The Calorie Control Council is an international association representing the industry that makes and uses aspartame and other artificial sweeteners.

After my recent column, Sweeteners That Leave A Sour Taste (September 26), the Council has complained I provide a disservice to consumers and accused me of irresponsible journalism.

I herewith offer it a grovelling, humble apology. I didn't mean to be entirely disrespectful about the remarkable product it represents and think the artificial sweetener aspartame is the best thing since sliced bread (preferably white, refined, hydrogenated and genetically modified).

The Council maintains the safety of aspartame is not questionable after decades of research and hundreds of studies. Well, at least according to those funded by the aspartame industry. Many independent studies do claim a link between high intake of aspartame and neurological disorders.

So what happens when scientists disagree? Media manipulation, brilliant marketing and inspired PR then become all-important.

The simple fact is that artificial sweeteners con the body into thinking sugar is on the way and prime the body to expect food. The result is a craving for high calorie sugary snacks which is not an ideal basis for consistent, sustained weight loss.

They don't retrain the taste buds either so people are unlikely to make healthier food choices. They can go on eating as before, with a few extra chemicals thrown in.

The amino acids contained in aspartame (aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol) are developed in the lab. All are involved in complex biochemical interactions with hormones and brain chemicals. Although the three amino acids also occur naturally in food, they are bound to other substances which counterbalance their effects.

High intakes of aspartame have been linked to brain tumours in rats and seizures in monkeys.

The Council claims aspartame never enters the bloodstream and cannot travel to essential organs, including the brain. However, there is growing concern the barriers protecting the bloodstream and the brain are no longer as impenetrable as they should be due to a variety of environmental insults, for instance from certain drugs and pesticides.

It is therefore possible that some individuals are more at risk from ingesting artificial sweeteners and their breakdown products.

Manufacturers and regulatory authorities worldwide accept and recommend aspartame.

In the UK, even three-year-olds are fans. The Council should be pleased to hear Diet Coke is a popular choice at children's birthday parties.

The Food Commission has recently found that companies are increasing sweeteners in top-selling children's drinks because they are much cheaper than sugar.

There is also a growing trend to use sweeteners in canned drinks, milky bedtime beverages, yoghurts, jellies, chewing gum, toothpaste, multivitamins and medicines.

Whatever next? How about artificially-sweetened apples?

Never mind the side-effects, at least we won't have to worry about tooth decay.

I take it CCC members are themselves avid consumers of the sickly nectar. I make no apologies for refusing to feed it to my little monkeys at home.

Martina is a qualified
nutritionist at the Crescent Clinic of Complementary Medicine, 37 Vernon Terrace, Brighton. Tel: 01273 202221 or email: