Are artificial sweeteners safe?

Are artificial sweeteners carcinogenic?

We can’t say for sure. After all, today’s solution might be tomorrow’s problem.

Exhibit A – “Leaded petrol” – Internal combustion cars took over their electric counterparts in early 20th century. The major fuel source was gasoline which burnt well in the engine, actually too well which led to engine knocking. Cars would break down on the road due to knocking, let alone the discomfort caused on a knocking car. One fine day, Mr. Thomas Midgley discovered that he could add lead to petrol and make the engines perform smoothly. And thus Ethyl Petrol was born in 1923. More than half a century later people realized that leaded petrol was, ahem, not so good for us. The pollution concerns outweighed the engine performance improvements.

Exhibit B – “CFC” – Once again, our beloved scientist went on to solve the world’s crisis for a new product called the refrigerator. The refrigerators used ammonia, chloromethane and sulfur-dioxide, all of which were toxic but commonly used refrigerants. In defense of Dr. M, he was trying to solve the problem by providing a compound with low boiling point, low toxicity, and non-reactive. He came up with CFC, or chloro-fl…well every kid knows what it stands for and why it was later banned.

Inventions going the wrong way is nothing new. But, what keeps a check on them is a system called ‘peer review’. It is slightly different from the kind of peer review we indulge in with our friends while narrowing down on a restaurant. Instead, think of a review of restaurants by the top chefs, health inspectors, food connoisseurs (read kids) and self proclaimed foodies (yes! HOMP qualifies). It is this kind of peer review, but slightly sophisticated and with many doctors (both kinds) on board, which gave weight to the fact that lead is harmful and CFC are melting the poles.

Coming back to the question – based on a preliminary unqualified analysis of Google search result’s first page, sweeteners have not yet been ‘peer reviewed’ to the full extent to conclude whether they are good or not. But like all unproven myths, various websites recommend to avoid artificially synthesized products.


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