by Stephen K. Ritter, Chemical & Engineering News
Sugar is toxic. The fat and sodium we’ve spent so much time fretting over may in fact be the lesser of the evils in our diet. New evidence suggests that sugar—and possibly artificial sweeteners—might be the ultimate cause of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and liver disease.
Natural sugars in our diet aren’t the ones on trial here. It’s added sugars that are under greater scrutiny than ever before. Former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s 2012 effort to curb the sale of supersized soft drinks put a spotlight on the added sugars in soda. But added sugars are prevalent in many foods and beverages: coffee and sports drinks, juices, grain-based desserts, candy, and ready-to-eat cereals.
Naturally, the food and beverage industries—and the sweetener purveyors who supply them—officially disagree with sugar’s bad rap. That position hasn’t changed in 40 years. But they are increasingly looking for ways to reduce added sugars in their products by combining natural and artificial sweeteners, adding flavor enhancers to improve the taste of low- or zero-calorie sweeteners, and even searching for new kinds of sweeteners. They hope to avoid regulation as public health officials and government agencies consider ways to curb how much sugar we consume.