There are two main artificial sweeteners that have been used this century. The first, saccharin, is now unpopular due to its possible link with cancer. The second, aspartame, is very popular and appears in many types of processed foods. The potential health risks however appear to be even greater than that of saccharin.
Saccharin has been used as an alternative sugar since the early 20th century. It was officially given the carcinogen title in 1977, when a rodent study in Canada produced an excess of bladder tumours in the male animals. However, due to public outrage, Congress decided to allow it back on the market with a health-warning label. 1
Today saccharin remains controversial. Being unsure whether or not it poses a cancer threat, people have turned to another alternative, aspartame. Brand names include Nutrasweet, Equal, Spoonful and Equal-Measure and Neotame.
It is said that aspartame was discovered by accident in 1965 by James Schlatter, a chemist working for GD Serle Company, who was testing anti-ulcer compounds for his employers. However this is doubtful, because it is unlikely that any researcher would accidentally taste the chemical. Aspartames original approval as a sweetener for public consumption was blocked in 1974 over concerns about its safety. However it received its approval for dry goods in 1981 and given the go-ahead as a sweetener for carbonated beverages in 1983, despite growing concerns over its neurological effects. 2
Aspartame, (food additive number 951 or E951), is synthetically combined in a laboratory. It is 50% phenylalanine. This is not the type of phenylalanine that occurs naturally in foods such as apples and bananas. It is a petroleum derivative, in free form, (quite different to the slow-absorbing bound-to-protein form found in foods.) Aspartame is 40% aspartic acid. This is the same as glutamic acid, (msg).3
Dr Olney found that an excess of aspartic acid and glutamic acid, two chemicals used by the body as neurotransmitters to transmit information between brain neurons, could kill neurons in the brain by allowing too much calcium to collect in the neuron cells to neutralise acid. This neurological damage led Olney to label aspartic acid and glutamic acid as "excitotoxins" in that they "excite" or stimulate the neural cells to death. 4
Aspartame breaks down in the human system to Methanol (which turns into the embalming fluid, formaldehyde), formic acid, (the same as the venom in ant stings) and DKP, (which was shown to cause brain tumours when fed to laboratory animals).
One litre of carbonated beverage, sweetened with aspartame contains around 56 mg of methanol. Heavy consumers of diet soft drinks can ingest up to 250 mg of methanol daily, amounting to 32 times the EPA warning limit. 5
Toxic effects of aspartame
Aspartame poses significant risks to all people, and is of particular danger to infants, children and pregnant women. 6
Conclusive evidence has shown that formaldehyde transformed from aspartame in the human body spreads throughout vital organs. Even in small doses, such as a single stick of chewing gum, it can cross the placental barrier.7
According to Taubert, there are 92 documented symptoms associated with the consumption of aspartame. The following list has been compiled from three sources, each of which lists the same or similar symptoms. 8
It seems that the majority of adverse symptoms are associated with the brain, the nervous system, the endocrine system and the muscles
Selection of adverse effects from short-term and/or long-term use:
Aspartame disease mimics symptoms or worsens the following diseases
Aspartame can cause long-term damage:
It appears to cause slow, silent damage in those unfortunate enough to not have immediate reactions and a reason to avoid it. It may take one year, five years, 10 years, or 40 years, but it seems to cause some reversible and some irreversible changes in health over long-term use. 9
Aspartame caused large brain tumors in life-long animal experiments at a dose that could be considered within the "Acceptable Daily Intake" limit after adjusting for differences in metabolism of aspartame's breakdown products between humans and rodents.
A 1969 study on 7 infant monkeys that were fed Aspartame in milk, resulted in one dying after 300 days and 5 others suffering Grand mal seizures. 10
Be diligent in reading labels.
Aspartame is found in diet soft drinks including diet coke, and in "sugar free" sweets or chewing gum.
Aspartame may also be found in the following:
Over-the-counter drugs & prescription drugs (very common and listed under "inactive ingredients"), cheaper vitamin & herb supplements, yogurt, breath mints, cereals, cocoa mixes, coffee beverages, instant oatmeal, gelatin desserts, frozen desserts, juice beverages, laxatives, milk drinks, shake mixes, tabletop sweeteners, tea beverages, instant teas and coffees, topping mixes, wine coolers, dried fruits in cereals. 11
Some alternatives are honey; natural fruit sugars or concentrates; stevia which is a herbal sweetener, xylitol which is produced from corn syrup. Even cane sugar is safer, although has its own list of toxic effects.