By Dr. Mercola
Notorious PR firm Ketchum made headlines earlier this year for creating a new branch dedicated to driving brands with a natural and organic focus.
The move was ironic, to say the least, since Ketchum works closely with Monsanto and the biotech industry to promote genetically engineered (GE) crops and downplay the concerns surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs).1
For starters, Ketchum created GMO Answers, which works on behalf of the Council for Biotechnology Information to improve the public image of GMOs.
They've been known to promote positive GMO coverage using online social media monitoring, i.e., creating fake internet personas who try to steer social media conversations according to their own agendas.
They've even targeted children via the corporate front group U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance. This Ketchum-run alliance teamed up with Monsanto to produce curriculum for students in grades 9 to 12, and tweeted about a chat on "incorporating ag into your classroom."2
The latest company to hire Ketchum as its PR AOR (agency of record) is Heartland Food Products Group for its artificial sweetener Splenda. Heartland acquired Spenda from McNeil Nutritionals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, in 2015.3
Disaster PR Expert Ketchum to Take on Splenda
Americans are becoming increasingly wary of artificial sweeteners, and Splenda, in particular, took a hit following research from the Ramazzini Institute, which linked the popular sugar alternative to cancer, specifically leukemia.
The findings were first presented at a London cancer conference in 2012 and prompted The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to downgrade Splenda from its "safe" category to one of "caution."
In 2016, the study was published in a peer-reviewed journal,4 the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, prompting CSPI to downgrade Splenda for a second time, this time from "caution" to "avoid."
Splenda's reputation could clearly use a boost, and who better to do so than Ketchum, a "disaster PR expert" that has done work for a number of politicians and world leaders with image problems, as well as corrupt governments around the world?
Ketchum's first assignment will be the new product launch of Splenda Naturals, which are due out in October 2016. Splenda has tried to align itself with natural products before.
They previously used the slogan "Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar," which is misleading since Splenda is not natural nor does it contain elements of natural sugar.
Partnering with Ketchum shows that Splenda's makers are going to pull out all the stops to make Americans believe Splenda is safe, even as the research says otherwise.
Splenda May Increase Cancer in Mice
Ramazzini Institute researchers fed mice Splenda beginning prenatally and continuing for their entire lifespan. The mice were fed varying concentrations of the artificial sweetener: 0 ppm (parts per million); 500 ppm; 2,000 ppm; 8,000 ppm or 16,000 ppm.
A significant increase in cancerous tumors was seen among male mice, and the risk increased along with the dose. The risk of leukemia in male mice also significantly increased, especially at Splenda doses of 2,000 ppm to 16,000 ppm.5 According to the study:
"These findings do not support previous data that sucralose is biologically inert. More studies are necessary to show the safety of sucralose, including new and more adequate carcinogenic bioassay on rats.
Considering that millions of people are likely exposed, follow-up studies are urgent."
Does Splenda Increase Diabetes Risk?
Splenda is often advertised as being an inert, non-reactive ingredient, but is it really? The Ramazzini Institute study suggests it's not, as does research that found Splenda may affect your body's insulin response.
When study participants drank a Splenda-sweetened beverage, their insulin levels rose about 20 percent higher than when they consumed only water prior to taking a glucose-challenge test.6
It will be interesting to see what Ketchum's team of eight registered dieticians — which Lauren Mundell, SVP and director of Ketchum's New York food and wellness practice, said help "decode good science" — will make of this data.7
Blood sugar levels also peaked at a higher level, "So the artificial sweetener was related to an enhanced blood insulin and glucose response," researchers noted, adding:8
"Although we found that sucralose affects the glucose and insulin response to glucose ingestion, we don't know the mechanism responsible. We have shown that sucralose is having an effect.
In obese people without diabetes, we have shown sucralose is more than just something sweet that you put into your mouth with no other consequences.
What these all mean for daily life scenarios is still unknown, but our findings are stressing the need for more studies. Whether these acute effects of sucralose will influence how our bodies handle sugar in the long term is something we need to know."
Artificial Sweeteners May Destroy Your Gut Bacteria and Trigger Migraines
In 2008, an animal study showed that 12 weeks of consuming Splenda led to significant alterations in the gut microflora of rats, including reductions in beneficial microflora. Specifically, "total anaerobes, bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, Bacteroides, clostridia and total aerobic bacteria were significantly decreased."9
In addition, studies have found that artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, may lead to weight gain10 and glucose intolerance by altering gut microbiota.11
Not to mention, 92 percent of independently funded studies found aspartame, which is often used in diet soda, may cause adverse effects beyond increased calorie consumption, including depression and headaches.12
Writing in Vice, one woman also shared her story of how suffering from chronic migraines virtually ruined her 20s — until a migraine specialist finally made the connection to diet soda.
She was drinking close to three bottles of aspartame-sweetened diet soda a day and suffering from multiple migraines a week. When she gave up the diet soda, the migraines went away.13
Incidentally, PepsiCo replaced the aspartame in Diet Pepsi with Splenda in 2015 in an effort to win back customers who've become wary of aspartame's health effects — but the tactic didn't work. At the time, PepsiCo said the No. 1 request by its customers was to remove aspartame from Diet Pepsi.14
To save their slumping sales and please customers who apparently disliked the taste of the aspartame-free Diet Pepsi, the company announced it would reintroduce "Diet Pepsi Classic Sweetener Blend" — i.e., Diet Pepsi sweetened with aspartame — to the market while still selling "regular Diet Pepsi," sweetened with Splenda.
Drinking Splenda Might Make You Consume More Calories
Splenda's PR firm may try to make you believe consuming this artificial sweetener is a healthy choice, but don't be misled. A recent study on fruit flies again found that artificial sweeteners may make you eat more than you normally would.15
For the study, fruit flies were fed a diet of food sweetened with sucralose (Spenda) or sugar for five days. Those fed sucralose ate about 30 percent more calories than those fed sugar.
The researchers revealed that sucralose activated a fasting response in the flies, which triggered them to eat more to compensate for the perceived lack of food.16 A similar study conducted in mice yielded similar results, with the mice fed sucralose consuming more food.
What's more, when the flies were fed real sugar later on, the brains of those that had been used to consuming artificial sweeteners responded differently. They showed more activity in response to the sugar, which suggests it tasted sweeter after getting used to artificial sweeteners. Study author Herbert Herzog told Forbes:17
"These findings further reinforce the idea that 'sugar-free' varieties of processed food and drink may not be as inert as we anticipated … Artificial sweeteners can actually change how animals perceive the sweetness of their food, with a discrepancy between sweetness and energy levels prompting an increase in caloric consumption."
Don't Let Ketchum Con You: Ditch Splenda and Other Artificial Sweeteners
Eliminating your cravings for sweets is the first step to breaking free of artificial sweeteners. If you don't crave sweets, you probably won't crave artificially sweetened products either. First, try Turbo Tapping, which is a version of the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) specifically suited to help eliminate sweet cravings.
When a sugar (or artificial sweetener) craving strikes, try eating something sour instead. Sour taste, such as that from cultured vegetables, helps to reduce sweet cravings and is doubly beneficial, as fermented vegetables also promote gut health. You can also try adding lemon or lime juice to your water.
If that doesn't work, try a cup of organic black coffee. It's a potent opioid receptor antagonist and contains compounds such as cafestrol, which can bind to your opioid receptors, occupy them and essentially block your addiction to other opioid-releasing food.18,19
Finally, if you're looking for a safer sweetener option, try stevia or Luo Han, both of which are safe natural sweeteners. However, if you struggle with insulin-sensitivity issues, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or extra weight, then you would likely benefit from avoiding ALL sweeteners — natural, artificial or otherwise.