Aspartame, also marketed as Nutrasweet or Equal, is an artificial, non-saccharide sweetener used as a sugar substitute in many foods and beverages. It was first synthesized in 1965, however it took 16 years before the FDA allowed it in the the US marketplace. In 1981 Aspartame was introduced in diet sodas with the Coca Cola company being first to market, thus the birth of Diet Coke.
Research and available information on aspartame show it was widely studied over the last several decades and after review the FDA placed Aspartame on the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) list for consumption. Much debate still remains with the overall safety of this artificial sweetener and health concerns associated with its use. Aspartame has been blamed and associated with causing cancer, neurological and psychiatric symptoms, headaches, migraines, rashes and allergic reactions, autoimmune disorders such as lupus and MS, weight change and hunger. If you were to “Google” Aspartame and any one of the fore mentioned symptoms/illnesses you will find a plethora of information on both sides of the argument.
Here are some facts and information regarding Aspartame:
- Aspartame is not stable in non-acidic fluids or when heated, thus the reason why it is used exclusively in packaged, processed foods that are acidic and at room temperature or colder.
- The by-product of Aspartame is methanol or wood alcohol and is toxic in excess. A healthy adult can metabolize up to 2000 mg of methanol per day. A 12-ounce diet Coke provides 18 mg of methanol. It is important to note that certain foods naturally contain methanol, so this is not unique to Aspartame.
- Long term studies in laboratory animals that were fed extremely large amounts of Aspartame found no evidence of cancer association. Argued to be industry sponsored.
- Large, long term world wide studies of humans who consumed Aspartame for years concluded no association between cancer and aspartame. Argued to be industry sponsored.
- Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center of the European Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences released several studies which claimed that Aspartame can increase several malignancies in rodents, concluding that aspartame is a potential carcinogen at normal dietary doses. The FDA discounted these study, citing flaws.
- Several other additional studies suggest that Aspartame cause brain tumors and other types of cancers, but FDA sighted flaws in the study design.
- Allegations of a revolving door relationship between regulators and industry claims that Aspartame producers had withheld and falsified safety data. A 60 Minutes special stated that “Aspartame’s approval was one of the most contested in FDA history. (Source: Wikipedia)
- Debate and controversy over study results is further fueled by the suggestion that studies showing no health risks are industry sponsored studies whereas studies showing association of health concerns are independently sponsored.
- Studies have documented an association of headaches and the use of Aspartame.
- Nutrasweet was produced by The Nutrasweet Company a subsidiary company owned by…Monsanto. Monsanto, a multinational agricultural biotechnology company, is responsible for genetically engineered and modified products and seeds and also produces Round Up, DDT, PCB’s, Agent Orange, and recombinant bovine somatotropin. Interesting to note, one of Monsanto’s first products was another artificial sweetener, Saccharin (trade name Sweet n Low).
The one indisputable fact is that Aspartame is an artificial ingredient and created in a laboratory, not by nature. The human body struggles to digest and metabolize artificial chemicals and the long term health ramifications are still unknown. There has been an increase incidence of cancers, autoimmune diseases, allergies, and neurological disorders over the past half century. While Aspartame is not solely to blame for this increase, health advocacy groups argue the exposure to artificial ingredients and chemicals in both the environment and our food source is a major contributing factor.
The human body is nourished by food, Aspartame does not provide nutrition and may pose health concerns due to its artificial properties. Humans have existed for 200,000+ years; Aspartame only 32. To put it another way, Aspartame’s has been present for only .00016% of human existence. Can safety be evaluated and concluded in this short period of time? Does the human body know how to digest and metabolize artificial ingredients? What benefit does one get from including Aspartame in the diet? Digest the information, and you decide.
Diet Soda Image credit: Hungry For Change.TV
The information provided in this post is for education only and is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor should it be used as a replacement for seeking medical treatment.
Copyright © Jaime Coffey Martinez, Nutrition CPR, LLC