Aspartame: A Diet Delusion Essay, Research Paper
Bitter Sweet Aspartame: A Diet Delusion
I have always been a health and weight conscious individual. Because my thyroid does not work, I am automatically prone to weight gain. At the office, I have found my click amongst those sitting around the lunch table with their salads and and diet sodas, rather than leaving the office for a burger and fries. Inspite of my efforts to eat healthy diet and exercise every day, a couple of years ago I began to experience migranes, dizziness, and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Of course I visited several internists and finally received a diagnosis of ?Nutra Sweet poisoning? I laid down my diet Pepsi for tea and water, and the problematic symptoms disappeared almost overnight. I also began loosing extra pounds without changing my quantity of food consumption immediately.
Bittersweet aspartame is a diet delusion. Controversy has surrounded aspartame since it?s creation in 1879. On a large scale, the public remains uninformed of the hazards of this popular chemical. Why aren?t people asking ?What is this stuff made of, and why is the FDA forced to put a warning label on every product containing aspartame?? The average diet pop drinker doesn?t realize how much of this chemical he or she is consuming on a daily basis, or the possible effects aspartame toxicity could have on the body.
What is it? In 1879, while developing new food preservatives, a young Johns Hopkins chemistry research assistant accidentally discovered that one of the organic compounds he was testing was intensely sweet. Saccharin he called it, after sakcharon, the Greek word for sugar. He further learned that it passed through the body unchanged and was thus a safe artificial sweetener for diabetics. Food processors, noting that it was 500 to 700 times sweeter than sugar, were able to cut costs by using it. Even Theodore Roosevelt, a diabetic, championed saccharin early on. When, in 1907, the chief of the USDA’s Bureau of Chemistry fretted about the safety of saccharin and wanted it banned from canned foods, Roosevelt was bombastic. “My doctor gives it to me every day. Anybody who says saccharin is injurious to health is an idiot!”
Still, saccharin was banned, only to be restored during the sugar-short years of World War I. Available as powders or pills, to say nothing of in a huge variety of processed foods, saccharin remained popular throughout World War II. Its only drawback was its bitter metallic aftertaste. Food processors licked that problem by combining saccharin with cyclamate, another artificial no caloric sweetener. Then in the 1960s came disturbing news. Two different studies suggested that cyclamate caused cancer in lab rats. Subsequent tests concurred and in 1969 cyclamate was banned. With no other artificial no caloric sweetener available, saccharin use soared. Americans were soon scarfing down 2,500 tons of saccharin a year, most of it from soft drinks. When tests began to suggest that saccharin caused bladder tumors in lab rats, the FDA moved to limit its use.
If the protests launched by the Calorie Control Council (a group that includes saccharin manufacturers and users) weren’t heard around the world, they were clearly audible in the halls of Congress. As a result, saccharin won a reprieve in order that testing might continue, even though some suspected that its continued use was a violation of the Delaney Clause, which bans known carcinogens in food and drink.
Already Britain has banned saccharin (except as an at-table sugar substitute) and France permits its use only by prescription. In the United States, saccharin was deleted from the FDA’s generally recognized as safe list in 1972. Since 1977, hazardous-to-your-health warnings not only have had to be posted on every item containing saccharin but must also point out that saccharin “has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals” (specifically bladder cancers). Those believed to be at greatest risk in general are young children, pregnant women, white men who are heavy smokers and nonwhite women. As for the current legal status of saccharin, it is classified by the FDA as a weak co carcinogen, meaning that it may promote (though not necessarily cause) tumors. The saccharin product most widely available in the United States is Sweet’n Low. It is also sold under brand names Equal and the cheaper Natra-Taste now that the original manufacturer?s patent has expired. Calories: 4 per 0.04-ounce (1-gram) packet.
Is it possible to gain weight when the label says ?diet? on it? According to recent studies it is. Studies have shown that when their diet is not closely monitored, many people use artificial sweeteners in addition to sugar products and not instead of sugar products. Therefore, an increased use of aspartame will not necessarily alter the sugar-craving feeding behavior of the majority of persons. If they consume a non-sugar, aspartame- containing beverage at one point in the day, they will simply make up for the lack of sugar at some other point in the day. Some studies have shown an increased consumption of sugar due to aspartame (Roberts). In fact, Roberts showed that outside the confines of the highly structured, supervised environment, the subjects he surveyed who choose to use artificial sweeteners actually gained weight. Roberts (1988) showed in his survey of people outside of the laboratory that 5% of the people reported adverse reactions had extreme weight loss when using aspartame and tended towards anorexia. He also noted that 6% of the respondents had an unexplained weight gain which averaged 19 pounds!
Common sense dictates that anything in excess usually produces a negative result. The statistics of the quantity of aspartame consumed by the average person is alarming. The replacement of all sweeteners with aspartame has been estimated to yield an intake of 867 mg of aspartame/day, which translates to only 87 mg of methanol. Since diet products with aspartame have few calories and since many people have been conned into believing that they are safe, a significant percentage of people would likely “throw caution to the wind,” by drinking large quantities of diet soft drinks and eating large quantities of other products with aspartame. This is something that they would not be as likely to do with high-calorie, sugar-containing products. The NutraSweet Company has been trying to convince people that persons who ingesting aspartame regularly ingest only 1-3 mg/kg (of body weight)/day of aspartame (Roberts, 1988). This is based on surveys and diaries of consumers. What these surveys do not mention is that aspartame-containing products are often ingested as part of snacks and that people often forget what snacks they’ve eaten.
There are many different aspartame toxicity reactions. These reactions run anywhere from mild to very serious illnesses, and are usually misdiagnosed as some other type of illness or disease. Other countries are now being inundated with aspartame, but it will be some time until they begin to feel the full effects of aspartame toxicity on the general population. Since the U.S. has some history of significant use, we will limit the discussion to the frequency of effects in the U.S. There have been well over 7,000 aspartame toxicity reactions officially received by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration between 1982 (after aspartame was first approved) until 1995.
In an epidemiological survey, which appeared in the Journal of Applied Nutrition (Roberts 1988), 551 persons who have reported toxicity effects from aspartame ingestion were surveyed. The adverse effects found cover a subset of reported acute and chronic toxicity effects from aspartame. What follows is a listing of the adverse health effects which were found. # Of people (%)
Eye – Decreased vision and/or other eye problems 140 (25%)
Pain (or both eyes) 51 (9%) Decreased tears, trouble with contact lens 46 (8%)
Blindness (one or both eyes) 14 (3%)
Ear – Tinnitus (”ringing,” “buzzing”) 73 (13%)
Severe intolerance for noise 47 (9%)
Marked impairment of hearing 25 (5%) Neurological – Headaches 249 (45%) Dizziness, unsteadiness, or both 217 (39%)
Confusion, memory loss, or both 157 (29%)
Severe drowsiness and sleepiness 93 (17%) Paresthesias (”pins and needles,” “tingling”) 82 (15%) numbness of the limbs – Convulsions 80 (15%)
Petit mal attacks and “absences” 18 (3%)
Severe slurring of speech 64 (12%)
Severe tremors 51 (9%)
Severe “hyperactivity” and “restless legs” 43 (8%)
Atypical facial pain 38 (7%) Psychological-Psychiatric – Severe depression 139 (25%) “Extreme irritability” 125 (23%) “Severe anxiety attacks” 105 (19%) “Marked personality changes” 88 (16%) ?Severe insomnia” 76 (14%)
Chest – Palpitations, tachycardia (rapid heart action) 88 (16%)
“Shortness of breath” 54 (10%) Atypical chest pain 44 (8%)
Recent hypertension (high blood pressure) 34 (6%) Gastrointestinal – Nausea 79 (14%) Diarrhea 70 (13%) Abdominal pain 70 (13%)
Aggravation of respiratory allergies 10 (2%) Endocrine and Metabolic – Problems with diabetes: 60 (11%) Menstrual changes 45 (6%)
Paradoxic weight gain 34 (5%)
Marked weight loss 26 (6%)
There are many other clinical reports in the scientific literature of aspartame-caused toxicity warning about the many dangers of aspartame including the cumulative deleterious effects of methanol and the greater likelihood of birth defects. The articles note that the ingestion of aspartame may make pilots more susceptible to seizures and vertigo. Samples of some aspartame toxicity reactions reported on the Internet can be found on the Aspartame (NutraSweet) Toxicity Info Center web page:http://www.tiac.net/users/mgold/aspartame.
Clearly the effects of swallowing a very slow poison are not beneficial to anyone
Aspartame is a potent sweetener that — at the very least — can be safely used by virtually the entire population. The choice between sugar and aspartame is a ‘no-brainer’ if ever there was one.