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Leading British expert Erik Millstone has called for an investigation into serious health concerns over the artificial sweetener aspartame – after the EU food watchdog insisted it was safe.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published a draft scientific opinion effectively rubbishing more than 20 studies which have identified potential problems with aspartame, ranging from premature births to cancer.

The EFSA’s view will be welcomed by manufacturers who use aspartame and similar sweeteners in fizzy drinks such as Diet Coke, and diet foods consumed by millions of people every day.

But Erik Millstone, professor of science policy at the University of Sussex, has challenged the “biased” and “deeply flawed” EFSA opinion.


Prof. Erik Millstone has been a leading expert on food policy in the UK for many years and his lobbying was instrumental in the setting up of Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The way the EFSA assessed the evidence on aspartame was “perverse and biased”, he claimed.

Erik Millstone added: “The panel could only have reached its conclusion that aspartame is safe by implicitly assuming that almost all studies indicating no adverse effects are entirely reliable – even though they have numerous weaknesses and were almost all commercially funded, while all the studies indicating that aspartame may be unsafe are deemed unreliable – even though they sometimes have particular methodological strengths and even though they have all been funded independently of vested commercial interests.”

Manufacturers use aspartame and similar sweeteners in fizzy drinks such as Diet Coke

Manufacturers use aspartame and similar sweeteners in fizzy drinks such as Diet Coke

He also suggested that the EFSA panel that carried out the assessment was dominated by experts linked to manufacturers or regulators that have previously supported aspartame.

Prof. Erik Millstone said: “Of the 17 members of the EFSA panel, seven have direct commercial conflicts of interest, and another five have institutional conflicts of interest, for example, because their employers have already announced that aspartame is safe.”

He pointed to several convincing studies that raise real questions about the safety of aspartame and justify the need for further research.

An EU-funded project published in 2010 found that pregnant women who drank fizzy drinks containing artificial sweeteners appear to be at greater risk of having a premature baby.

Erik Millstone also highlighted work by the independent Ramazzini Foundation in Italy.

Its scientists have published research suggesting aspartame caused several types of cancer in rats at doses very close to the current acceptable daily intake for humans.

Prof. Erik Millstone said the EFSA should discount the draft report and convene a new panel composed only of experts who are free of any conflicts of interest.

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British naturopath and nutritionist Max Tomlinson teaches us how to fight against the stubborn fat deposits in his new book, “Target Your Fat Spots: How To Banish Your Bulges”.

For the past 25 years, Max Tomlinson is been running a successful fat spot reduction programme at his London clinic, targeting what he calls the “weird, disproportionate fat deposits” that frustrate so many of his clients.

Max Tomlinson says: “I see young women who have tried rigorous diets and exercise regimes to get rid of a big bottom, only to lose weight from their chests and faces, and menopausal women who tend to accumulate fat on their stomachs and under their upper arms as they age.”

He believes the reason fat gets laid down in specific areas is often hormonal.

“A multitude of processes in the body are co-ordinated by hormones, and hormones govern where we store fat,” naturopath says.

Problems arise because many of us live in a state of hormonal imbalance caused by poor diet, stress, environmental pollution and lack of effective exercise.

British naturopath and nutritionist Max Tomlinson teaches us how to fight against the stubborn fat deposits in his new book

British naturopath and nutritionist Max Tomlinson teaches us how to fight against the stubborn fat deposits in his new book

Max Tomlinson believes that each fat spot (whether it’s stomach fat, the bra-bulge kind, big thighs and bottom fat or “bingo wings”) is caused by the action or inaction of a specific hormone.

By correcting your own personal hormonal imbalance through targeted diet, exercise, supplements and lifestyle changes, he is convinced you can shift those stubborn fat spots.

Max Tomlinson recommends a healthy Mediterranean-style diet (fruit, vegetables, fish, a little meat, healthy oils, but no sugar, junk food and little dairy or alcohol), a daily multi-vitamin and mineral and fish oil capsule, and a programme of regular exercise.

But then the advice for each troublesome fat spot is very specifically tailored to redress the hormonal imbalance that might be causing it.

Here is an extract from his book, in which Max Tomlinson shows you how to zap those problem areas.

LOVE HANDLES

Fat bulging over the back and sides of your jeans could be a sign of a problem with the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels and can lead to unsightly deposits of fat above the hips.

A sugary diet forces the body to pump out insulin (to move the sugar out of the bloodstream). But over time, if sugar intake remains high, the cells can stop responding correctly, causing more insulin to be released, excess glucose to build up in the bloodstream and stubborn areas of unsightly fat are laid down.

ACTION PLAN: To calm insulin production and trim “love handles” you need to manage the sugars and carbohydrates in your diet. So stick to a Mediterranean diet and avoid sugar and quick-burn foods (alcohol, white bread, biscuits, cakes, chips, crisps, processed sweetened breakfast cereals, rice, sweets and fizzy drinks).

Eat foods rich in antioxidants (this helps prevent damage from free radicals and reduces insulin resistance) such as cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, fresh herbs, chilli, cranberries, blueberries, broccoli and green tea.

In addition to multi-vitamins and fish oils, consider supplements in the form of chromium (great for controlling blood sugar levels), magnesium, zinc (helps insulin bind to receptors in cells) and glucomannan fibre in water which improves blood-glucose control and reduces cholesterol levels.

BRA-BULGE FAT

Fat that bulges out of the sides of your bra could be a sign of a sluggish thyroid. This gland governs the rate at which you burn calories from food. Low thyroid function can cause bra-bulge fat as well as stubborn overall weight gain, fatigue and depression.

ACTION PLAN: Certain raw foods can interfere with the correct functioning of the thyroid gland, so limit intake of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, swede, turnips, peaches, soya bean products, spinach and strawberries. But cooking these foods appears to deactivate the bad compounds.

Boost your intake of iodine and selenium to support your thyroid by eating Brazil nuts, brown rice, garlic, kelp, liver, onions, salmon, tuna, wheatgerm and wholegrains.

And relax – the stress hormone cortisol can alter thyroid function. Also, use fluoride-free toothpaste as fluoride can mimic the action of one of the thyroid hormones.

BINGO WINGS

Fat accumulation on the underside of your upper arms can be due to falling testosterone levels as women reach middle age. Boosting testosterone levels can, along with targeted exercise, help to restore shape to the arms.

ACTION PLAN: Have more sex! Falling in love increases your testosterone levels and regular sex sends out signals to the body to make more of the hormone.

Ensure you’re getting enough sleep to maximize testosterone production.

Relax and de-stress – stress suppresses testosterone production.

Lack of exercise suppresses testosterone levels, too, but weight-bearing workouts (such as weight-lifting) cause muscles to signal the cells for more energy and to request more testosterone.

Cut sugar and refined carbohydrates from your diet as high blood sugar levels decrease testosterone production, but don’t starve yourself – long-term calorie restriction can further deplete levels of the hormone.

Boost your intake of healthy fats – found in oily fish such as salmon, linseed and avocados – which are required for testosterone production.

BIG THIGHS AND BOTTOM

The female hormone oestrogen promotes fat storage around the top of the legs, and many of us are exposed to high levels of both natural (in water and farmed meat) and synthetic oestrogens (chemicals in plastics and non-stick coatings) in the environment.

ACTION PLAN: Eat more fruit, vegetables and wholegrains as they contain special substances which bind to, and help excrete, excess oestrogen.

Cut down on alcohol, painkillers and drinks laden with chemical preservatives and colouring agents as these hamper the liver’s efforts to clear excess oestrogens.

Eat live natural yogurt to boost the friendly bacteria in your gut which help clear oestrogen via the gastrointestinal tract. And cut back on coffee. A study found that the caffeine in more than two cups per day can trigger the release of higher oestrogen levels in women.

POT BELLY

A paunch may indicate a problem with the adrenal glands and over-production of the hormone cortisol. Unmanaged long-term stress causes the body to produce too much cortisol which can raise blood glucose levels. This, in turn, triggers the release of insulin, which instructs the body to store excess glucose as stubborn deposits of fat around the stomach.

The main dietary culprit is too many sugar-based calories especially in the form of alcohol and refined (white) grains and flours.

ACTION PLAN: Relax – anything that helps you to unwind reduces stress levels and breaks the hormonal cycle that is causing your body to lay down belly fat. Studies show that rest will also decrease cravings for calorie-dense foods.

Keep blood glucose levels stable in the face of stress-induced cortisol surges. Increase consumption of slow-burn, low-GI foods (wholegrains, vegetables, pulses, fish and meat) and cut out high-GI foods (processed foods, cereals, sugar, dairy products, dried fruit, beer, wine, fruit juice and coffee).

Moderate exercise can reduce stress, but don’t over do it.

Researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center say that drinking just a single can of diet fizzy drink every day can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, has suggested that just a couple of daily cans of the supposedly “healthier” carbonated drinks, such as lemonade or cola, can raise the risk of liver damage, as well as potentially causing diabetes and heart damage.

Researchers claim those who drink diet soft drinks are 43% more likely to have heart attacks, vascular disease or strokes than those who have none.

Previous analysis of soft drinks has shown that the soft drinks, which have a substantial amount of artificial sweeteners, can cause liver disease similar to that caused by chronic alcoholism.

“Diet” fizzy drinks are marketed as a healthy option in comparison to “full fat” alternatives as they have fewer calories.

Researchers claim those who drink diet soft drinks are 43 percent more likely to have heart attacks, vascular disease or strokes than those who have none

Researchers claim those who drink diet soft drinks are 43 percent more likely to have heart attacks, vascular disease or strokes than those who have none

But their genuine health benefits remain unclear, with some research suggesting they trigger people’s appetites even more.

The U.S. research team studied the soft drink and diet soft drink consumption of 2,564 study participants over a 10-year period – along with their risk of stroke, heart attack and vascular death.

The researchers found those who drank diet soft drinks every day were 43% more likely to have suffered a “vascular” or blood vessel event than those who drank none, after allowing for pre-existing vascular conditions such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Dr. Hannah Gardener said: “Our results suggest a potential association between daily diet soft drink consumption and vascular outcomes.

“The mechanisms by which soft drinks may affect vascular events are unclear.”

She added, however, that the mechanisms by which soft drinks may affect “vascular events” are not clear, and that more research was needed into the subject before significant conclusions could be drawn about the health consequences of soft drink consumption.

Diet soft drinks often contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame, which has been linked to other health problems such as cancer.