Researchers with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and two other universities have launched a campaign targeting added sugar consumption. Led by UCSF Health Policy Professor Laura Schmidt, the Sugar- Science Initiative bills itself as “the authoritative source for the science about added sugar and its impact on our health.” The resulting Website features public health messages gleaned from 8,000 scientific papers that the group reportedly vetted for accuracy and conflicts of interest. Among other things, the initiative focuses on the alleged toxicity of fructose and high-fructose corn syrup, arguing that added sugar consumption contributes to liver and cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.
As contributor Robert Lustig explained, “It used to be a condiment, now it’s a diet staple. As pediatricians, we had evidence of the connection between sugar and diabetes, heart disease and liver disease for years, but we haven’t had this level of definitive scientific evidence to back up our concerns.”
“There’s a lot of confusion and misperception and conflicting information out there around sugar and health,” Schmidt was quoted as saying. “We wanted to develop an authoritative, go-to place where people can get truthful information, and we wanted to package it in a way that’s accessible to the average person.” See SFGate.com, November 10, 2014.
Meanwhile, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has released a report on non-caloric sweeteners that questions the safety of aspartame. According to a November 12, 2014, press release, Sweet Nothings examines the science surrounding sugar substitutes, including newer formulations such as brazzein, monatin, monk fruit extract, stevia leaf extract, and thaumatin. Noting that recent studies have called into question the impact of artificial sweeteners on weight loss, the report still finds that “people are more likely to gain weight drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.”
“Aspartame tops our list of sugar substitutes to avoid, because it caused cancer in three independent studies using laboratory rats and mice,” state the report authors. “Based on those studies, FDA should ban aspartame. We also recommend avoiding saccharin because of evidence from human and animal studies, albeit inconsistent, that it may increase the risk of cancer.”