Aspartame: Sweet or Misery
In an effort to reduce calories and lose weight, many obese or overweight people switch to drinking diet colas and other sugar-free products containing aspartame. Aspartame is widely known by the brand names NutraSweet and Equal, and was approved for use in diet sodas in 1983 after a tenacious and scandalous 14-year battle with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) around safety concerns.
Aspartame's approval and its effect on public health are extremely well-documented:
Take this moment to read (or at least skim) the History of Aspartame for former FDA investigator Arthur M. Evangelista’s gripping, detailed account of aspartame’s discovery, clinical trials and distortion of outcomes data, legal and regulatory battles around scientific evidence that seriously challenged safety (toxicity, carcinogen), misconduct and violations, lawsuits and alleged kickbacks, suspected quid pro quos and conflicts of interest, and how aspartame ultimately came to be approved as a food additive.
As further evidence, read (or skim) Aspartame – The Shocking Story of the World’s Best-Selling Sweetener published in The Ecologist. Reporter Pat Thomas provides the same account of the historical events as Evangelista does.
Indeed, there was – and remains today -- huge market demand by Americans with burgeoning waistlines for a great tasting low calorie sweetener. At the time of its introduction, NutraSweet received rapid uptake because its tasted like sugar and toppled the chemical taste of saccharin – marketed as Sweet ‘n Low and the only sugar substitute available. I was caught-up in the craze like everyone else, following the siren’s song of clever consumer ads by the NutraSweet Co. who in 1984 reportedly spent $30-$40 million on advertising.
I found myself searching out products with the red swirl NutraSweet logo at the supermarket. It was like a beacon guiding me to the “promised land” where I could have my cake and eat it too: Junk food without guilt, without calories, without consequence.
The Consequences of Consuming Aspartame
The toxic long-term effects of aspartame are often dismissed as a "hoax" by the sweetener industry; as for me, I find the credible evidence presented in History of Aspartame, cited above, thoroughly unravels the alarming truth. Further, on his medical and health fraud research website, Evangelista reveals what he calls the true story of aspartame and health: “…aspartame is highly neurotoxic… resulting in injury and death.”
Evangelista goes on to write, “The various independent research completed on aspartame proves that, in part, aspartame was considered a chem-warfare agent, and is a powerful neurotoxin which interacts with, and interferes with, other prescription drug compounds and medications. It is unlike any other food additive compound on the market. Each of its three components is toxic in their own right, potentiating aspartame’s neurotoxicity.”
Evangelista’s claims are borne out in research conducted long after the hundreds of controversial studies conducted on aspartame prior to its approval. A study on the “direct and indirect cellular effects of aspartame on the brain” published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2008) states “…it is made up of three components that may have adverse effects on neural functioning...”
Likewise, the aspartame story has been described in the 1,038-page medical text Aspartame Disease - An Ignored Epidemic by H.J. Roberts, MD. Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills by neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock, M.D., also describes these problems. Dr. Betty Martini, D.Hum. founder of the consumer rights advocacy group, Mission Possible, wrote a watch dog report on FDA Studies Show Aspartame Link to Brain Tumors. NB: Dr. Martini has added an exhaustive list of resources in the comments section below. We appreciate her contribution.
Here’s the double whammy: Sodas labeled as “diet” that contain the chemical aspartame are not going to help you lose weight. Quite the opposite, in fact: Aspartame makes you crave carbohydrates and eat more food resulting in weight gain. This makes me wonder. I consumed a lot of Diet Coke (between one and three 2-liter bottle/week) and other aspartame-containing products between 1983 and 2003. I ended up gaining 145 lbs. While I do not think it was the single cause, I wonder how much aspartame was a contributing factor.
The Bottom Line
While this in part may sound like conspiracy theory, at least consider the weight of evidence. Look at the true scientific facts and what was financially at stake. Look at the FDA proceedings and investigations. Then draw your own conclusion.
“Educate yourselves. It’s your body, your health, your life.” - Arthur Evangelista
Living life well-fed,
History of Aspartame http://www.wnho.net/history_of_aspartame.htm
QA and Regulatory Affairs Unit http://qualityassurance.synthasite.com/ and http://qualityassurance.synthasite.com/the-true-story-of-aspartame-and-other-food-toxins.php
World Natural Health Organization http://www.wnho.net/the_ecologist_aspartame_report.htm
Mission Possible World Health International http://www.mpwhi.com/main.htm
Sunset Press http://www.sunsentpress.com/aspartameDisease.html
Russell M. Baylock, MD http://www.russellblaylockmd.com/