by Jen Jenkins, Market Analyst
Sugar is a familiar substance to all of us, but the history of its unnatural counterpart may be less so. The first artificial sweetener, saccharin, was discovered by accident in 1879; due to sugar rationing during WWI and WWII the artificial sweetener found fame. It wasn’t until 1965 that Aspartame, the second major artificial sweetener, was developed.
Controversy began when Canada banned saccharin in 1977 because of studies indicating it caused cancer in rats. The FDA considered banning the sweetener as well but due to large demand a moratorium was placed on the ban and then extended seven different times. In 1991 Congress withdrew the ban completely. The bottom line in that decision: numerous studies have been done on these artificial sweeteners since questions were first raised in 1977 and none have been able to prove a correlation between human consumption and cancer. Thus, artificial sweeteners remain prevalent in the diet of many Americans today.
For a long time, since sugar was deemed “bad,” diet enthusiasts touted artificial sweeteners to be the holy grail of dieting without giving up a sweet tooth. However, as is the tendency with many fads, the tables turned and a new battle has been waged. Which is worse: Sugar or its artificial equivalent? Opinions are vast and varied. This article by a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine argues that despite having been attacked for decades as “harmful chemicals” there is no scientific link showing humans are harmed by consuming artificial sweeteners, whereas there has been significant scientific evidence that sugar is harmful to humans and their health.
No matter where you stand in the debate it is interesting to scroll through the comments section of these articles to view the different stances people are taking (many of them volatile). Due to an overwhelming response to the article mentioned above, the author responded to some questions here. Whether you are team sugar or team artificial sweetener the key word seems to be moderation, or not at all, so what’s with all the hostility?