Mehmet Oz, the TV celebrity with an M.D. behind his name, has been shredding sweeteners for years, warning consumers that these butter and sugar alternatives may be linked to cancer, weight gain and possibly Alzheimer's.
In just the latest salvo aimed at the sweetener industry, Dr. Oz warned in a segment that aired Thursday that low-calorie sweeteners could lead consumers to pack on the pounds.
"What I'm concerned about is that it's not delivering on its promise," Dr. Oz said, referring to sweeteners. "By reducing your sweet tooth, it could help you. But if it's increasing your sweet tooth, it could be hurting you."
On television, Dr. Oz gave a woman a raspberry to eat, explaining the natural effects of sugar on the body.
"After a couple pumps you're body says, 'you know what, I feel pretty full. My sweet has been satisfied' and that's what is supposed to happen," Dr. Oz said.
Professor Ivan de Araujo, who led the study, said the results imply "humans frequently ingesting low-calorie sweet products in a state of hunger or exhaustion may be more likely to 'relapse' and choose high calorie alternatives in the future."
The Calorie Control Council (CCC), whose members include manufacturers of sweeteners, on Thursday rushed to the defense of sugar substitutes.
"Numerous studies in humans have shown that the consumption of low-calorie sweeteners do not lead to an increase in feelings of hunger or body weight," Haley Curtis Stevens of the CCC said.
The CCC also refuted the suggestion on Dr. Oz's program that low-calorie sweeteners could lead to diabetes, heart disease or obesity.
"Experts agree that excess weight contributes to heart disease and diabetes, not sugar substitutes," CCC asserted, citing health organizations that it said have found sweeteners can be used as part of an overall healthy diet.
CCC characterized Dr. Oz's claims related to sweeteners' effect on weight gain as "gross exaggerations" that are not grounded in science.
Perhaps most frustrating for the sweetener industry is that Dr. Oz commands influence. After one of his segments aired ("America's Dangerous Artificial Sweetener Addiction, Part 1), Jacqueline Quinn LaRocca wrote, "Thank you Dr. Oz. It's been eight days since my last diet soft drink and I have no desire to drink one ever again."