An observational study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital which found an association in men between non-nutritive (artificial) sweeteners in soft drinks and some types of “blood cancer” (lymphoma and leukemia) caused a brief uproar in the press this week. But, it seems the hospital’s public relations department may have “over sweetened the story”, and a subsequent press release explained that the association between diet soft drinks and cancer was “weak” (no association was seen in women).
The PR department had promoted the story with a headline “The Truth Isn’t Sweet When it Comes to Artificial Sweeteners”. The article, appearing in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is entitled “Consumption of Artificial Sweetener and Sugar Containing Soda and the Risk of Lymphoma and Leukemia in Men and Women.”
Artificial sweeteners such as saccharine, aspartame, and sucralose pose a concern for people with diabetes. On one hand a sweetener without carbohydrate is a wonderful addition to our diet options. On the other hand, rumors and conspiracy theories about the safety of these products have circulated for decades- sodium cyclamate was banned in the US in 1969 although it is still commonly used in Europe and other countries. Many people with diabetes avoid sweeteners or consume them with anxiety.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics monitors the research on non-nutritive sweeteners closely, and has the following position:
- “It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive sweeteners and nonnutritive sweeteners (NNS) when consumed within an eating plan that is guided by current federal nutrition recommendations, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Dietary Reference Intakes, as well as individual health goals and personal preference.”
Unless you’re chugging a half dozen diet soft drinks a day my position is that the benefits of non-nutritive sweeteners for people with diabetes outweighs the potential concerns. Diabetes is the problem that merits our concern and focus