WASHINGTON, DC; February 9, 2006 — A recent national survey* released by Shape Up America!, a national non-profit obesity awareness and prevention group, has found that despite their growing awareness of the health threat of obesity, Americans are still confused about the safety of the most commonly available sugar substitutes. Among the survey findings, many consumers were found to harbor unfounded concerns about safety, false perceptions about which high intensity sweeteners carry warning labels, and many others held the belief that there is a natural sugar substitute, when in fact, all are derived through chemical processes.
As Americans continue to face the challenges of obesity and mountains of confusing information and ‘advice’ about weight control, the survey illuminates some of the most common high intensity sweetener myths. As Americans struggle to choose alternatives to sugar and high fructose corn sweeteners that carry unwanted calories, it is important to allay their concerns about the safety of sugar substitutes.
According to the survey, 30 percent of Americans believe that Sweet’N Low still contains a warning label. Congress mandated such a label on all saccharin products after one study found that extremely high levels of the sweetener were associated with increased incidence of bladder cancer in male rats in 1977. However, after careful review of the evidence, the warning on saccharin, the main ingredient in Sweet’N Low, was removed five years ago and the product now has a 50-year history of safe usage.
The survey also found that 77 percent of Americans are unaware of a warning that appears on packets of Equal. Aspartame, the main ingredient in Equal, should be avoided by people – especially pregnant women -- who suffer from phenylketonuria or PKU, a rare inherited metabolic disease that arises from the inability to metabolize phenylalanine, one of the two main amino acids in aspartame. However, this issue does not apply to those who are only carriers of the disease.
Each of the three most common high intensity sweeteners is derived through a chemical process, yet 27 percent of Americans believe that Splenda is a natural product. Once they understood that Splenda is made by chemically-altering a sugar molecule by adding chlorine to it, 43 percent of consumers said their perception of Splenda changed. Despite the fact that the product is safe, consumers’ perception was negatively influenced. There is a perception that only “natural” is safe. But the data clearly support the safety of high intensity sweeteners.
“Many Americans are avoiding high intensity sweeteners because there is a flood of misperceptions on the part of the public,” said Dr. Barbara Moore, President and Chief Executive Officer of Shape Up America! “Since these products have a well documented history of safe usage, it is our hope to debunk these myths and allay their concerns about the safety of sugar substitutes.”
To further educate consumers about the sugar substitute category, Shape Up America! has posted a comparison chart of the most common sweeteners on its Web site (www.shapeup.org).
About the Survey
The survey was conducted by a major marketing research consultancy amongst a national population of 1,000 adults over the age of 18 via telephone during the week of November 14th, 2005.
About Shape Up America!
Shape Up America! was founded in 1994 by former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to raise awareness of obesity as a health issue and to provide responsible information on weight management to the public, to health care professionals and to educators. A network of respected professionals in the fields of medicine, public health, nutrition and physical activity provide support and guidance for the campaign and its initiatives. The award-winning Shape Up America! Web site — www.shapeup.org — offers weight management information for adults in an entertaining and engaging manner.
* Individuals seeking detailed survey results should contact Shape Up America!