Thursday, October 12, 2023

Aspartame--A Dentist's Report

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Nature of Science, History of Science, Science & Society

Ed Hessler

Sugar substitutes or non-nutritive sweeteners --some examples include saccharin, sucralose, stevia, aspartame -- were in the news recently because of an evaluation of one of them, aspartame, by IARC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization. (underline mine) This entity announced that it is "possibly carcinogenic to humans."

I've been waiting for a dentist to comment and Melissa Weintraub wrote an essay for STAT on her advice to patients as a professional "I"m a Dentist. I'm Begging People Not to Give Up Aspartame," August 14, 2023.

Weintraub writes, "My professional concern for oral health makes opting for non-nutritive sweeteners over sugar obvious. The aspartame reports have not changed my mind as the link tooks tenuous at best." The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) responded strongly against the claim --"possibly" does not mean causation. Dr. Weintraub discusses the evidence against the IARC claim, noting that IARC is no stranger to issues of credibility.

Weintraub continues calling attention that "dentists hold sugar in a kind of awe-struck horror. Sugar consumption feeds mouth bacteria, which produce as a by-product a form of acid that erodes tooth enamel. If left unchecked, this leads to dental cavities and oral disease...true even of healthier, more natural forms of sugar, such as the fructose found in fruit."

Sugar is not the cause of this tooth decay. A common mouth bacterium, Streptococcus mutans, has the ability to convert sugar to lactic acid which erodes tooth enamel.  

Of course Weintraub discusses and at some length, "sugar-free gum" noting that it has been "long recognized by dentists as a valuable oral health tool." She also reminds us that "oral health affects the rest of the body and mentions some of the broader health problems" that can result.

The issue of sugar-free substitutes is, to use, her phrase "worth chewing over."
So, in addition, brush your teeth and floss. I'm not a dentist and follow the advice of my oral hygienist and dentist, both of whom welcome questions and discussion.


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