literature and concludes that there is no evidence of harm from normal use.

      You say "the jury still seems to be out". Can you take us through the articles you have read that contradict the authors view and explain why he is wrong?

      I don't have a problem at all with re-thinking what we do - it happens in my specialty all the time as new evidence emerges. What is not valid, though, is an argument against some notion of "authority" without explaining what is wrong with what he is written.

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    20. Mia Masters

      pensioner

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      No, Ms Ieraci, it seems to me confused and conflicted.
      There is a difference between science and religion, at least the first one should aim at relying on 'fact', 'data' as 'evidence'. If the data and facts are conflicting, the nthe conclusions are conflicting/conflicted and policy and recommendations should reflect that! (and you can see the links others included to make their point, while the author failed to provide the references to support his statement - "After extensive safety testing, aspartame was approved for use in Europe and the United States in the 1980s.",- so that the QUALITY OF HIS EVIDENCE can be assessed. Saying something does not make it so, and the author failed on that front to present a well presented argument.

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    21. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue I didn't argue against authority in this particular instance, I was simply stating that those that are trained and have knowledge, are not immune to being wrong, duped, or having conflicts of interest.

      Several people here have already posted much of the information I have read, that suggests that aspartame is not safe, and information on the dubious studies commissioned by the manufacturer. I'm not going to simply repeat what has already been said. I am also giving my opinion, (with no appeal…

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    22. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Also Sue, What is "normal use"? Is this some measure from the manufacturer, or is it something the researchers have made up? How do you judge what normal use is? I know people who drink 20 cups of artificially sweetened coffee a day, and others who drink litres of diet cola. Also, does it include that aspartame consumed in food as well as drinks.? Is there a recommended safe daily limit for aspartame? What happens if you take in more than the safe daily limit, if there is one?

      There is no details given by the author in this regard? For ordinary people like me, this would be useful information.

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    23. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Judith Olney

      "What is "normal use"?"

      Judith - are you being deliberately perverse, or disingenuous? Ironic?

      If someone were to drink 20 coffees or litres of cola per day, the aspartame would be the least of their worries, and they would not qualify as "normal".

      This is what the author said "The position paper also points out that the estimated safe level of daily intake of aspartame over a lifetime is 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. With typical intakes estimated to be in the range 0.2 to 4.1 mg/kg, the rate of consumption of aspartame by virtually everyone is likely to be less than 10% of the maximum recommended level."

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    24. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      So, for ordinary people what does this mean? How many cans of diet soda, sweetener tablets, or tubs of yogurt does this equal?

      The estimated safe level doesn't give me any indication of what is considered "normal" use at all, so what is normal in laymans terms?

      How is asking this question perverse, disingenuous or ironic? I just want to know what is considered normal use, and where this judgement comes from. Does it come from the manufacturer, does it come from the average of a group of people used in a research paper, or is it just some arbitrary number made up by someone?

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    25. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith - you are being way too specific. There is no single "normal" - there is a range from zero to excessive - according to population norms.

      If I asked what was the "normal" coffee consumption for the Australian urban population - wouldn't you have some idea? It would be somewhere between zero and - say - five cups of coffee a day, with the most common being two or three. Ten would be excessive.

      If you wanted to work out the number, you would look at the product you wanted to use

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    26. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Judith Olney

      "Several people here have already posted much of the information I have read, that suggests that aspartame is not safe,"

      OK - let's go through what people have posted:
      (Going from the top as posts appear)
      1. Ian Cheong's posts about sweetness cravings. I agree with this - there is good evidence that one can develop a HABITUATION to sweetness. This is nothing to do with the chemical safety of aspartame, however - it applies to any artificial sweetener. The issue is that one may apply less caution…

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    27. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Mia Masters

      Ms Masters - you will see in my reply to Judith Olney that I have reviewed all the posts and links that purport to show harm from aspartame, and haven't found any evidence of harm (as the author has said).

      I am no fan of multinational companies or artificial sweeteners - but I am a fan of rational review of the literature. The author has done a rational review, made his conclusions, and various people (including yourself) have come out in disagreement, but not provided any evidence to counter what he has concluded.

      Links to abstracts are not evidence - one must read the methodology and conclusions and assess whether the study actually found what the one-liner in the abstract says it found. Review of scientific literature is not an innate talent - it takes training and practice.

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    28. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Oh I see, so I'm being too specific with my questions, but its ok for the author to be very specific about saying that aspartame is safe? (Look at the title of this article).

      If you asked me what was normal coffee consumption, as an ordinary person I would look at the consumption of those around me, (I'm hardly in a position to survey the whole country), and take a guess from this point of view. Normal consumption around here is about 4-5 cups a day, not including iced coffee drinks which would…

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    29. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      I gave my experience Sue, and why I don't believe this chemical is safe, as the author suggests, by what I've read here, and what I've read elsewhere.

      I am saying that I personally prefer to err on the side of caution when I'm dealing with a chemical that has been a problem for me personally, based on my own evidence, (which is personal experience, and my own research, and not peer reviewed study), from my own experience with this product. People can take it how they want.

      I am also agreeing…

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    30. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      "7. Rory Robertson's links are his usual stuff about sugar and Sydney University - not about aspartame."

      Yes, but with neat add-on evidence that in the US in the 1950s, "Big Sugar" set out to scramble and mislead science on the links between modern sugar consumption and chronic diseases. Along the way, Harvard University in the 1960s and 1970s became America's "most public defender" of "modern sugar consumption" as harmless, its "science" reportedly corrupted by heavy funding from the sugar and…

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    31. Gary Cassidy

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Hi Sue,

      RE: "sweetness cravings. I agree with this - there is good evidence that one can develop a HABITUATION to sweetness. This is nothing to do with the chemical safety of aspartame, however - it applies to any artificial sweetener."

      Is that being too narrow on what is safe and what is not? Aspartame isn't just a chemical that is ingested in isolation, it's combined with other ingredients to produce "edible stuff" (I refrain from using the term food due to my processed food is bad bias…

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    32. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Mia Masters

      Mia, the message I get from this article is that ingesting aspartame, at some average amount, arrived at by looking at average consumption of this chemical, in some countries, wont 'directly' cause your death. Therefore the author deems it safe.

      <"So, can I put my hand on my heart and swear that aspartame is safe for everyone other than people with phenylketonuria?

      No, I can’t.">

      The above sentence is a bit of arse covering by the author, just in case people believe that this chemical is…

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    33. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Mia Masters

      Mia, it is confused and conflicted, unless you narrow your definition of harm to that of , "direct cause of injury or death". In this case, the evidence the author apparently reviewed, shows that aspartame in the amount deemed as normal consumption by some researcher, based on stats from some countries, but not Australia, (although no detail is available in this article), and some testing on animals(?), then reported to some organisations in Europe and America, that aspartame in small amounts will not directly kill you or cause you injury.

      With this limited scope, any evidence that suggests indirect harm or injury, is ignored.

      I believe this is done so that the manufacturers can point to the articles like the one here, and say "see our product is safe" and now we can add it to anything, because it wont directly kill people or directly cause them injury.

      Ingesting small amounts of mercury wont 'directly' kill or injure you either, but is it safe?

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    34. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Hi, Gary

      In general I agree with the Rosemary Stanton approach that we should consider and eat whole foods, and that aspartame is not a food.

      This article, however, addresses the apparent misconception that the specific chemical aspartame might be dangerous. Someone with skill or knowledge looked at the evidence and gave their assessment - it doesn't appear to be.

      It's important to remember that there are many people, as I said before, who like a touch of sweetness in their coffee but want…

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    35. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith - I think you'll find that the author didn't come up with the title for the article - the editors generally do that, and they (naturally) favour titles that will get people to read the article.

      Maybe science isn't very comforting for someone who needs simplicity and certainty.

      I'll leave you to it.

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    36. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Dr Sue, that's excellent: "Someone with skill or knowledge looked at the evidence and gave their assessment".

      Judith, on the safety or otherwise of Aspartame, perhaps we should wait a year and see if Chris Forbes-Ewan does a complete backflip on his current assessment.

      After all, that's what happened on an earlier occasion after Chris "looked at the evidence and gave [his] assessment". I reckon this following episode is a cracker:

      In 2011, Chris Forbes-Ewan - “Senior Nutritionist” at…

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    37. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Nice cop out, its not the author its the editors, although I'm sure that the author could object if he wanted to.

      Thanks for the backhanded insult, I do not need comforting, nor simplicity or certainty, what I would like is the truth, without the spin, or is that too much to ask for today?

      I want to see articles that look at the whole story, not just some narrow definition of what is "safe".

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    38. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to rory robertson

      You wont get any hammering from me Rory, you bring up some important issues with the "science" done in this country. I very much appreciate your efforts, thank you.

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    39. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to rory robertson

      rory robertson - what's your assessment of the research on the safety of aspartame?

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    40. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Well, Judith, The Ieraci always resorts to condescension when she can't have her own way. So silly of anyone to dispute that "she has reviewed all the evidence" and it supports her original opinion.
      If statistically most people wear size 10 shoes then everybody should be given size 10 shoes.
      It doesn't matter if they're the wrong size for you or that they damage your feet in the long run...
      There's been a tendency of late to wave around the word "science" instead of what it is -- industry backed…

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    41. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Hi Laurie, its also the same argument used to say the nuclear power is perfectly safe. I seen many proponents of nuclear power say the even when a nuclear accident occurs there are less deaths caused by the incident than occurs with a wind turbine accident. On the surface this is true, but this in no way takes into account the indirect deaths, and damage from radioactive contamination of both people, animals and the land itself.

      Those that use this argument simply ignore all the data about indirect…

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    42. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Should read, second sentence, "I have seen many proponents of nuclear power say that"

      Sorry for the typos, its late here :)

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    43. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      "So silly of anyone to dispute that "she has reviewed all the evidence" and it supports her original opinion. "

      Wrong yet again, Laurie Willberg. I don't have my "own way" on apsartame. I had not seen a discussion of the evidence until I read this article.

      Judith then told me that she din't accept the author's review of the literature and pointed me to the other papers posted here. I reviewed those - not "all the evidence" (the author has already cited a review with hundreds of references).

      The reason your dog gets cancer is for the same reason that humans do - lifestyle and good nutrition make dogs and humans live longer.

      Oh - an homeopathy doesn't work - there;s nothing in it.

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    44. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith - I have never, ever heard ANYONE, not even the strongest proponent, say that nuclear power is "perfectly safe".

      When I reviewed the literature that didn't show any direct effects from apsartame, you shifted to "indirect effects." We've all agreed that large volumes of sweetened drinks are not a good idea, whatever the ingredients. Personally, I am not a consumer of soft-drinks, sugared or not. But I now know that there is no evidence that the chemical aspartame, consumed in a normal way, causes harm. I understand that you are not reassured, and you want a 100% guarantee for all time. Why do you risk drinking coffee?

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    45. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue, Well, I sure have, many times, heard and read the comment that "nuclear power is perfectly safe", from proponents of the industry, and others with vested interests in the nuclear industry, and also from those that are just plain ideologically blind, and ignorant. Perhaps I read more widely than you do, and avoid confirmation bias when and where I can.

      And no, I have been talking about indirect harm caused by this chemical all along, including in relating my own personal experience.

      I'm…

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    46. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Judith Olney

      "Perhaps I read more widely than you do, and avoid confirmation bias when and where I can."

      You may read more widely, Judith, but perhaps I read more deeply.

      I suspect you have little training in how to detect real bias in scientific studies. Contrary to what you appear to believe, research is published in order to be exposed to scrutiny by an informed audience. Professionals reviewing the literature in their own area of specialty will pull it apart, look at the methods and results in detail, discuss it amongst colleagues, see whether the conclusions are actually justified by the methods and results. Read as widely as you like, but you need to understand and evaluate what you read with real insight.

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    47. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to Judith Olney

      It is said that 2 protagonists be it groups/nations at war, highly competitive multinational companies, conflicting religions ('do you make the sign of the cross with 3 or 2 fingers') culture etc, the protagonists tend to copy each other as unless the strong points of one are countered, the conflict ends in defeat for one sooner that otherwise.

      While not a protagonist for Monsanto in any way, I am also disgusted when I read/hear of/debate with some in various forums total falsehoods being used to denigrate a target. This is not a feature of only one side of an argument. What do they say "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story".

      Also a bit of a problem when evaluating subjective claims, what is truth? Bit of history about that statement too, come Easter.

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    48. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Your suspicions would be very wrong Sue, I have chosen not to post my qualifications and training because it is of clinical interest to me, and my current research, to see the reactions, and behaviours of professionals, when faced with disagreement from a person they perceive as being intellectually inferior to them, but do not actually know in any personal way. This research involves both online and face to face contacts.

      I have informed you that I have a background in science, and understand…

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    49. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Judith Olney

      I regret that you have taken offense, Judith. I am not personally offended by your accusations about me, because the only thing we know about each other is what we have written.

      Of course I don't know you or anything about your background - but I have read your comments.

      You disagreed with the author's evaluation of the literature in the area, but refused to back that with any evidence in return. Even though this is an article specifically about evaluating an area of research, you chose not to show any critical analysis skills - even though you now claim to have these skills. I called you out on that, you got offended.

      Hopefully the interaction will enrich your research, somehow.

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    50. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Well a backhanded apology is exactly what I expected from you Sue, oh and I haven't taken personal offence at your insults and lack of manners, I have merely called you out on what you are doing, and how I have perceived it. Seems that others have also called you out on this thread and others.

      I'm not in the habit of posting reams of links, most of the time this is a pretty useless action, particularly in this type of forum. I prefer people to do their own research give a view, rather than playing…

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    51. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Be careful playing the Agent Provocateur, the responses may not be what you expect as some may have been burnt before.

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    52. Ruth Davies

      Urban Planner

      In reply to Judith Olney

      I am appalled at the trolling that has been going on in this thread, and sincerely sorry I ticked the box which has sent every single reply to my email account for the past two days.
      Judith if you think is some kind of action research then you are wrong: it actually has the flavour of two little girls in the school yard pulling each others' pigtails and screaming "i'm right', 'No, I am', at each other. Both you and Sue seriously need to log off from your computers and go and interact with people in a real-world setting.
      Neither of you are proving anything to anybody with this Reductio ad absurdum thread. Give it a rest!

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    53. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to John Holmes

      I'm not playing at anything John, not Agent provocateur, or anything else. I'm not sure what you mean by your warning.

      I'm just someone who is interested in many subjects, and enjoys finding out the views of others. I also enjoy reading well written articles, even though this is not always what we get here on this website, the standard is definitely a lot higher than elsewhere.

      I consider myself a pretty ordinary person, and I have no agenda here.

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    54. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Maybe he's trying to tell you that you won't be getting a cushy job at Monsanto because you didn't play the suck-up game...

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    55. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Ruth Davies

      Thanks for your input Ruth, I'm sure your comments have made a valuable contribution to the debate.

      I spend plenty of time off my computer and in the real world so your advice is not needed, but thanks for your concern.

      I didn't set out to prove anything, merely give my view, and see what others views were. I have found some very useful information here, and will continue to post as I see fit.

      If you don't wish to read my post, you are absolutely free not to, but I will not be bullied from posting because you happen to dislike what I put up.

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    56. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      I have values and ethics that are not compatible with those of Monsanto, so a job there was never very likely :)

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    57. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Ruth Davies

      Oh and BTW Ruth, if you really feel strongly that my posts have been inappropriate, you should consider pressing the little report button, and report me to the moderators. I would have no problem with the posts being deleted, as I respect the moderators decision in these matters. This is probably a better idea than trying to bully me off the thread.

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    58. Ruth Davies

      Urban Planner

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Wow, super-sensitive or what! I don't consider my comment to be bullying at all, merely an objective observation about what this discussion has degenerated into.
      Have you ever heard the line by Robert Burns - "Oh what power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us ..."
      Well, now you have had that opportunity.

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    59. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Ruth Davies

      Did you reply to Ms Leraci Ruth, in the same rude and nasty manner you replied to myself?

      No, wonder why?

      Have an actual read of my posts Ruth, I was putting forward my view, I was civil and courteous, and I posted my personal experience with the chemical aspartame. I did not attack anyone, I did not make any claims that I was right, and anyone else was wrong. I simply disagreed with the author that aspartame is not harmful or bad for us, and in turn disagreed with the same view held by Ms…

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    60. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Hi

      If I have read the debate wrong, is my problem ultimately.

      My comment was directed at an indication that part of this debate was very off target and part of the outcomes desired by some was to evaluate the responses of persons of different backgrounds in answering comments made to them.

      If the discussion used to get a range of responses, does also not include some indication as to the sources of the data being used, its a bit difficult to judge the veracity of such comments.

      Hence my comments. Re 'burnt' - where persons have constantly placed data totally at odds with the demonstrated body of knowledge for that topic with out presenting anything new, those who have an intimate knowledge of the topic and of its foibles etc tend to get browned off and tend to ignore the poster.

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    61. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      If you are referring to me, no, I am not on Monsanto' payroll / retainers, nor ever have been. I guess I have not made some of my concerns obvious enough re some issues with this company in Australia. I will not be on their Christmas list any time soon.

      I do know where some skeletons have been buried.

      One historical item from the mid 40'sfrom M was the exploration of the use of PCB's as a plasticizers for chewing gum. The toxicologists killed that one before it got to market.

      Lets play the game fairly straight forwardly and keep our agendas fairly obvious. Sure if you have a body of data that says that the accepted wisdom has no clothes, say so, or ask the question why it so?

      Some of this discussion seems to be re how do we accurately estimate the hazard of a active substance no matter how it is made or of its history of use. Not just by counting bodies as we have tended to start with with animals and say poisonous plants.

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    62. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to John Holmes

      I agree with what you are saying John, I can understand someone being browned off if the other person is making claims they do not back up. In this case though, I was simply putting my personal view across, not claiming anything I needed to provide proof of.

      I also think that the definition of "harm" in the case of the article is too narrow, and explained why I thought this, and gave examples of this happening elsewhere.

      I found the information put forward by Rory and Laurie, very interesting, and the views of Gary, Mia and Rosemary, to be consistent with the information I have read for myself.

      It has been an interesting discussion, but as I said in my earlier post, from what I've read the jury seems to be out on the safety of this particular chemical, as to whether its safe or not. So I, like a number of others here, will err on the side of caution and avoid consuming it.

      There has been no information put forward that has changed my view on this.

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    63. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Thanks for asking, Dr Sue. My reading is that aspartame in typical doses seems less toxic than added sugar in typical doses. After all, added sugar in typical modern doses looks to be the single-biggest driver of global obesity, diabetes, heart disease and related maladies: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html?pagewanted=all

      Interestingly, Dr Sue, I found Diet Coke - and so i assume aspartame - quite helpful in 2011 when breaking my sugar "addiction" or, if you like…

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    64. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue Ieraci wrote:
      "I think you'll find that the author didn't come up with the title for the article - the editors generally do that, and they (naturally) favour titles that will get people to read the article."

      The editor did choose a title, but one I didn't favour. The original title was: "Sweet news: artificial sweetener aspartame's not bad for you."

      I pointed out that it isn't appropriate to claim absolute knowledge about the safety of aspartame and suggested the title that was actually used--"Sweet news: no evidence that artifiical sweetener aspartame's bad for you."

      With the benefit of hindsight (which gives 20/20 vision), "... no convincing evidence ..." may have been even more appropriate.

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    65. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith Olney (quoting my article) wrote:
      '<"So, can I put my hand on my heart and swear that aspartame is safe for everyone other than people with phenylketonuria?
      No, I can’t.">
      "The above sentence is a bit of arse covering by the author, just in case people believe that this chemical is safe, (as in it will do not harm), rather than it is safe because it wont directly cause their death."

      My response: No, I'm not attempting to cover my backside. Rather, having reviewed the scientific literature on the subject I am reasonably confident that there is no reason to avoid the occasional use of aspartame as a sweetener if you want to reduce sugar intake but still safely enjoy a sweet taste.

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    66. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Attempting to draw a parallel between aspartame and mercury, Judith Olney wrote to the effect that the manufacturers of aspartame will be able to claim (inappropriately) that their product is safe, "because it wont directly kill people or directly cause them injury. Ingesting small amounts of mercury wont 'directly' kill or injure you either, but is it safe?"

      My response: Yes, it is safe, provided that the mercury is present in non-toxic doses.

      The concept that there are no such things as poisons…

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    67. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Thanks for the response Chris, good to know that you weren't just covering you backside. I feel a whole lot less confident about advising people to ingest the chemical sweetener aspartame, due to my own experience with this substance, and from the literature I have looked at myself. I prefer to err on the side of caution.

      I think there needs to be far more study done on the indirect harms of this substance before I would feel good about recommending it. This however is just my opinion, as I have explained in many of my posts. I prefer Henry's advice, and to go with common sense, and as I had very bad experiences with this substance, to the point where I ended up in hospital unconscious after ingesting it, I will avoid it.

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    68. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Chris Forbes-Ewan

      So Chris do you think that ingesting small amounts of mercury, daily, is not bad for a person?

      I guess we have different ideas of what "bad for you" means, (as stated in the title of your article).

      I have posted my personal experience with this substance, and asked questions about what is considered normal, in a way that someone who is not a nutrition expert would understand. As in how much in terms of how many diet drinks, how much artificially sweetened food etc, constitutes what is normal. What I received in return was rudeness, insults, and the questioning of my intelligence, from Ms Leraci. I am still left with those questions unanswered.

      So thank you for a response that, although doesn't really answer my questions in a way that I could explain to someone who wasn't a food scientist, (I have concerns about a relative that ingests vasts amounts of diet drinks and artificial chemical sweeteners), your explanation at least was courteous, and not insulting.

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    69. Eric Glare

      HIV public speaker & advocate

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith it seems evident from your posting string that you still haven't read the report have you, not even a skim read? Otherwise you would know that the answers to your questions are in it.

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    70. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Eric Glare

      I have read the report, thanks Eric. Perhaps I lack the ability to sift out the answers and apply them to my questions. Besides I'm not posting comments or questions about the report, but the article written for The Conversation.

      Seems that some posters here would rather insult those that ask questions, instead of helping, a good way to get rid of those annoying ordinary people that this article is supposed to be written for I guess, but not very useful in terms of communication.

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    71. Eric Glare

      HIV public speaker & advocate

      In reply to Fern Wickson

      Fern, you haven't read the EFSA report either have you? Otherwise you would not have referred to cherry picking - seems like half the their 300+ pages were about the selection and extraction process.

      "..we have to be much more nuanced and look into the detail of the studies conducted, asking: how they were performed, for how long,..." etc -this is exactly what the EFSA report/review did and then this article reviewed and reported on it. How else do you want it to work? The whole 300+ pages dumped here? Or, as you seem to be requesting, the huge pile of papers to be dumped here so you can have a nuanced look?

      People need a reality check.

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    72. Eric Glare

      HIV public speaker & advocate

      In reply to Judith Olney

      The Conversation article and the report are not mutually exclusive -to truly critique, it requires a synthesised response as should be expected of people who claim a science background. It isn't a newspaper and there isn't room for what you say should be there. You haven't displayed objectivity just subjectivity -you look very much like you are punishing the manufacturers for your funny faint. You are doing a recruitment/advertisment drive against the product. You would rather people stayed obsese than use aspartame (I was going to make that a question but I have up my mind).

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    73. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Eric Glare

      I didn't say they were mutually exclusive Eric, which is precisely why I did read the report. I do have a background in science, although not in the area of food science or nutrition, as I have stated previously.

      The Conversation is very much like a newspaper, which is evident by looking at the home page, it covers a wide variety of subjects and areas of interest, much like a newspaper. As the author of this very article suggests, The Conversation is directed as much to a lay audience, and to…

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    74. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith Olney wrote: "I have posted my personal experience with this substance, and asked questions about what is considered normal, in a way that someone who is not a nutrition expert would understand. As in how much in terms of how many diet drinks, how much artificially sweetened food etc, constitutes what is normal.

      "... thank you for a response that ... doesn't really answer my questions in a way that I could explain to someone who wasn't a food scientist, (I have concerns about a relative…

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    75. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Thank you Chris, your reply definitely makes things a little clearer for me. This is essentially the advice given by Henry and Gary and Rosemary as well.

      My relative definitely strays into the area of excessive consumption of artificial sweeteners, and it seems that this habit has intensified the desire for sweet foods over all, (a issue for another time perhaps).

      I totally agree with your common sense approach to diet and physical activity, and appreciate your polite and courteous reply to…

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    76. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Hi Gary, this study seems to tie in with people's lived experience as well. Thanks for the link, very interesting read.

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    77. Gary Cassidy

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Hi Judith, that article is an interesting read. It shows the importance of not only considering the affect of a product but also it's effect.

      Actually Sue Ieraci linked to this article in another Conversation topic, hence my argument directed toward Sue:

      "So if chemical xyz has the predictable effect of increasing energy consumption of a population of individuals (with no other health benefit), I would argue that given a large population where energy consumption is too high and over consumption of energy is detrimental to health, then chemical xyz should be considered unsafe for that population."

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    78. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Totally agree Gary. It ties in neatly with my experience with a relative that does consume excessive amounts of chemical sweeteners, (thanks Chris again for providing an understandable explanation of what excessive is, and in a polite manner).

      This relative seems to have been habituated to consuming only sweet foods, even when they don't contain an artificial sweetener. There is also the perception that consuming foods with artificial sweetener, somehow negates the other ingredients in the food…

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    79. Eric Glare

      HIV public speaker & advocate

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      No I was speaking literally independent of evidence or fact.

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    80. Eric Glare

      HIV public speaker & advocate

      In reply to Judith Olney

      I don't find your posts effective communication of science -you don't wear objectivity as a badge of pride, you place excessive emphasis on case studies particularly personal ones, and you display no respect or appreciation for the hierarchies of evidence that scientific decisions are, and must be based on. You haven't mentioned anything about methodology and its effect on quality of evidence but you want your papers to top the agenda. You don't want to be lied to but you don't want science ethics either.

      Avoiding synthesis and a view of the big picture but still declaring that you can decide for us, I feel you have been seeking division. My guess - you are studying journalism for the Murdoch press.

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    81. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Eric Glare

      Again Eric, I have made no claims that anyone should do anything, just put forward my own view, which I have not claimed is scientific, just personal experience. I have already stated that I am not a food scientist, or nutritionist, and as I have made no scientific claims, I do not have the burden of proof. What papers have I put forward, that I supposedly want to top the agenda Eric? I imagine that no one wants to be lied to, and I certainly do want science ethics, please stop making things up.

      I have decided nothing for you or anyone else, only myself, as in I will be avoiding artificial sweeteners, because I do not believe them to be safe, and I have given my own reasons.

      You really need to stop all this projecting Eric, and stop imagining what simply isn't there.

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    82. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith - you keep talking about literature you have looked up yourself, which says something different to the literature which Chris reviewed.

      Please share - that's what this discussion is about.

      You seem convinced that your hypo episode must have been caused by aspartame. By what mechanism?

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    83. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      I'm not interested in discussing anything further with you on this thread Sue.

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    84. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith Olney wrote: "As you are employed by the defence force in the area of nutrition, I would love to see an article from your perspective on the changes to the content of the ration packs, (or rat packs as we used to call them among other not so affectionate names), if there have been any in the last 20-30 years, that are supplied to soldiers in field force units. I come from a military family and have had a lot of involvement with the Australian Army in my lifetime, so it would be very interesting to me at least, and possibly a few others :)"

      My response: Although this is off-topic, you (and possibly a few others) might enjoy reading my Ockham's Razor article about rat packs (I should make it clear that no rats were harmed during the making of these packs :-) at: http://tiny.cc/mzsnvw

      The ration packs have been revised considerably since that article was written, but it will give you an indication of some of the changes that have taken place in the past 20 years.

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    85. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Thanks very much Chris,

      Fascinating stuff, I found it very interesting, particularly how you determined the energy expenditure using the doubly labeled water method, and the addition of pro-biotics, Its great to know that these rat packs have come such a long way, but still keep the old favorites like the condensed milk. I agree that food is an important component of the morale of solders, and one often not thought about by those outside of the military.

      A great read, and it brought back memories of hexy cooking, the dixies and kfs kits.

      Thanks again, off topic but much appreciated. I wonder if The Conversation editors would be interested in putting up an article along the same lines as the interview, I'm sure others would find this an interesting topic.

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    86. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith Olney wrote (about aspartame): "... as I had very bad experiences with this substance, to the point where I ended up in hospital unconscious after ingesting it, I will avoid it."

      As Sue Ieraci, Henry Franseschi and probably others have pointed out, safety testing doesn't involve testing every person on Earth. What may be safe for the vast majority of people may cause symptoms in some individuals.

      For example, not many people would regard cloves as being unsafe. However, a DSTO colleague…

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    87. Henry Franceschi

      Director, NCD Treatment Centers

      In reply to Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Thank you Chris,

      And that's the fundamental difference between research and clinical objectives.

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    88. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Hi Chris, at no time, and in none of my posts on this thread, have I ever suggested that safety testing should involve testing every person on Earth. And I am fully aware that what may be harmful to one person, may be considered safe for the majority. I have also said repeatedly, that because of my reaction to artificial sweeteners, I now avoid them altogether. Please do not try to suggest that I inferred anything other than this.

      However, we should not ignore evidence that shows that a product…

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    89. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith Olney wrote: "... at no time, and in none of my posts on this thread, have I ever suggested that safety testing should involve testing every person on Earth."

      Nowhere in this discussion have I implied that you made such a claim. I was simply making the point that it would be appropriate for anyone to avoid anything that causes adverse symptoms.

      Judith Olney also wrote: "... the studies do not take into account ... other factors such as vested interests from the food and chemical industry…

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    90. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Chris I read your post to imply that I thought or had implied, that safety testing should be carried out on every person on Earth, as you are replying to me and quoting my words in your post.

      <"As Sue Ieraci, Henry Franseschi and probably others have pointed out, safety testing doesn't involve testing every person on Earth.">

      I did not suggest this or post anything like this comment, so why is this comment necessary in your reply to me? It comes across as sarcastic and snide, but perhaps you didn't realise this.

      Thank you for the link, I will have a look at it when I have more time, but I agree with your quote in the last paragraph of your post.

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    91. Sjoukje Klaassen

      Indescribable

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      "I agree with your dislike of slogans such as 'eat a balanced diet - everything in moderation'. It's meaningless and is mostly used by sections of the food industry who market junkm foods and drinks. Few people identify as being 'immoderate' or 'unbalanced' and so most people see no need to change their present intake."

      I was also there when those slogans happened....they applied to selection from whole foods, gathered from green grocers, butchers and markets etc and the general population were…

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  10. Mark Shaw

    Health Media

    This story has been doing the rounds for quite some time:

    In November 1980, however, the country elected Ronald Reagan President. Donald Rumsfeld (former congressman from Skokie, former White House chief of staff, former secretary of defense and since January 1977 president of Searle) joined the Reagan transition team. A full court press against the board decision began.

    In January 1981 Rumsfeld told a sales meeting, according to one attendee, that he would call in his chips and get aspartame…

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  11. Ruth Davies

    Urban Planner

    I used to use artificial sweeteners in my tea but the fact is they taste horrible and just leave you craving real sugar. I have recently re-started using sugar, but have been slowly cutting down the amount I use, from a full tea-spoon to a token sprinkle. Because I did it slowly, I seem to have happy adjusted to the changed taste and I am quite satisfied without the sickly sweet artificial sweetener.

    I sometimes wonder if the big companies should be encouraged to slowly reduce the amount of sugar in soft drinks down to a less harmful level. Maybe if it was done slowly enough, people would adjust and not complain. I believe that many European soft drinks have less sugar content than American ones, yet they are very tasty.

    I think we should really be retraining our palates to not expect high levels of sweetness in our foods, rather than relying on aspartame and others as a crutch.

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  12. Lana Carrington

    Research Officer

    The Philippines banned this substance. If it is deemed safe and there is no evidence to support that it causes any harm why would a whole nation make the monumental decision to ban it completely? Honestly curious. Lots of conflicting information.

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    1. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Lana Carrington

      Domenica Agostino asked: "If (aspartame) is deemed safe and there is no evidence to support that it causes any harm why would a whole nation (The Philippines) make the monumental decision to ban it completely?"

      My response: Here is a counter question -- If aspartame is harmful (as implied by its banning in the Philippines) why have more than 90 countries permitted its continued use?
      URL: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/addit/sweeten-edulcor/aspartame-eng.php

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    2. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Chris Forbes-Ewan

      I would be really interested to know why the Phillipines government decided to ban aspartame, The bill (easily found by googling), suggests that they have scientific as well as anecdotal evidence to justify the ban. Would love to see what this evidence actually is, as it was obviously compelling. If anyone reading this can help out it would be great.

      I don't find the argument that because 90 countries have permitted the continued use of aspartame to be any indication of its safety. How many countries permit the sale of tobacco products, including Australia, despite the evidence of its danger?

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    3. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith Olney wrote: "would be really interested to know why the Phillipines government decided to ban aspartame, The bill (easily found by googling), suggests that they have scientific as well as anecdotal evidence ... (that) ... was obviously compelling.

      "I don't find the argument that because 90 countries have permitted the continued use of aspartame to be any indication of its safety. How many countries permit the sale of tobacco products, including Australia, despite the evidence of its danger…

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    4. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Good point about governments acting because of popularity, there is also another reason that is pertinent to all the examples you have given, and that is money. Too often corporate profits are the most important consideration, often considered far more important than human or environmental health.

      I can see a case for this being the prime motivator for the acceptance of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, the food and beverage corporations have extremely powerful and well funded lobby groups, both in Australia and globally. I suspect this has more to do with these artificial sweeteners getting approval, than scientific evidence.

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  13. Audrey D

    Student

    Soooooo, tell me if I'm wrong: you're saying that there is no credible scientific evidence that aspartame is bad but when you want to convince us that it is safe, you use references from the WCRF and the EFSA. Sorry but I really don't think that these organisations are credible sources of scientific evidence either. Their report is just a report, it is not a peer reviewed journal article. Some of them are even funded by aspartame manufacturers!
    The conversation is supposed to encourage academic standards in its articles. Big fail here.
    And I wonder who's funding the funder of your research.

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    1. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Audrey D

      So, I'm imagining the link to the article titled "Aspartame: A Safety Evaluation Based on Current Use Levels, Regulations, and Toxicological and Epidemiological Studies" in the review journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology.

      Am I also to believe that all the agency reviews did not reference any science? Like say the reference section of the WCRF report, that mustn't contain any science references. http://www.dietandcancerreport.org/cancer_resource_center/downloads/chapters/pr/References.pdf

      Odd. My eyes must be playing tricks on me.

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    2. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Audrey D

      Audrey Deheinzelin wrote to the effect that WCRF and the EFSA are not credible sources of scientific evidence because "Their report is just a report, it is not a peer reviewed journal article."

      My response: The reports by the WCRF and EFSA are actually based on hundreds of papers in the peer-reviewed literature. They constitute among the most comprehensive reviews of the literature that have been conducted on aspartame.

      Audrey also wrote: "And I wonder who's funding the funder of your research."

      My response: I'm not entirely sure of the meaning of this question, but if you are wondering where my funding comes from, it is entirely from the Department of Defence (which obviously has no financial or any other interest in aspartame).

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  14. Henry Franceschi

    Director, NCD Treatment Centers

    From a clinician: What you eat is a personal choice not a forum for debate. It has been since the Romans said, “De gustibus non est disputandum” (There’s no arguing about tastes). Here are some tips to keep you consistent with a well-grounded truth:
    - Don’t get involved in debating verbal sleight of hand: (1) Numbers from rat studies, until confirmed in human clinical trials, are invalid (unusable). (2) Numbers from randomized controlled human clinical trials, or how we test human response to a…

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Henry Franceschi

      Mr Franceschi - this article doesn't say it is compulsory to consume artificial sweeteners. It is a review of the literature on the safety of the specific ingredient aspartame.

      Do you have evidence to the contrary?

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    2. Henry Franceschi

      Director, NCD Treatment Centers

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Hi Sue,

      Nor did I use the word "compulsory" or any derivative of that word anywhere in my comment. So that part of your responses is a non-issue. I repeat, the method used in "the literature" is invalid for those who make their own choices about what they ingest and find no need to get permission from researchers what to ingest. Since the studies are invalid for personal use, and only have population level relevance, the implication of the review of the literature is that at a personal level you can take it or leave it, it's a matter of personal choice whether you use aspartame-containing products. And, if you perceive yourself to have the slightest reaction that you don't like, if you indeed don't like the reaction, don't use it. I simply spelled out in more detail how to implement "commonsense." Finally, I have no idea to what precisely you would want "contrary evidence" to my encouraging people to use commonsense about these never-ending debates.

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    3. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Henry Franceschi

      Henry - the reason I used the word "compulsory"was that your argument appears to be that nobody HAS to consume aspartame.

      I was agreeing with you - neither the author, not anyone commenting here, has said that anyone HAD to consume aspartame. Nor is the author promoting its use.

      This article answers the question "does the evidence show any direct harm from aspartame? His answer, having review the literature, is that there is no evidence of harm, though nothing in life can be guaranteed forever.

      Do you disagree with his conclusion? IF so, please talk us through the counter evidence.

      As far as avoiding it if you want to - I agree. That doesn't mean it's harmful.

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    4. Henry Franceschi

      Director, NCD Treatment Centers

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue – Alright, I’ll walk you through. I’m a trained researcher with many years experience developing the statistics that help marketers sell products like aspartame. Since statistics is a technical field, there is no reason why those who don’t have salaried positions where they use statistics on a daily basis to be aware of the limitations of the randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that make up “the literature.” Therefore, your impression that “This article answers the question ‘does the evidence…

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    5. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Henry Franceschi

      Excellent post Henry, great explanation.

      Your advice is exactly the advice given to me by my own doctor. His conclusion was that the aspartame was indeed causing me to have a hypoglycemic reaction, and that I should avoid this product.

      We, (my doctor and I), worked through all the other possibilities that could have caused this reaction, (the reaction was provable in the BSL results), with tests, and observations.

      We came to the common sense conclusion, that as aspartame was not an essential part of any diet, that it was safer to exclude it, despite the literature, and articles like the one here, that claim that aspartame is not harmful, and is not "bad" for us. (both the definitions of "harm" and "bad", need to be clearer IMO).

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    6. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Henry Franceschi

      Henry - that makes me wonder whether your are a "trained researcher" at all. A person familiar with health research would know that different types of methodology are appropriate to answer different types of research questions. The RCT only comes at the end of a long line of theoretical and laboratory modeling and research. We are not looking for efficacy (like a therapeutic substance) here.

      I've never heard a researcher say "lies, damned lies and statistics" - researchers know how to look at the methodology and evaluate the evidence. You haven't done anything like that.

      What is your area of research and where are your publications?

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    7. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to Henry Franceschi

      Brilliant analysis, Henry!
      Now if we could only get you to post an article on The Conversation about the common sense application of RCTs and systematic reviews.
      “Common sense is in spite of, not the result of, education.”
      ― Victor Hugo

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    8. Henry Franceschi

      Director, NCD Treatment Centers

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Bye Sue,

      Time for you to look for somebody else to play verbal word games with.

      I refer you back to Judith Olney's reaction to your games to see how you affect people with a genuine interest in getting something constructive out of this blog.

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    9. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Hi Laurie, I would like to add my support to your proposition. I also thought Henry's post was brilliant, he basically put many of my own views into words.

      I would also like to add my own paraphrased quote from Claude Levi-Strauss, "we need to teach our children how to think, not tell them what to think" and this very much applies to adults as well.

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    10. Sue Ieraci

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Henry Franceschi

      Oh - so you have nothing to add to the discussion about the evidence relating to the safety of aspartame? Thought not.

      I'm not the one playing games here. I've read the few studies that the opponents of the author's conclusions posted - none of them showing what the posters thought they did. Rather than defending what they alleged, those posters just become defensive - yourself included.

      Henry - if you are really a "trained researcher", have you never been to a journal club? Never asked questions at a conference? Never engaged in a genuine discussion of research methodology? If you have, why not do so here?

      The rest of you can go on supporting each other's right to self-expression, but, if you don't have a justifiable view on what the literature on aspartame shows, why post here?

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    11. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to Henry Franceschi

      How would you establish dose response curves? Not sure I follow your logic re the use of randomized controlled trials.

      Most trial design and analysis have been involved in / with have included checks and balances to minimize the effects of external variation. Ie you do not include an area in a fertilizer rial where a sheep has died and rotted. Good trial design and analysis will indicate the back ground variation for the effects you exploring, and if the Error CV% is too high, you are unwise to give that data set too much weight in the analysis.

      Now I would the response of humans to a 300% of a Ld100 dose of cyanide per kg will probably not have a great deal of variation despite ethnic heritage, or cultural status. Bit rough in concept I know. Bit of a problem when having untreated controls where toxic pastures are concerned. You stop real fast.

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    12. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to John Holmes

      Typo "Now I would EXPECT the ..."

      Any one have a solution for a lifetime problem with dyslexia in spelling and language mechanics? Get a better grammar checker I suppose in part

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    13. Henry Franceschi

      Director, NCD Treatment Centers

      In reply to John Holmes

      Hi John,

      RCTs are the gold standard for human clinical trials, once the animal studies have passed FDA scrutiny. RCTs test safety, efficacy and the specificity and sensitivity of the active ingredient in specific patient populations. I was involved in several RCTs with opioids and, since it’s a controlled substance with serious side effects, so RCTs help identify adverse effects like respiratory depression or death and other drug side effects which are reported in the Physician’s Desk Reference…

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    14. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to Henry Franceschi

      I guess we are separating out issues here.

      There seem to be claims made specific to this product implying that it is highly dangerous and unacceptably toxic for its use. This is further accentuated by references to its pedigree. The tox data suggests not an acute problem.

      Then there are particular responses where seem to be idiosyncratic where some individuals react differently to the perceived norm and then rightly so alert the rest of the community that there is a problem for them. That…

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    15. Henry Franceschi

      Director, NCD Treatment Centers

      In reply to John Holmes

      The clinical solution to idiosyncratic responses relative to norms is to systematically isolate the affected person from external exposures and do a personal, controlled experiment. The number of variables in agricultural products today relative to the inherited and learned susceptibilities of humans living in highly globalized economies is massive. I was born, raised and work in Developing Countries. I am witness daily to the widespread use of glyphosate, pesticides, fertilizers, animal feeds (like…

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    16. Eric Glare

      HIV public speaker & advocate

      In reply to Henry Franceschi

      Henry, way off topic, but it seems you are getting continually burnt by averages (scientist usually refer to the mean or the median). You should look at all the data: the statistical difference, the difference between groups but particularly the data for the spread around the mean indicated by the standard deviation or error, or confidence intervals -or if medians are used, the range. This is the basics of science and how it is summarised so other researchers can read it readily so the data isn't thrown away as you imply. May be much of this is new since you graduated. Just looking at averages is newspaper reading.

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    17. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to Henry Franceschi

      Thanks

      We could probably profitably and enjoyably share a cup or 2 of coffee exchanging experiences to our mutual benefit if we were in the same place long enough.

      Re Agribusiness and agricultural productivity gains, do not over estimate their contribution. The Basic R&D in many areas was publicly funded. Private industry does not do well unless value can be captured, often at the expense of the grower. The last major gain here - Western Australia, was by the integration many tools, some new, some old into a cultural package which routinely achieves >90% of the rainfall limited yield for the growing season. My Grandpa could only get about 25-50% routinely. Yet the maximum yield of wheat / mm of rainfall is the same as it was for King David ca 1500 BC. We just have better knowledge/tools. As nature bats last, we cannot stop.

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    18. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Henry Franceschi

      Brilliant Henry, just brilliant, thank you, and I hope you will keep posting, you have made this whole comment thread worth while.

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    19. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Henry Franceschi

      Henry - again I have to wonder about your research credentials. RCTs are the gold standard for trials of THERAPEUTIC substances - not for all research questions.

      Aspartame is not a therapeutic substance. Th research looks at safety - not efficacy.

      The author has already linked to the EFSA assessment, which reviewed over 600 trials. A literature review is a legitimate form of assessment of the evidence. The team who reviewed the hundreds of studies concluded that there was no evidence of harm…

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    20. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Eric Glare

      Eric is right - whether we are looking at the mean or not also depends on how the data are distributed. If it is not normally distributed, the mean doesn't tell us much.

      Henry says "Since the goal is to test the active ingredient in specific populations, the statistical data addresses the population, not individuals. To assess individual response, case studies are the standard but they lack the statistical power of large RCTs."

      But we aren't even looking at an active ingredient or a response - aspartame is not a therapeutic substance.

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    21. Henry Franceschi

      Director, NCD Treatment Centers

      In reply to Eric Glare

      I thought I made it clear that I deal with clinical cases as a licensed clinician.

      But, here's the real world, Eric. A 58 y/o breathing patient (not a spreadsheet) is assigned to you who lives in a rural area with his common-law wife. He is illiterate and used to earn a meager living clearing fields with a machete. He used alcohol for most of his life and over the past 2 years has developed pain that is compatible with a peripheral neuropathy in his feet. He has a family history of diabetes in…

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    22. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Henry Franceschi

      That's a compelling and disturbing scenario, Henry. Good on you. As a parent, your example of the growing global tragedy that is diabetes really drives home to me the need to educate kids on the evils of alcohol, tobacco, and sugary processed foods and drinks. Few people would argue on the first two products, but many - even supposedly competent "scientists" - remain clueless on the latter being a key driver of obesity and diabetes.

      Henry, here's my attempt at a class talk to steer kids towards a healthy anti-diabetes diet, a discussion designed to "nip in the bud" tragic scenarios like the one you describe above: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/talktoyear3boys.pdf

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  15. rory robertson
    rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

    former fattie

    Judith, you have a background in science and seem rather thoughtful on a range of topics. What do you think of the dispute I have with our host on this thread, Chris Forbes-Ewan? Let me try to set it out again, this time concisely.

    Chris insists: "In fact, I have no idea whether sugar intake is increasing, decreasing or remaining the same in Australia, and I don't believe that anyone else does either".

    By contract, the University of Sydney's Australian Paradox paper claims to document a "consistent…

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    1. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to rory robertson

      Hi Rory, I'm not prepared to get involved in, or even give a personal opinion on a dispute that really has nothing to do with me. I don't know the author personally, and it would be hypocritical of me to give an opinion on his personal competence or qualifications, when I have no knowledge or evidence to back it up. I'm not prepared to make assumptions about the author as a person, and I despise this nasty little tactic used by Ms Leraci and others, on this very thread.

      I absolutely appreciate…

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    2. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith,

      Thanks for taking the time to respond. I wish you well in completing your research paper. Perhaps you will find room to mention the Australian Paradox scandal. As I have noted here and elsewhere, I think the University of Sydney's Australian Paradox scandal may ultimately become a prominent case study of what can go wrong in "science" when quality control gets thrown out the window, and other "professionals" in the space do little or nothing to protect the integrity of the scientific record, even after being prodded.

      For someone like me - with no background in "science" - it was quite shocking to discover by accident that the "the emperor has no clothes". Of course, as you have seen, it starts to get funny when "professionals" in discussions such as these start to get snippy and complain that the plebs are not sufficiently respectful of the "knowledge base" their fellow-professionals bring to the table! Yes, they reap what they sow.

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    3. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to rory robertson

      No problem Rory, I am very interested in the work you have done regarding the Australian Paradox paper, and some of the issues you have brought up are very much of interest to me in regards to my own research, but that discussion is probably best done in private, perhaps through the email address you have supplied on your website, if that's ok with you.

      Thanks again, all the best :)

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  16. Colin Soskolne

    Professor (Epidemiology)

    As an epidemiologist, I bring to attention that, in my assessment, the review of Chris Forbes-Ewan of the body of literature, and likely those reviews of others, as well as the interpretation of that literature examining the association between aspartame and certain cancers is biased.

    Specifically, the rat studies that Chris recognizes as showing an association are likely those of Soffritti et al (2005, 2006). He casts aside their relevance to humans on the basis of what the World Cancer Research…

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    1. Gary Cassidy

      In reply to Colin Soskolne

      Hi Colin,

      Thanks for your contribution.
      It seems to me that, unfortunately, the burden of proof with these artificial products lies with proving that they are NOT safe to the same level that drugs are tested for efficacy. As such your third reference may be dismissed because the research contained doesn't rule out the possibility of chance.
      However, this research doesn't prove that this product IS safe. In fact the research suggests the possibility that the product is not safe.
      There is no need for this product in our food supply, as such any indication that it is not safe should be enough justification for it to be removed from our food supply.
      I have also argued that if a product has a predictable outcome of raising the BMI of a population that uses it (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892765/), should it still be considered safe?

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    2. Colin Soskolne

      Professor (Epidemiology)

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Gary, thank you. I agree with your added dimension of the BMI, adding one more compelling argument to the case for a total ban.

      Indeed, if I were making the policy decisions, based on what we know today, I would ban the product, as alluded to in my initial posting. The Precautionary Principle would so dictate, if we allow it to trump any other considerations. But, as with so many public policy issues, powerful moneyed interests are commonly in play and they do wield enormous influence with their…

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    3. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Colin Soskolne

      Colin Soskolne claims that I cast aside "the understanding that there is no safe level for a carcinogen".

      My response: I don't accept that proposition. More than 50 years ago it was the basis for the "Delaney Clause" which made it illegal for any food to be offered for sale in the United States if the food contained a substance that had been shown to cause cancer in man or animals at any dose.

      As a result of this law, and studies that found high intakes of saccharin (another artificial sweetener…

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    4. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Gary Cassidy wrote: "There is no need for this product in our food supply, as such any indication that it is not safe should be enough justification for it to be removed from our food supply."
      If that were true, then the food supply would be extremely limited. No single food or food ingredient is needed (i.e. essential) for human nutrition. For example, consumption of red and processed meat has been associated with increased risk of cancer. The existence of millions of healthy vegetarians proves that meat is not needed in the food supply. From this I infer that you would advocate the banning of red meat. If so, I don't think you have much chance of success with that endeavour!
      Rather than banning everything for which there is some (no matter how little) evidence of harm, I believe that commonly consumed foods and ingredients should be available until there is firm evidence of harm. Only then should there be firm action to limit or stop their consumption.

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    5. John Holmes

      Agronomist - semi retired consultant

      In reply to Chris Forbes-Ewan

      RE the "Delaney Clause"

      If my memory has not failed me, chicken egg yolks were also found to be suspect, yet as a food stuff, they were OK.

      A binary view on potential cancer hazards would tend to eliminate a significant proportion of our daily activities and food stuffs. One estimate of the hazard of 2,4-D was about 6 excess cancers per year for the world. Is this too much especially where it is difficult to clearly identify the co hazards of application eg diesel exhaust p2.5 - 10's from the tractor pulling the sprayer?

      Is the planet large enough to support the trials to sort out all low level hazards?

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    6. Gary Cassidy

      In reply to Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for engaging in the discussions.

      RE: "Rather than banning everything for which there is some (no matter how little) evidence of harm, I believe that commonly consumed foods and ingredients should be available until there is firm evidence of harm. Only then should there be firm action to limit or stop their consumption."
      I somewhat agree with this (the low fat crusades are a good example of why). However, aspartame is not food. It is a product used to make the taste of edible…

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    7. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Hi Gary,
      You state that 'it is sensible for nutritionisits to advise people to avoid added sugar and foods containing added sugar most of the time'.
      As I've mentioned before, I prefer the advice in the revised dietary guidelines: 'Limit intake of foods and drinks containing added sugars ...'
      And I don't 'publicly defend sugar'; rather, I publicly condemn the non-science-based conclusions drawn by some people (most of whom are not nutritionists, or even scientists) that sugar is a toxin at any dose, is addictive and is the cause of the epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

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    8. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Chris Forbes-Ewan says, in part, "...I publicly condemn non-science-based conclusions drawn by some people (most of whom are not nutritionists, or even scientists) that sugar ....is addictive and is the cause of the epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes."

      Chris, that is one of the things Gary and others like me are complaining about: you seem to put more weight on qualifications - are they "nutritionists", are they "scientists"? - than on the evidence being highlighted.

      Chris, it is obvious…

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    9. Nicolas Franklin-Woolley

      Retired

      In reply to rory robertson

      Coming in late to this thread after seeking up to date evidence on sweeteners in general, I have some agreement with the last post from Rory Robertson : -

      "...why should we trust high-profile nutritionists like you, Professor Jennie Brand-Miller and Dr Alan Barclay, when - rather than correcting the misinformation you each have fed into an important public debate - you each tend to pretend that no mistakes were made?

      Chris, why should everyday people trust "nutrition science" in Australia…

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    10. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Nicolas Franklin-Woolley

      Thanks for your kind observation, Nicolas. Disturbingly, the University of Sydney's "peer-reviewed" but obviously false "finding" in the nutrition space was used again in June to mislead Federal Parliament inadvertently on the origins of obesity and diabetes. Readers interested in public health may be interested in my revamped criticism of the University of Sydney's sham quality controls in science: http://www.australianparadox.com/

      Please let me know if you think my critique contains factual errors of its own or is otherwise unreasonable.

      By the way, Nicolas, are they your beautiful photos on the web of emus at Lake Mungo?

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  17. Gary Cassidy

    Not so sweet news: Some evidence that artificial sweeteners are probably not a good choice.
    "Artificial sweeteners produce the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements"
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1043276013000878

    Highlights
    •Similar to sugar-sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened (diet) beverages (ASB) are linked to obesity.
    •ASB may increase the risk for diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.
    •ASB may increase the risk for negative outcomes by interfering with learning.
    •Reductions in sweetener use, including low-calorie sweeteners, may be warranted.

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    1. Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Senior Nutritionist at Defence Science and Technology Organisation

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Gary,

      I suggest you read the Medscape article about the paper by Swithers at:

      http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/807615?nlid=32012_341&src=wnl\_edit_medn_card&spon=2

      (If you are not a subscriber to Medscape, you should be able to create a free account from this page.)

      In this article, two prominent nutritionists commented on the paper by Swithers about artificially sweetened beverages (ASBs) vs sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs).

      Frank Hu concluded that "In [the] short-term, ASBs…

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    2. rory robertson
      rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      former fattie

      In reply to Chris Forbes-Ewan

      Chris,

      So what you now appear to be saying is that the consumption of added sugar in SSBs is a serious health hazard; the consumption of non-sugary ASBs not so much. On that at least, you, me and David Gillespie can agree.

      Indeed, the evidence suggests that modern rates of sugar consumption - especially via sugary drinks - are a key driver of global obesity and type 2 diabetes, together the greatest public-health challenge of our times: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/11/2477.full.pdf

      In an effort to counter these disturbing trends - especially amongst young people and Indigenous peoples - I am calling for a ban on all sugary drinks in all schools in all nations:http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/Sugary-Drinks-Ban.pdf

      Readers, if after assessing the facts you think this proposal has merit, please forward it to parents, students, teachers, principals and heads of schools, nurses, doctors, dentists and others involved in public health and education.

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