Sweeteners Essay, Research Paper
Should We Use NutraSweet & Other Artificial Sweeteners?
Over the years there has been a huge “food fight” concerning the safety of NutraSweet and other artificial sweeteners. In the eyes of the consumer the safety of such products is questionable. In my opinion it isn’t safe to use products like this. Though many scientists and other health professionals claim it to be safe I still don’t trust these products.
In 1981 the little blue packets of NutraSweet appeared on our restaurant tables, and by 1983 NutraSweet was being widely used in diet sodas. But as soon as this wonder of nutritional science appeared on the scene, there was great controversy over its safety. A component in NutraSweet, and other artificial sweeteners like it, known as aspartame was an extremely questionable substance and still is. Unlike many additives, aspartame consists of two naturally occurring compounds, although in a way nature never intended.
The consumption of sugar and other caloric sweeteners has increased 20% in the U.S. since 1983. Though more people are avoiding table sugar (sucrose) they don’t realize how much sugar they consume in the form of dextrose and high fructose corn syrup, which manufacturers add to a wide range of packaged foods. Many such foods aren’t thought of as sweet: added sugars show up in soup, pasta, sauce, condiments, frozen dinners and bread. Research is inconclusive about whether artificial sweeteners, which can be hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, encourage a sweet tooth. The use of artificial sweeteners is the highest common denominator for women who gain weight. (Condor pg.3)
Studies of aspartame’s safety are based on little hard evidence. Since its approval aspartame has slowly but surely invaded the United State’s food supply. In 1996 it was approved for use in all foods, from soft drinks to chewing gum, and yogurts and frozen desserts.
Though aspartame has some pretty impressive backers and has been sanctioned by the World Health Organization, American Medical Association, American Cancer Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists many scientists and consumer groups continue to question aspartame’s safety. Its approval was based on what some say were imperfectly conducted studies.
Since its introduction there have been well over 7,000 anecdotal reports of adverse reactions to aspartame, such as headaches (the most common symptom), seizures, and behavioral and cognitive changes. None however were substantiated.
Duke University researcher Susan Schiffman, whose work is funded by Monsanto, thought she settled the issue of headaches a decade ago when she published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that found a placebo pill triggered more headaches than the sweetener. In her opinion caffeine-laden tea and soda were likelier culprits for the headaches. But reports of headaches have produced a view of aspartame that survives the denouncing studies. (Chase pg.B1)
Studies conducted in the mid to late 80’s and early 90’s wondered if the rise in the number of cases of brain cancer in the U.S. in the 80’s was linked to the time when the artificial sweetener aspartame entered the American diet.
Researchers found that the aspartame-brain-cancer theory pointed to a study from the early 70’s in which rats fed aspartame developed brain tumors. Rats are not humans so the fact that they developed tumors proved nothing. Though it is true that aspartame could form a substance called nitrosourea, which is a known cause of brain tumors in rats, nitrosoureas have never been shown to cause brain tumors in humans. (McCord pg.56)
One of the most recent flurries of attention around aspartame started when John Olney, M.D. at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis claimed that data from the National Cancer Institute revealed that there had been a 10% increase in the rate of solid brain tumors in the years directly following the introduction of NutraSweet to the market. Few media reports at that time noted that no one knows if any of these people ever ingested aspartame. Most of these people were never even asked. Many researchers suggest that a better explanation for at least part of the rise during that time was the introduction and greater availability of improved techniques for detecting tumors. They also note that the rate of brain tumors had been on the rise even before NutraSweet entered the market, leveling off in the last 10 years and actually declining in recent years.
Olney doesn’t claim to have sufficient proof aspartame is the culprit. He merely suggests that it needs further investigation based on provocative results from animal and lab studies, and the Community Nutrition Institute, which is a private consumer advocacy group, agrees.
The FDA says it plans no further safety evaluation unless credible new information surfaces. Olney’s report doesn’t do that in the FDA’s view. So until information surfaces aspartame continues to be judged safe by the FDA.
Ermelle Martinez was told ten years ago by her doctor that she was showing signs of menopause but at that time she was only 34. That was before she developed two non-cancerous breast tumors and received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Her doctor advised that she stop eating and drinking everything containing aspartame and to stop adding NutraSweet to her morning tea. The result: Martinez says she feels better and blames aspartame for her misery.
The American Diabetes Association calls the claims of the anti-aspartame activists “unsubstantiated”. And the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation expressed outrage early in 1999 when the anti-aspartame forces tried to link the additive to the disease.
As stated earlier the FDA, which approved the additive for sale, reaffirmed the action in a 1996 statement. They pledged to investigate credible claims of aspartame-related illnesses. Monsanto, the company which created NutraSweet, dismissed claims of aspartame-related illnesses as “misinformation”.
After 200 scientific studies, the safety of aspartame has been well established. Dr. Luis Remus, toxicologist at Tulane University Medical Center, said that from a practical standpoint there is no way one compound could do all of the things of which aspartame is accused. Among the links “knocked down” in the peer-reviewed journals are those between aspartame and chronic kidney failure in diabetes patients, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, seizures and Parkinson’s disease. Perhaps the belief in aspartame as a great bugaboo is helpful to people who need to blame something for things over which they have no control.
However there are several situations in which aspartame has proved harmful. Aspartame can cause migraines. People with liver problems and phenylketouria, commonly known as PKU, cannot process some aspartame compounds, such as methanol, which is better known as wood alcohol. High doses of wood alcohol can cause blindness and even death. The sufferers can’t metabolize phenylalanine, an amino acid, which can build up and cause mental retardation. So aspartame does pose one undisputed health hazard for roughly 1 in 16,000 people in the country who have PKU.
Some people believe that in pregnancy the effects of aspartame can be passed directly on to the fetus even in small doses. Some have suffered aspartame-related disorders with doses as small as that carried in a single stick of chewing gum.
America is seeing a tremendous increase in seizures. Phenylalanine in aspartame lowers the seizure threshold in the brain and blocks serotonin production. Today our nation is swept by a rage of violence. Researchers attribute this in part to low brain serotonin levels inducing depression, rage and paranoia. (”WARNING!” pg.1)
There have been reports of grand mal seizures. 80% of complaints to the FDA on food additives are about aspartame.
Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology surveyed 80 people who suffered brain seizures after eating or drinking products with aspartame. The Community Nutrition Institute said: “These 80 cases meet the FDA’s own definition of an imminent hazard to the public health, which requires the FDA to expeditiously remove a product from the market.”
NutraSweet and Searle are both owned by Monsanto, which discovered aspartame while testing an ulcer drug. In 1969, Searle approached Dr. Harry Waisman to study the effects of aspartame on primates. Seven infant monkeys were fed the chemical in milk. One died after 300 days and five others had grand mall seizures. Searle however deleted these findings when they submitted Dr. Waisman’s study to the FDA.
Many people feel that all of the organizations that support NutraSweet and other aspartame products, and pass them off as safe are just pawns of Monsanto and are simply saying it’s safe because so much money is at stake. The FDA has done nothing to protect or alert consumers. In fact the FDA regularly approves drugs that kill people. As reported in OMNI Magazine in February of 1994. 51% of the FDA approved drugs have serious post-approval risks and could cause adverse reactions that lead to severe or permanent disability or death. (”WARNING!” pg.1)
The Center for Disease Control, John Hopkins University, and New Jersey School of Medicine estimate that 80-120,000 Americans are killed by prescription drugs every year. That’s more than all American’s killed in all the wars in our nation’s history. The reason that this persists has everything to do with money and nothing to do with public health. Monsanto reaps $1 billion per year from aspartame.
Aspartame is a molecule composed of three components: aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol (wood alcohol). Once ingested methanol, that’s killed and blinded thousands of skid row drunks, converts into formaldehyde and formic acid (ant sting poison). Formaldehyde, a deadly neurotoxin, is a common embalming fluid and a class A carcinogen.
Is it possible that Desert Storm syndrome is NutraSweet poisoning? Shiploads of diet drinks were cooked in the Arabian sun. At 86°F aspartame liberates methanol in the can. So troops come home with chronic fatigue syndrome and dozens of toxicologic symptoms.
On July 28, 1983, the National Soft Drink Association drafted a 30 page protest questioning the safety of aspartame in soft drinks. But after they found that weight-conscious Americans would sip soda all day if it was sugarless they forgot their objections. Nor did they tell us that aspartame makes you crave carbohydrates and so you gain weight. Also formaldehyde stores in fat cells, especially on the hips and thighs.
There are 90 documented symptoms of aspartame including: headaches, muscle spasms, heart palpitations, loss of taste, joint pain, dizziness, weight gain, Tachycardia (heart racing), breathing difficulty, Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), blurred vision, seizures, rashes, insomnia, anxiety attacks, vertigo, hearing loss, nausea, depression, blindness, slurred speech, memory loss fatigue, and numbness.
Some diseases said to be triggered by aspartame are: brain tumors and other cancers, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, mental retardation, birth defects, Fibromyalgia, diabetes, epilepsy, lymphoma and death.
Consumers with time and motivation can read records for themselves by searching “aspartame” in a database like PubMed * www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed *. There you can find 603 study citations. That way you can judge for yourself.
I personally am one to believe in conspiracy, and this is a conspiracy if I’ve ever seen one. I feel that NutraSweet and other artificial sweeteners are completely unsafe, although much of the research information out there suggests otherwise. You see the thing is that they are “artificial” if they aren’t natural then they probably aren’t fit for consumption. Not to mention every business out there is there to do business, which means make money, no matter what it takes. Every corporation, association and organization that deems NutraSweet and aspartame as safe are paid off by Monsanto. They all deny that the money has anything to do with it, but what other stronger motivation do they have in the world of business? There are so many people out there who suffer and then blame it on aspartame and there is so much evidence pointing towards aspartame as a deadly toxin but society is lulled into believing it’s safe simply because these big health corporations say it’s safe. I always judge things on what just feels like the right answer and for me NutraSweet and aspartame are seriously dangerous and no matter what anyone says sugar is always going to be my number one way of getting that sweet taste in my mouth.