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Artificial Sweetener Research Is Clouded by Conflicts

An analysis of artificial sweetener research finds that many studies have conclusions in line with the interests of the reviewers.

How good is artificial sweetener research? A new review suggests it leaves a lot to be desired.

Reviewing Artificial Sweetener Research:

Consumption of artificially sweetened beverages and foods has increased dramatically over the last 40 years. We often hear that these compounds are extremely safe and helpful, but a careful analysis of 30 studies shows that conflicts of interest are common and may distort the reported findings and conclusions.

Reviews carried out by scientists whose conflicts aligned with the artificial sweetener industry were far more likely to have favorable results and come to favorable conclusions than those not sponsored by industry. Those conducted by scientists whose conflicts aligned with “competitor industries” (such as water or sugar) reached unfavorable conclusions.

Do You Know If There Are Conflicts?

Unfortunately, 42 percent of the reviews did not report the conflicts of interest that existed. The investigators conclude that such conflicts may undermine “the quality and transparency of public health evaluations that are reliant on these reviews.”

PLOS One, Sept. 8, 2016

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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