Sunday, July 01, 2007

Cancer link for sweetener?

RESEARCHERS have strengthened a link between aspartame - a common sweetener in soft drinks, medicines and sugar-free sweets - and cancer in rats. The chemical is sold under the brand name NutraSweet. The study, conducted by a team of Italian scientists, demonstrates that aspartame is particularly potent when animals are exposed in the womb. The research was recently published online in Environmental Health Perspectives, a US government sponsored, peer-reviewed journal.

This study raises "serious questions about the safety of the artificial sweetener aspartame", said Mike Jacobson, executive director for the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, a public health watchdog group based in Washington, DC. He hoped the Food and Drug Administration would re-evaluate the chemical.

But industry group, Calorie Control Council, disagrees. Beth Hubrich, a registered dietitian for the council, said the study's methodology was faulty and its results would unnecessarily alarm people. "It is difficult to understand why the National Institute of Environmental Health Safety would publish such studies in Environmental Health Perspectives when the design and execution did not follow guidelines set up by the National Toxicology Program," Dr Hubrich wrote.

The study, from the European Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences - an independent, non-profit foundation based in Bologna, Italy - indicated that cancers were more common in rats exposed to the sweetener than in animals that were not exposed. "On the basis of our scientific data, we believe that aspartame should be avoided as much as possible, especially by pregnant women and children," Morando Soffritti, the lead researcher on the study, wrote in an email.

The acceptable daily intake of aspartame is 40ml per kilogram of body weight in Australia and the European Union. That's a lot of aspartame. For a 68kg adult, that's about 18 cans of diet soft drink each day. For a 23kg child, it's closer to six cans a day. But aspartame isn't just in soft drink. It is also in yoghurts, sugar-free desserts, gums and medicines. It is therefore likely that daily aspartame consumption is often underestimated, according to Dr Soffritti.

In the subject rats, the Italian scientists discovered a statistically significant dose-related increase of malignant tumours in rats fed the artificial sweetener. The high-dose group showed statistically significant increases in tumours - as much as 15 percentage points higher in males - while the low-dose group showed minor increases in lymphomas and leukemias in both sexes, and breast cancers in females. The results, Dr Soffritti said, "call for urgent reconsideration of regulations governing the use of aspartame as an artificial sweetener". "This is not just an opinion," he said, "but in the US, it is also the law."

Others, however, maintain there is no risk. James Swenberg, professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the University of North Carolina, said the study did not follow the National Toxicology Program's methodology, and the results were therefore suspect. [And anything backed by the extremist "Centre for Science in the Public Interest" is suspect too]


New York City Fast Food Outlets Protest New Calorie-Posting Rules: Eateries Refuse to Cooperate, Calling Plan an "Eyesore"

Burger King, McDonald's and Wendy's are among the chains planning to defy New York City's new rule that they begin posting calories on menus Sunday, the AP reports. Other big fast food eateries like Taco Bell and KFC aren't saying whether they will comply, but with just days to go until the deadline, the menu boards in their Big Apple restaurants remain unchanged.

All are hoping a New York Restaurant Association lawsuit in federal court will get the new regulation thrown out. Meanwhile, the city won't fine anyone for violating it until October. "We are not trying to avoid providing this information to customers," Wendy's spokesman Denny Lynch told the AP. He noted that the company has made nutritional information available for 30 years on fliers and posters.

However, New York is the first city in the country to require certain fast food restaurants to list calorie counts next to menu items in type that is at least as large as the price. Lynch says adding all those numbers will make menus impossible to read.

"You'll either have to have a Times Square-sized menu board, or it could look like a bad day at the eye doctor's office," said Jack Whipple, president of the National Council of Chain Restaurants. Fast food chains also say they have been unfairly singled because the new rule only applies to restaurants that serve standardized portions and offer nutritional information voluntarily.

Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy group, had a different take: "They are afraid that when people see these eye-popping calorie numbers, they might switch to a smaller size," he said. "They feel it is gong to hurt sales."



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.


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