Mixed views on Schweppes sweeteners

Mixed views on Schweppes sweeteners
Published: 18 June 2018 (295 Views)
SCHWEPPES Zimbabwe Limited has added three artificial sweeteners to the Mazoe concentrated drinks which are feared to cause cancer and brain cell damage among other diseases, if consumed in large quantities.

The sweeteners are aspartame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K or acesulfame K) and sodium cyclamate which according to health practitioners, have the same kind of health consequences as sugar which causes diabetes, obesity and tooth decay.

Some consumers have said the additives have introduced an aftertaste in the product.

Although the Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr David Parirenyatwa said there is nothing wrong about one of the additives, dieticians, health practitioners and online articles suggest they are all dangerous.

Schweppes Zimbabwe Limited recently posted on its website that it had taken a global decision to reduce sugar intake being consumed.

The company said the sweeteners were added as sugar reducing mechanisms which were harmless to health as they had less sugar and contained low calories/non-nutritive sweeteners.

"The sweeteners we use are some of the most thoroughly researched ingredients in the world, with scientific studies consistently confirming their use and safety. They have been confirmed as safe by globally recognised authorities and local regulatory bodies," said the company.

However, a laboratory technician at one of the country's public hospitals, who declined to be named for professional reasons, said: "Artificial sweeteners mess up the body's ability to count calories while boosting the inclination to over consume."

Information posted on April 14 this year on the website for Mayo Clinic, a US institution suggests that aspartame, acesulfame and sodium cyclamates increase urinary frequency and urgency.

Moreover, a 2004 study in Immune Therapy collection showed that heavy artificial sweetener use (1680mg per day) leads to an increased relative risk of 1.3 bladder cancer in humans.

According to a 2004 journal article by Weihrauch M R and Diehl V on Annals of Oncology, heavy artificial sweetener use increases bladder cancer in humans. A 2008 article by Humphries, P, Pretorius E and Naudé H, aspartame causes cancer, seizures, migraines, weight gain, depression, dizziness and brain tumours.

"Acesulfame K contains methylene chloride and is suspected to cause depression, tumours, leukaemia including respiratory diseases. Sodium cyclamate which is 30 times sweeter causes kidney failure," reads an online article.

Dr Parirenyatwa said a number of regulatory agencies and health related organisations had approved the usage of aspartame.  He said aspartame was added to medicines, diet foods and diet sodas. He said it was an intense artificial sweetener with a sweet test approximately 200 times than that of sucrose and used as additive in more than 6 000 products.

"Aspartame has gained approval from the FDA, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Health Organisation, American Heart Association and American Dietic Association," he said. "In 2013, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded a review of more than 600 data sets from aspartame studies. It found no reason to remove aspartame from the market. The review reported no safety concerns associated with normal or increased intake."

"Aspartame contains phenylalanine, which is found in protein-rich foods such as eggs, dairy, chicken and beef is a non-polar, neutral amino acid essential for different bodily processes. It must be obtained from the diet as it cannot be synthesised endogenously. It is required for the production of tyrosine (another amino acid) and neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine."

"I therefore conclude that these remain nutritional issues that any concerned individual can only take up with Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, possibly just for concern on changes without notification and nothing else."

He did not respond about the effects of acesulfame potassium (Ace-K or acesulfame K) and sodium cyclamate. However, a doctor at a public hospital in the country said aspartame accumulates in blood cells over time and may cause tumours and cancers later in life.

"Aspartame in small quantities can be stored by cells and when apoptosis occurs that aspartame is collected by neighbouring cells. Once the aspartame becomes bonded with cell debris (antigens) the aspartame will be viewed as native and it starts creating oncogenes before long we hear a person now has something like colon cancer," said the doctor.

The director general of the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ), Dr Eve Gadzikwa said they held a meeting with Schweppes on Wednesday to talk about the issue.

"SAZ has already had a meeting with the managing director of Schweppes Mr Msipa who clarified on the issues that had been raised. SAZ remains committed to safe guard the health and safety of the nation," she said.

A doctor at one of the hospitals said Schweppes might have taken the decision of adding sweeteners to cut costs and reduce the amount of natural sugar.

"Sweeteners are probably healthier than consuming original sugar as they do not contain sugar. I can't talk about the effects of the sweeteners since I haven't studied them," said the doctor.

"However, you should know there is no medicinal product that does not have side effects, I can give you an example of paracetamol it has side effects. Some of the side effects largely depend on the individuals, they can be different depending on the person. "The doctor said if the law was silent on the issue, it could mean that they were legal.

"Looking at the size and reputation of Schweppes it means they would have done extensive studies to prove the safety before replacing the product to the public," the doctor said.

A spokesperson for Schweppes, Mr Major Tikiwa, who asked questions to be sent on e-mail on June 8, had not responded by the time of going to print. Social media platforms have in recent weeks been flooded by consumer complaints on the additives.

- chronicle

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