Last week I discussed a soda company’s ad campaign promoting aspartame as a “safe, high-quality alternative to sugar”. I then showed that artificial sweeteners, even more than sugar, have been found to increase appetite, fat storage, carbohydrate cravings, and weight gain. Aspartame also impairs memory and learning, and can cause headaches, tinnitus, dizziness, nausea, gastrointestinal problems, and blurred vision. It has even been shown to increase risk of liver, lung, brain and blood cancers in rats. So what makes aspartame so toxic?
Aspartame is composed of two naturally occurring amino acids – phenylalanine and aspartic acid – and a methyl ester bond. The amino acids are in a much higher ratio (90%) than normally found in protein (9%) which can cause an over-stimulation of neurotransmitters leading to serious neurological, hormonal and emotional symptoms. This over-stimulation is called excitotoxicity and aspartame is known as an excitotoxin (as is MSG). Powdered aspartame (Equal) reportedly makes an effective ant poison.
But it’s the methyl ester that’s the biggest problem with aspartame. It occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables where it is strongly bonded to pectin and safely passes through the GI tract. The methyl ester in aspartame, however, readily breaks off to form methanol (wood alcohol) which is absorbed into the blood and carried to every cell in our body. Inside our cells methanol converts to formaldehyde, which is a serious toxin, and then to the less harmful formic acid, and finally to carbon dioxide and water. Humans lack an enzyme to convert formaldehyde to formic acid, so this process is less efficient than in other animals.
Aspartame was first approved for use in sodas in the USA in 1983. In 1988 80% of the consumer complaints to the US FDA were for aspartame (4 times as many as for all other products combined). By 1995 aspartame had received well over 7,000 complaints. Despite these numbers, the FDA, Health Canada’s Health Protection Branch, and most other official health organizations maintain that aspartame is perfectly safe. Makes you wonder whose health they are protecting.
Sweet Deception, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Nelson Books, 2006.
Mercola.com (one of many articles on artificial sweeteners)
Health Canada's position on aspartame
Evidence Analysis Library - plausible sounding article on the relative safety of aspartame re formaldehyde
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.