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Eating Well

Fake Sugars and Fake Fats

In our quest to eat less sugar, less fat, fewer carbs or fewer calories, many of us turn to artificial sweeteners and fake fats. Products such as Nutrasweet, Splenda, and Olestra have all been approved by the FDA under great pressure from the food industry, sometimes against expert recommendation.

Aspartame (marketed as Nutrasweet or Equal) is one of the most widely used sugar replacements. Although it was approved for use in 1974, three decades later it remains under a cloud of suspicion. Virtually nothing is known about its long-term safety or about the long-term safety of other artificial sweeteners. The use of fake fats have also raised health concerns. In 1996 Olestra was approved for use by the FDA in potato chips, tortilla chips, and crackers, with the caveat that products made with Olestra carry the warning "Olestra may cause abdominal cramping and loose stools" on their labels. In 2003 the FDA allowed food manufactors to carry the products with no warning, despite the fact that the FDA has received more complaints about Olestra than it has about all other food additives in history combined.

To read an overview of what is currently known about the safety of artificial sweeteners, see Sweet Nothings: Not all Sweeteners are Equal (.pdf*) from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  To read about the concerns about Olestra, see The Facts about Olestra also from the CSPI.

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