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Sweet deceit.

Splenda's enemies would have us believe that the artificial sweetener sucralose should be avoided like the plague. Its defenders maintain that when used as directed, it can be helpful for diabetics, as well as for people looking to reduce their caloric intake. So, who is who in this battle? On one side we have the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada, and the regulatory agencies of some 80 countries around the world. These are staffed by a selection of PhDs and MDs, trained in chemistry, biology, toxicology, physiology, and epidemiology. On the other side we have a melange of ... well, let us just say, eclectic personalities. Here are some of the names that dominate the anti-sucralose crusade--Dr. Janet Start Hull, Dr. Betty Martini, Dr. James Bowen, and Dr. Joseph Mercola. Let's meet them.

Dr. Janet Start Hull received her Doctorate in Nutrition from a nonaccredited correspondence school that offers courses in detoxification and healing, iridology, homeopathy, and human energy fields. Conveniently, the college even sells healing products on-line. Students, or indeed anyone else, can purchase a variety of homeopathics and herbal supplements, and they can even load up on supplements for their companion animals. I note that the college does offer a course on basic chemistry, but I suspect Hull didn't check her mailbox the day that package arrived. Otherwise, how could she possibly make statements such as "Splenda is 1/4 sugar, 3/4 chemical" and that "chlorine found in nature is different from chlorine that has been manmade and adulterated." Hull also explains that in order for volatile chlorine to be "locked in," manufacturers of sucralose rely on acetone, benzene, formaldehyde, and methanol--all of which are "used" in gasoline and petroleum. What a cacophony of nonsense!

Hull, in her chemically confused way, implies that sucralose is toxic because it contains the "deadly chemical" chlorine. Yes, sueralose does contain chlorine. In fact each molecule has three chlorine atoms. But these are bonded to the framework of a sugar molecule and have nothing whatsoever to do with chlorine gas. So Hull is plainly wrong when she says that to understand the ill-health caused by sucralose you "must look for chlorine poisoning symptoms." No chlorine gas is released from sucralose. About 85 percent of a dose is completely unabsorbed by the body. While the rest is broken down to simpler compounds, there is no dechlorination--no chlorine is retained in the body in any way.

It is also the chlorine issue that is addressed with religious zeal by Dr. Betty Martini, whose mission is to rid the world of nasty substances such as artificial sweeteners. It seems she knows more chemistry than the manufacturer of sucralose, as she makes clear in a letter to the company: "If you don't understand the dangers of chlorine, then you need to step down as a manufacturer or start calling your product DDT-Lite. Do you think the consumer public is so stupid they don't understand that sucralose is a chlorocarbon poison?" Martini is filled with the milk of human kindness, even offering to send her documentation of adverse effects to the company executives and researchers in Braille, since they must obviously be blind--unable to read the evidence about the adverse effects of chlorinated substances like DDT. Yes, DDT is a chlorinated compound, but this has nothing whatsoever to do with sucralose. Toxicity is determined by the exact three-dimensional structure of a molecule, not by its constituent atoms. But how can Martini be expected to know that? Her degree is an honorary Doctor of Humanities from some obscure religious organization.

Martini, however, does recognize her scientific limitations and constantly refers to the work of others. Repeatedly, she brings up Dr. James Bowen, "a noted physician, researcher, and biochemist." There is no record of this researcher having published anything in the scientific litreature, but he has "researched sweeteners for 20 years after discovering that he developed Lou Gehrig's disease after being poisoned with aspartame." He regards chlorine as "nature's Doberman attack dog, a ferocious atomic element employed as a biocide, as a World War I poison gas, and a reagent to make hydrochloric acid." None of this has anything to do with sucralose, of course. But as it turns out, Bowen exudes more than chemical ignorance. He has another agenda. It seems that substances like aspartame and sucralose are being unleashed on the American public to affect "mind control." Who is behind this? According to Bowen, Zionists. "They see it as their patriotic duty to Zionism and Israel to see to it that we succumb to aspartame! Masons and Satanists have likewise done everything they could to destroy me and my ministry." Bowen goes on to say that "aspartame's marketing by Rumsfeld (once president of the company that sold the sweetener) was an organized crime, protected by Zionists, Mossad, B'nai B'rith, Masonry, and all other satanic organizations." He also maintains that the sinking of the Titanic was a plot to kill influential Christians and that the twin towers were brought down by explosives in a clever plot engineered by Satanists like President Bush, This is the man of whom Martini thinks so highly.

Bowen is also referenced as an authority on toxicity by osteopath Dr. Joseph Mercola, who maintains a popular health Web site and sells a variety of supplements. In all fairness, I doubt that Mercola is aware of Bowen's personal toxicity. Mercola bases his anti-sucralose arguments on undocumented anecdotal accounts, the tired argument that sucralose, like PCBs, contains chlorine, and that the studies used to prove the sweetener's safety were inadequate. The message is that all chlorinated compounds are bad. I wonder if he's ever heard of vancomycin, a chlorinated antibiotic? But then again, osteopathy is not the most appropriate preparation for an analysis of complex scientific studies--or, it seems, of nutritional concepts. Recently, Mercola has received two letters from the FDA warning him to stop making illegal claims about his supplements' ability to cure or mitigate disease.

Having said all of this, I'll admit that I am no great fan of artificial sweeteners--mainly because they take the focus away from promoting an overall healthy lifestyle. They are not the answer to our obesity problem. In rare cases, they can, like any substance, cause adverse health effects. But when it comes to evaluating their overall risk/ benefit ratio, I'd rather consult peer-reviewed scientific litreature than the confused ramblings of doctors Hull, Martini, Bowen, and Mercola.

Popular science writer, Joe Schwarcz, MCIC, is the director of McGill University's Office for Science and Society. He hosts the Dr. Joe Show on Montreal's radio station CLAD. The broadcast is available on the Web at You can contact him at

Joe Schwarcz, MCIC
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Title Annotation:CHEMFUSION; adverse effects of sucralose
Author:Schawrcz, Joe
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 1, 2007
Previous Article:Patent quest.
Next Article:Chemists' understanding of the public.

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