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Weighty  Issues

Leaves of Stevia rebaudiana have been used as a natural sweetener for more than 1000 years. Credit: govindji/Adobe

Leaves of Stevia rebaudiana have been used as a natural sweetener for more than 1000 years. Credit: govindji/Adobe

By Dave Sammut

Is a switch to artificial sweeteners a smart alternative to sugar?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In March 2016, Britain introduced a “sugar tax” to be applied to high-sugar drinks (excluding fruit juices and milk-based drinks). The levy will be based on volumes produced in two total sugar categories: >50–80 g/L and >80 g/L. The most popular cola drinks in Australia, for example, contain at least 106 g/L sugar. During the recent federal election, the Greens again raised a sugar tax as policy.

If sugar taxes hit their target, it may be assumed at least some portion of the consumer base will switch to artificial sweeteners, particularly in the soft drink market.

Obesity is a growing problem in Australia. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 63% of adults and 25% of children are overweight or obese. These rates are increasing faster than anywhere else in the world (ab.co/2amR6WO), with Australia already ranked as one of the world’s most obese countries.

A 2013 study published in The Lancet concluded: “Not only is obesity increasing [globally], but no national success stories have been reported in the past 33 years. Urgent global action and leadership is needed to help countries to more effectively intervene.” (bit.ly/2aK6Khw)

However, obesity is a complex issue. The sugar taxes that have been introduced or mooted only address one causal factor. And if artificial sweeteners are one logical alternative to sugar, then do...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.