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Sugar, A Bitter Sweet

October 20, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 42

What a great scaremongering article “The Case against Sugar” is (C&EN, Aug. 4, page 11). Let’s be a touch more logical.

So sugar has been bad for generations of people. Nevertheless, removing calories by replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners in soft drinks seems not to have made a difference. Doesn’t that point at the fattening effect coming from another soft-drink ingredient, such as phosphoric acid?

Just do two Google searches—“phosphate water holding capacity meat” and “phosphate hog fattening”—for a hint at the effective mechanism. First, the tissues swell a little with every phosphate-containing soft drink consumed, then the body fills the new interstitial spaces with fat cells. An obvious study would be a long-term comparison of weight gain after consuming soft drinks with only phosphate (colas) or only citrate (such as Sprite).

The closest I have found is a study of bone density that probably explains why hog fattening benefits from feeding calcium phosphate.

Wolfgang H. H. Gunther
West Chester, Pa.

People love sugar. We know that eating too much is bad for us. I don’t know if the word toxic is really appropriate, but we try to find every excuse possible to have our Cokes, cookies, cakes, and ice cream.

The introduction of nonnutritive sweeteners such as saccharin and aspartame was supposed to save us from ourselves by reducing the caloric intake of our treats, but some statistics have proven otherwise. While animal research is trying to rationalize a biochemical reason for this, I would argue that humans are just illogical creatures when it comes to our diets. I have seen many people buy a package of doughnuts and a Diet Coke to wash it down, with the logic being that the absence of calories in the drink negates the calories from the doughnuts.

As an avid runner, I have also seen many finishers at races grabbing handfuls of cookies at the food tables because they believe the calories they burned during the race balance out the cookie calories. Maybe there is some element of innate biochemical trickery going on with diet products, but it’s not making intelligent food choices that’s our worst enemy.

Jim Michels
Naperville, Ill.

As president of the Calorie Control Council, I read with interest “The Case against Sugar.” The council is a global association representing manufacturers and end users of low-calorie sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose, and low- and reduced-calorie products, including those made with fructose.

This article presents the viewpoints of two individuals, Susan Swithers and Robert Lustig, who are known for their extreme opinions. The article does benefit from the balance provided by the interview of Fergus M. Clydesdale. However, it would have been more accurate if the article had presented the extensive research that does not support the views of Swithers and Lustig.

Swithers selectively presents evidence for just one side of the safety issue and ignores decades of research that affirms the safety of low-calorie sweeteners and demonstrates their benefit as tools for weight and diabetes management. Recently, a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials by Paige Miller and Vanessa Perez concluded that use of low-calorie sweeteners can modestly reduce body weight, body mass index, fat mass, and waist circumference. Leading health organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Heart Association, support the use of low-calorie sweeteners.

The consumption of fructose, as was noted in the C&EN article, has decreased, while obesity and diabetes rates have increased or plateaued, undermining Lustig’s postulations. Additionally, much of the published literature on fructose has demonstrated that it is not associated with adverse health outcomes such as obesity and diabetes. Allegations that fructose causes increased fat production or increased appetite and weight gain are based on poorly crafted experiments that often test extremely high levels of fructose, much higher than the levels found in a typical human diet.

Given the obesity epidemic, it is important that consumers have available a wide variety of reduced-calorie products as tools to assist them in addressing their health goals. We request that the online article be revised to include the missing data on fructose and low-calorie sweeteners, and we hope that you will use the information we have provided in your next report on this topic.

Please feel free to visit our website at for more information on low-calorie sweeteners.

Haley Curtis Stevens
President, Calorie Control Council



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