Tuesday, August 25, 2009
My friend, K, was one of the people who responded to my blog on aspartame. She sent me two articles detailing the other side. In the interests of fairness, here is her first article submitted. Stephen Cherniske is involved with Univera.
Poison in the Well
Stephen Cherniske, M.Sc.
What if you just purchased a luxury car - investing some $80,000 - and as you leave, the salesman mentions one caveat: half of the information in the owner’s manual is wrong. I expect you’d be outraged. After all, not being able to discern which 50% was accurate, the entire manual would be useless. You would not be able to care for your expensive car. The same thing is happening today on internet health sites, only the issue is more serious because we’re dealing with your body, not your car.
I believe it’s conservative to say that half of the health information on the internet is entirely wrong. Some is outright lies, but most is what I call unintentional error; people passing on (and thereby proliferating) misinformation or half-truth. This goes way beyond the ever-increasing number of hoaxes and scams. It concerns vast amounts of web site information that people are using to make decisions about their health and their lives. Bottom line, the extraordinary potential of the internet to disseminate knowledge is about to collapse. To prevent this, we as a community will have to develop a much higher degree of discrimination and critical thinking than is presently evident on the net.
I love science. My life changed the day I learned and understood the scientific method, because it represents (for those skilled in its use) a reliable touchstone in the pursuit of truth. And this pursuit is incredibly important. Life is short. At best, misinformation wastes precious time. More often than you might imagine, it causes significant harm. I take science and especially health science very seriously. And please, don’t talk to me about breakthrough technology that is beyond the scientific method. This itself is a common misunderstanding, in that the scientific method does not have to explain a phenomena. It is simply an instrument to test the validity of an observation or hypothesis.
You could, for example, present me with a purported cancer cure from Mars and I would allow for the possibility that it was in fact of extraterrestrial origin. I would then design an experiment (using the scientific method) to see if it did indeed cure cancer. THIS is how remarkable and valuable advances are made... Not by speculation, hearsay, anecdotes or unfounded claims.
The World Wide Web was originally designed to be used by scientists to facilitate the sharing of research data. I started participating in pre-internet activity as part of Stanford University’s Dialog project in 1983. After a few years, it was apparent to most of us that this entity - and the network that was being created, could usher in a new age of accelerated knowledge that would alter human history in unimaginable ways.
I still believe this because I’ve seen glimpses of it. As a research member of Physicians Online (a worldwide network of more than 100,000 physicians) I saw how the availability of conference and shared data meant the difference between life and death. And because I have seen the promise, the misuse of that remarkable tool affects me deeper than it might otherwise. I cannot ignore misinformation. For me, it’s poisoning the well.
What is Truth?
In a very real sense, ideas compete for our attention. And because our lives are guided (and in many ways determined) by what we pay attention to and what we ignore, this competition is of critical importance.
When lies compete with truth, lies usually win simply because they are more exciting. We tend to give exciting ideas more thought, and we tend to repeat exciting ideas more often; it’s just human nature. And this is the basis for what has been called “thought contagion”; the proliferation of lies and error through society. We see it everywhere. Remember Y2K? Wild speculation got more press, more air-time and thus more credibility than documented truth. Why? it was more interesting and exciting to think that civilization as we know it might come to an end than it was to picture being inconvenienced because one’s favorite brand of breakfast cereal was not delivered to the grocery store.
Yet another important force behind misinformation stems from the basic human dynamic of authority; the intriguing realm of psychology which deals with secrets and intrigue. If I can convince you that I have information that you do not have, and especially if I can convince you that you need this information, I have power over you. Lies are basically about power.
So if you’d like to strike a blow for truth and valid science, give some thought to the traps the we all fall into now and then, and spread the word. For every scam or urban legend that does not get forwarded (but instead the sender is gently challenged to provide reliable proof) we will have done a great service to protect a technology that has the potential to accelerate knowledge and greatly enhance quality of life.
Many of you have read (and probably forwarded) an article credited to Nancy Markle who was supposed to have lectured at a World Environmental Conference about aspartame. This prime example of webaloney is filled with outrageous misinformation and outright lies. I posted a debunk of the Nancy Markle aspartame letter in 1997, but it resurfaced the following year under a different author; Betty Martini.
If you are still holding this utter nonsense as truth, I urge you to consider the following:
1. No one named Nancy Markle has ever shown up, even though thousands of posts on hundreds of web sites were asking her to defend her statements.
2. Virtually every organization mentioned in this “report,” including the EPA, FDA, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and the American Dietetic Association has denounced the article as fabrication.
3. Every internet filter has concluded that the article is at best “unreliable.” An excellent analysis has been published by Media Awareness and is available at:
the pdf version is available at:
Another excellent review is available from truthorfiction.com:
Please understand that I am no fan of aspartame. In my debunk article, I take great pains to describe the known and potential dangers of that sweetener. I don’t like aspartame, but the proliferation of fraud as science is just as bad for your health.
Now comes a similar attack on sucralose; not by Nancy Markle or Betty Martini, but there are interesting parallels:
1. The anti-sucralose articles use unreliable references. The two major web sites simply reference each other in an effort to appear credible.
2. Legitimate scientific literature is misrepresented.
3. Exaggeration and innuendo take the place of balanced investigation.
I would like to state once again my reasons for this rather long monograph. I take my role as Chief Scientific Officer for Oasis very seriously, and that includes guarding the scientific integrity of discourse in the Oasis community. I welcome discussion and debate, but will not allow opinions to take the place of facts, no matter how earnestly these opinions are stated. In this regard, I would like to examine objections that have been raised to the use of sucralose in AgelessXtra.
The sweetener matrix in AgelessXtra includes:
1. Grape juice.
2. Sorbitol: a natural sugar alcohol found in a variety of fruits and berries.
3. Lo Han Guo: derived from a Chinese fruit, also known as momordica fruit. `
4. Sucralose: is considered an artificial sweetener, even though it is derived from table sugar. What makes it artificial is the modification of the sucrose molecule that makes it 600 times as sweet as sugar. And that is the advantage. No other sweetener could mask the bitter taste of the Ageless herbal ingredients. Just 27 milligrams per one ounce serving of concentrate or 3.3 oz mini makes all the difference. It contributes no calories, does not stimulate insulin and does not promote tooth decay. Sucralose has been in use in the food industry for more than 25 years and has a long and impressive safety record, even when consumed in amounts ten times greater than that contained in AgelessXtra.
Now, what about health and safety issues raised on the internet by Dr. Joseph Mercola and the Sucralose Toxicity Information Center (STIC)?
First, it is important to understand that the Sucralose Toxicity Information Center, as impressive as the name sounds, is not a research institute or a recognized scientific organization. No author is listed for their “information.” Interestingly, STIC references Dr. Mercola and Dr. Mercola references STIC, but neither provide any reliable scientific evidence for their assertions. Dr. Mercola provides anecdotes from people who believe they have had adverse reactions to sucralose, but this is scientifically irresponsible. None of these people actually consumed sucralose under controlled conditions. They merely consumed foods containing sucralose and assumed that the adverse reaction was caused by that one ingredient. Importantly, neither web site differentiates between pure sucralose and the popular commercially-available sweetener trade named Splenda.™ They assume that Splenda and sucralose are interchangeable, when in fact, Splenda contains more maltodextrin (a bulking agent derived from corn starch) than sucralose.
The issues raised by Mercola and STIC are pure speculation. In some cases, it goes beyond speculation to absurdity. Consider the Sucralose Toxicity Information Center likening sucralose to a chlorinated pesticide because they both contain chlorine. In reality, chlorine is a naturally-occurring element found in many foods including lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, melons and peanut butter. Parrot web sites (that reference Mercola or STIC) state with horror that sucralose is chlorinated sucrose, without even realizing that table salt is chlorinated sodium.
Mercola also goes on about a study that showed thymus involution in mice, but does not provide the citation and carefully avoids disclosing the dose used. When I found the study, I learned not only that the mice were administered an astronomical dose (3% of the diet, or more than 40,000 mg for a human) but also that Mercola was very selective [one might say misleading] in his reporting. The authors of the study actually report that:
“Subsequent studies specifically designed to investigate the potential for adverse immune system effects of sucralose showed no adverse effects.”
REF: J. W. Killea, W. C. L. Fordb, P. McAnultyc, J. M. Teshc, F. W. Rossc and C. R.
Willoughby CR. Sucralose: lack of effects on sperm glycolysis and reproduction in the rat. Food and Chemical Toxicology, Volume 38, Supplement 2, July 2000, Pages 19-29.
STIC also claims that the studies conducted over the course of 25 years of research are “inadequate.” Says who? The FDA and USDA have both reviewed on multiple occasions the entirety of available data and conclude in the Federal Register that “Regarding use as a general purpose sweetener, the agency reevaluated the currently established acceptable daily intake (ADI) for sucralose, 5 mg per kg per day and determined that this ADI is still appropriate. REF: Federal Register Vol 64 No 155, 1999
Excellent studies with human volunteers have been conducted with increasing daily doses of sucralose up to 10 mg/kg. That would translate to 640 mg per day for a 140 pound adult, or 320 mg sucralose for a 70 pound child. These studies evaluated comprehensive blood chemistry, urinalysis and EKG tests, as well as careful ophthalmological examination, and found “no adverse experiences or clinically detectable effects in either study.” The authors conclude: “Based on these studies and the extensive animal safety database, there is no indication that adverse effects on human health would occur from frequent or long-term use of sucralose at the maximum anticipated levels of intake.” REF: Baird IM, Shepherd NW, Merritt RJ, Hildick-Smith G. Repeated dose study of sucralose in human subjects. Food Chem Toxicol 2000; 38:Suppl 2:S123-9.
With the safety of a 640 mg daily dose clearly established, the inclusion of 27 mg of sucralose in a serving of AgelessXtra becomes a non-issue.
Mercola and STIC also wring their hands about possible by-products of sucralose metabolism, but ignore the fact that hardly any ingested sucralose is even absorbed by the human gut. The alteration of the sucrose molecule renders the compound nearly inert, and numerous animal and human studies document that it passes rapidly through the body virtually unchanged. What’s more, it does not affect or disrupt normal intestinal flora, and does not contribute in any way to the growth of yeast or intestinal pathogens.
Studies also show that there is no active transport of sucralose across the blood-brain barrier, across the placental barrier, or from the mammary gland into breast milk. Because of this, the FDA has approved the use of sucralose for everyone without conditions, limitations or warnings.
Regarding possible by-products, the FDA reports:
“The agency established a no effect level (NOEL) for the hydrolysis products of sucralose at 30 mg/kg.” This is 6000% higher than the amount provided in AgelessXtra
REF: Federal Register Vol 64 No 155, 1999
Sucralose and glycation
It would be hard to imagine how Joseph Mercola supports his statement that sucralose is a glycating agent when only 2% of the substance is absorbed and studies with diabetic subjects found no effect on carbohydrate metabolism even after intakes of as much as 1,000 mg of sucralose.
REF: Mezitis NH, Maggio CA, Koch P, Quddoos A, Allison DB, Pi-Sunyer FX. Glycemic effect of a high oral dose of the novel sweetener sucralose in patients with diabetes.
Diabetes Care 1996 Sep;19(9):1004-5
OBJECTIVE: To examine the effect of a high oral dose of the novel noncaloric sweetener sucralose on short-term glucose homeostasis in patients with IDDM or NIDDM. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: A total of 13 IDDM and 13 NIDDM patients with glycosylated hemoglobin levels < 10% completed this double-blind cross-over study. After an overnight fast, patients were administered opaque capsules containing either 1,000 mg sucralose or cellulose placebo, followed by a standardized 360-kcal liquid breakfast. Plasma glucose and serum C-peptide levels were measured over the next 4 h. RESULTS: Regardless of the type of diabetes, areas under the curves for changes of plasma glucose and serum C-peptide levels after sucralose
administration were not significantly different from those after placebo. CONCLUSIONS: The present results support the conclusion that sucralose consumption does not adversely affect blood glucose control in patients with diabetes.
Amazingly, the STIC report includes a list of “Healthy” sweeteners which includes honey, barley malt, Sucanat™, rice syrup, fruit concentrates and evaporated cane juice. What’s common to all of these so-called healthy sweeteners? They can all raise glucose and insulin levels and are all glycating agents. Evaporated cane juice is another name for ... table sugar. Sucanat is a trade name for “raw” sugar, which is metabolized exactly like table sugar.
It gets Worse:
As additional web sites picked up the misinformation from Mercola and STIC, error was magnified to ridiculous proportions. A web site article by By Dr. Ted Showalter states, “There are only 19 studies that have been performed [on sucralose].”
FACT: At last count, there were more than 100.
Dr. Showalter: “Many of the studies on sucralose so far have been reported by the FDA to have "inconclusive" results.”
FACT: After two lengthy reviews, the FDA approved sucralose with no limitations or warnings. No FDA document has ever referred to sucralose safety research as “inconclusive.”
And now, the worst error, demonstrating how damaging webaloney can be. This statement was made by Dr. Mercola and repeated by Dr. Showalter: Drs. Mercola and Showalter: “One claim of sucralose is that it won't affect your sugar levels. One small study using diabetic patients showed a statistically significant increase in glycosylated hemoglobin (HgbA1C), which is a marker of your average blood sugars over a 3-4 month period and is used to assess sugar regulation in diabetic patients according to the FDA.”
FACT: Many studies have been performed with diabetics given short term and long term
administration of sucralose at doses from a whopping 500 mg per day to an astronomical 1,000 mg dose. NONE of these studies found any deleterious effect on blood sugar, insulin or glycosylated hemoglobin. In FACT, sucralose REDUCED glycosylated hemoglobin in studies where this value was measured. Moreover, sucralose contributed to additional benefits for diabetics, including increased HDL (good) cholesterol and decreased weight and body mass index.
1. Mezitis NH, Maggio CA, Koch P, Quddoos A, Allison DB, Pi-Sunyer FX. Glycemic effect of a single high oral dose of the novel sweetener sucralose in patients with diabetes. Diabetes Care. 1996 Sep;19(9):1004-5.
2. Reyna NY, Cano C, Bermudez VJ, Medina MT, Souki AJ, Ambard M, Nunez M, Ferrer MA,
Inglett GE.Sweeteners and beta-glucans improve metabolic and anthropometrics variables in well controlled type 2 diabetic patients. Am J Ther. 2003 Nov-Dec;10(6):438-43.
3. Grotz VL, Henry RR, McGill JB, Prince MJ, Shamoon H, Trout JR, Pi-Sunyer FX.
Lack of effect of sucralose on glucose homeostasis in subjects with type 2 diabetes. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 Dec;103(12):1607-12. Sucralose Part II Q and A
1. Why didn’t you use a natural sweetener like stevia?
Answer: The amount of stevia required to mask the bitter taste of Ageless ingredients would be unacceptable on every count, including taste, after-taste and stability. In terms of product satisfaction, stevia was rated rather poorly in both taste and after-taste perception. These ratings improved dramatically when we added a fraction of a gram of sucralose
2. Why not fructose?
Answer: While fructose is classified as a “natural” sweetener, I would argue that the enormous amount of fructose contained in many “health” products would be impossible to get from nature. Importantly, fructose accelerates aging in well-defined ways.
A. Current data suggests that while it may not raise serum glucose as rapidly as sucrose, it promotes glycation (cross-linking) at nearly seven times the rate of glucose.
REF: Dills WL. Protein fructosylation: Fructose and the Maillard reaction. Am J Clin Nutr 1993; 58(suppl):779S-787S.
B. Controlled studies have documented that fructose contributes to an increase in serum cholesterol and LDL in people with normal blood sugar, and even more so in those with poor glucose tolerance.
REFS: Hollenbeck CB. Dietary fructose effects on lipoprotein metabolism and risk for coronary artery disease. Am J Clin Nutr 1993; 58(suppl):800S-807S.
Hallfrisch J, et al. The effects of fructose on blood lipid levels. Am J Clin Nutr 1983; 37(3):740-748.
C. Compared to sucrose, administration of fructose disrupted mineral metabolism and led to depletion of iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc.
REF: Ivaturi R, Kies C. Mineral balances in humans as affected by fructose, high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 1992; 42(2): 143-151.
3. Why not fruit juice concentrates?
Answer: These are far from “natural.” Unlike the whole grape juice and Lo han Guo used in AgelessXtra, fruit juice concentrates commonly used in “health” foods are highly refined, simple sugars from white grapes or pears (fruits with the highest concentration of glucose and sucrose). The effect of these sweeteners on the body is almost identical to table sugar.
Criticism of sucralose in favor of “natural” sweeteners ignores the most important aspect of carbohydrates and health, which is the rate at which an ingested food will raise blood sugar and insulin levels. We now know that this Glycemic Index contributes directly to a food’s promotion of obesity, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Table sugar has a glycemic index of 100. Excellent scientific studies show that sucralose essentially has a glycemic index of zero, giving AgelessXtra a tremendous advantage as a truly healthful tonic.
4. What about sucralose causing the thymus to shrink?
Answer: In scores of toxicology studies, sucralose was tested at doses ranging from 5 mg/kg body weight all the way to an astronomic 16,000 mg/kg. In one mouse study, adverse effects on the thymus were observed, but the administered dose was 3% of the diet by weight, which is roughly the human adult equivalent of 41,000 mg per day. When follow-up studies were conducted at 0.5% and 1% of diet (the equivalent of 7,000 to 14,000 mg for a human) no such effects were found. In the absence of a dose response, the only reasonable conclusion is that the observed effect on the thymus at 3% of the diet was not caused by sucralose, but was more likely the result of the stress on the animals from consuming such a massive amount of sweetener.
REF: Gary A. Miller. Sucralose. In: LO Nabors and RC Gelardi. Alternative Sweeteners, second ed. Mercel Dekker, NY. 2000.
5. But the Mercola and STIC web sites refer to an article (New Scientist, Nov 23, 1991, p 13.) in which a researcher questions the safety of sucralose because of this issue.
Answer: That article appeared 13 years ago. The issue was raised by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a legitimate science and nutrition think tank. As soon as studies were conducted showing no deleterious effect at at 0.5% and 1% of diet (the equivalent of 7,000 to 14,000 mg for a human), CSPI withdrew their objection. CSPI’s position – since 2000 – is that sucralose is safe; yet apparently neither Dr. Mercola nor STIC bothered to obtain that information. FOUR YEARS after the issue was resolved, these “authorities” continue to use the New Scientist article to support their sky-is-falling diatribe. This is beyond carelessness.
6. Still, isn’t it true that many chemicals are much more toxic in humans than in rodents?
For example, I read that the breakdown products of aspartame are 5 to 50 times more toxic for humans.
Answer: This claim is made on a number of web sites in an effort to discredit sucralose safety research, but it is entirely wrong. I am no fan of aspartame. I do not consume it myself and would never use it in an Oasis product. But I also want to actively oppose scientific fraud, especially when it is forwarded and reinforced via e-mail. I have reviewed reams of toxicology reports on aspartame conducted with rodents and humans for nearly two decades. The breakdown products of aspartame, including methanol, formaldehyde and formic acid are all a great deal more toxic to rodents than humans. The conversion of methyl ester to methanol, for example is pH dependent, taking place more readily at higher pH levels. Since the pH of the human GI tract is much lower than rodents, mice and rats will tend to create more methanol from a given dose of aspartame. Then there’s the metabolic fate of that methanol. We humans have a variety of microorganisms in our GI tracts which use methanol as a carbon source. Thus methanol in human systems appears to be metabolized (via the one-carbon biochemical cycle) to other organic acids.
Again, I am not saying that aspartame is good for you. But the information that you are basing your objections upon is flat out wrong. It is also comparing apples and oranges, as the demonstrated safety of sucralose is due precisely to the fact that it does not have significant breakdown products.
7. I have also read that sucralose might accumulate in the body.
Answer: Another red herring. Metabolism studies with the dog, rat, mouse, rabbit and man all demonstrate that only about 2% of an oral dose is absorbed. This small amount of sucralose is metabolized into toxicologically insignificant compounds that are rapidly excreted in the urine. In animal studies with radiolabeled sucralose, recovery of sucralose and its metabolites from urine and feces has consistently been greater than 99.9%.
REF: Food and Chemical Toxicology. Sucralose Safety Assessment. 2000; 38(suppl2):S1-S129.
8. Does sucralose stress the liver or kidneys in any way?
ANSWER: No. Unlike fructose, which in large amounts may tax liver function, studies show that sucralose does not stress the liver or kidneys. It does not alter glucose metabolism in any way. It does not hydrolyze or dechlorinate in foods or following digestion. Toxicology studies evaluating high dose sucralose from conception throughout normal life span show absolutely no adverse effects on blood chemistry, organ function, fertility, reproduction or brain function. An independent panel of 16 internationally recognized scientific experts was asked to review the entire sucralose toxicological data base. The panel included leaders in the fields of biochemistry, physiology, clinical, genetic and reproductive toxicology, hematology, pediatrics, risk assessment, neurology and immunology. This panel concluded that sucralose is remarkably safe.
REF: Food Additive Petition 7A3987, 1987, pp.A-000755- A-000783. Office of the Federal
9. I’ve heard that the Japanese Health Ministry won’t approve sucralose.
Answer: the Japanese Joint Subcommittee on Toxicity and Food Additives has conducted a careful research review and concluded that sucralose is safe. Like the US Food and Drug administration, they will require no warnings or limitations on the use of sucralose.
10. Well, isn’t sucralose banned in Europe?
Answer: No. Sucralose has NEVER been banned by any nation. In fact, it’s been approved and used in a number of EU countries since 1994. Recently however, the EU commission approved sucralose for all 25 member nations. This clears the way for sucralose to be used by manufacturers throughout the European Union. In the US, sucralose is used in more than 3,500 food and beverage products, and this will now effectively double. Importantly, the Japanese and European research organizations are not mere rubber stamps for the FDA. Each independently evaluated the existing scientific studies, and performed additional studies to evaluate sucralose and all of its metabolites in human clinical trials.
I am convinced that sucralose is safe and provides a remarkable advantage in the AgelessXtra formulation. At the same time, I am always looking to improve Oasis products and am currently investigating a natural compound that blocks bitter taste receptors on the tongue. Such an ingredient would obviate the need for most of the sweeteners in AgelessXtra, and sucralose could be reduced or eliminated.
In the meantime, there is a simple solution for individuals who will not ingest an artificial ingredient, no matter how safe and beneficial it may be. They can obtain most of the benefits from Ageless capsules which have been shown to significantly improve executive cognitive skills in a double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical trial. This includes reaction time, decision-making and information processing speed. People using Ageless capsules also report improved stress management, improved mobility and range of motion, as well as greater and more consistent energy.