Aspartame (Artificial Sweetener) – The Truth!

Like a lot of you I’m sure, I have always been aware of Artificial sweeteners like Nutrasweet, Splenda, and Sweet n Low. The idea behind them being that because sugar is so bad for us, these provide an almost non-caloric option to help us stay healthy and not put on so much weight. It’s not just our tea or coffee though in which we use these, but they appear in over 6,000 different products including

  • Diet drinks
  • chewing gum
  • flavoured water
  • breakfast cereals
  • Jams & Sweets
Probably the most famous (and controversial) sweetener of all is ASPARTAME. Accidentally discovered in 1965 by a chemist named James Schlatter testing for an anti-ulcer drug, James literally licked his hand after spilling a small amount of a crystalised substance he was working on (aspartame) – and so it was born – eventually.
It was not initially approved by the FDA (Food & Drug Assoc of America), in part due to claims that it may cause adverse reactions/illness including
  • Severe headaches
  • Tumours
  • MS
  • Seizures
  • Depression

It was approved finally in 1974 (but not for use in baking purposes), but has remained controversial ever since. There have been claims of internet hoaxes against Aspartame saying that it is toxic and dangerous and others stating there is no actual proof of any dangers and that the body digests more toxins by drinking fruit juices, well that maybe but it’s the intercellular pathway thats important here and where in the body compounds are digested & whether they go via the liver (the detox organ).

 What I have found interesting in my research is how much MIS-information is available on the internet. To gain any real sense of ‘truth‘ you have to make sure you do a lot of reading of quality sites/data sources and talk to a cross section of people. I have found disturbing inaccuracies on BOTH sides, many sites merely look for evidence to support what they believe, yet ignore other valuable evidence to counter it..so what is the truth?…I’m not sure we truthfully know! 

WHAT is Aspartame…well it’s

  • 40 % – Aspartic Acid
  • 50% – Phenylalanine
  • 10% – Methanol (wood alcohol)

The anti-aspartame sites say how these are bad for you causing the above mentioned diseases, however this is not neccessarily the case – these are non-essential amino acids found naturally in plants and seeds and when bound in proteins are beneficial to your diet. HOWEVER, if you are one of the 1-in-10000 who suffer from Phenylketonuria (PNK) & therefore cannot metabolise Phenylalanine then yes, you definitely would not consume Aspartame. However you will find both Aspartic Acid and Phenylalanine in many health products, this is okay because here they are bound by proteins, in Aspartame they are synthesised i.e. NOT natural.

Looking at the history there were certainly some dodgy dealings going on with the FDA, and alot of the studies showing Aspartame to be safe were done by the actual manufacturing company themselves – plus the company who took over GA Searle, Monsanto, is a MAJOR multimillion CO (that does produce toxic hericides!)….and money talks, even the former commissioner of the FDA, Dr Herbert Ley, said “people think the FDA is there to protect them…it isn’t”.

The fact is that methanol is toxic,and toxins get stored in your body, it does break down (at 30 degrees celcius – our body temp is 37 degrees don’t forget) to formaldehyde & then formic acid. Formaldehyde is also toxic, but there seems to be no absolute evidence to say whether the amount produced by the breakdown of Aspartame is either the cause of these illnesses or whether it is passed out of the body harmlessly (as the pro-aspartame sites say).

So the truth…as I see it…. Aspartame is NOT a natural product, there are no studies done over time to say it will not have a detrimental effect on humans, and while there may be no independant research stating it will have an adverse effect, there are plenty of cases out there where people have had these reactons. The human body is NOT designed to process chemicals, and our diet – especially over the last 30 years has become FULL of them – chronic disease and obesity over the same time period has dramatically increased – coincidence? – I don’t think so. There’s also the possibility that by using Aspartame, as an artificial sweetner, you may actually eat, or drink more (are you hooked on diet drinks?) – the aim here is to regain or maintain your health & weight, to do this you need to eat healthily, avoid all sugar (real or artificial) and be active – I say we need to reduce the chemicals we are putting into our bodies for us to function to the best of our ability, so go with your gut instinct, what do you FEEL is the right thing to do – hopefully you won’t go wrong!

 

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