Here at the Daily Health we have written so much about the toxic effects of Aspartame, the artificial sweetener. Now, after years of controversy it seems that things may end up being less sweet for Aspartame.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener which, once consumed, breaks down into three components – aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol. It has been passed as fit to consume by more than 100 countries around the World, but there is evidence that each of Aspartame’s chemical components can have toxic effects on health.
The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and now the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), up until recently, would have you believe that it is perfectly safe for use in well over 6000 common food and drink products worldwide.
Contradicting this, repeated independent research has shown the serious health impacts of Aspartame. It is thought to be an addictive neurotoxin that may cause a wide range of neuro- endocrine disrupting and carcinogenic (cancer causing) effects. The amino-acid-based compound breaks down to create toxic by-products, namely formaldehyde, formic acid and aspartylphenylalanine diketopiperazine (DKP), the latter being associated with an increased rate of brain tumours in animal studies. Unfortunately research exposing these truths has been swept aside in the face of corporate pressure – another scientific travesty…
It is uncanny that studies on the safety of aspartame funded by the industry consistently find in favour of aspartame, but independently-funded work almost always finds quite the opposite. An on-line review, evidence to this statement, found that while 100 per cent of industry-funded studies conclude aspartame is safe, 92 per cent of independently funded research and reports identified aspartame as a potential cause of harmful effects.
Just to prove a point
There have not been any long-term safety studies in humans, but there have been some in animals. And perhaps one of the most worrying of these was published in 2006. Independently performed by the European Ramazzini Foundation in Italy, it discovered that long term ingestion of aspartame in rats increased their risk of several different forms of cancer.
The Ramazzini Foundation immediately followed this up with more research, in which rats were exposed to aspartame in pregnancy and after birth. The offspring produced by these pregnancies were found to be at an increased risk of cancer. Exposure during pregnancy was found to heighten cancer risk.
Even more alarming is the fact that this risk was found even at levels of aspartame intake lower than the official upper limit for humans. While in Europe intakes of 40 mg of aspartame per Kg of body weight per day are considered safe, an increased risk in cancer was seen in rats consuming just half this amount.
On the flip-side, more recently a group of researchers from the US, UK and the Netherlands, apparently reviewed over 500 studies relating to its safety, and concluded that there is no credible evidence that it is unsafe. Though they did conclude that some people might be prone to headaches after consuming it.
This review, which basically gives aspartame a clean bill of health, was funded by the aspartame manufacturer Ajinomoto. But apparently, the committee that wrote the report did not know who the sponsor was until after they had completed their work…
Do you catch my drift?
In a review published in April 2008 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers in South Africa assessed the potential effects not just of methanol, but aspartame’s other components (phenylalanine and aspartic acid) on the brain. The review is supported by more than 50 scientific references, and explain the damage each individual component of aspartame does.
Phenylalanine: the researchers detail the ability of this chemical to disrupt the chemistry of the brain, including its potential to lower levels of key brain chemicals such as serotonin (which may adversely influence all sorts of things including mood, behaviour, sleep and appetite). Phenylalanine also has the potential to disrupt amino acid metabolism, nerve function and hormonal balance in the body. They suggest that aspartame has the ability to destroy nerve cells and this damage may mimic or even cause Alzheimer’s disease.
Aspartic acid: they highlight this chemical’s ability to stimulate or ‘excite’ the nervous system.
Methanol: the researchers describe the ability of this substance to create formaldehyde, along with the cancer- causing agent diketopiperazine and a ‘number of highly toxic derivatives’.
Other conditions that it has been associated with are: blindness in one or both eyes, tinnitus – ringing or buzzing sound, marked hearing impairment, epileptic seizures, migraines, severe tremors, anxiety, insomnia, palpitations, tachycardia, menstrual changes, peptic ulcers, severe depression and the list goes on.
In addition to the above, aspartame toxicity mimics or may even trigger the following illnesses: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Epstein-Barr, Post-Polio Syndrome, Lyme Disease, Grave’s Disease, Meniere’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Hypothyroidism, Fibromyalgia, Lupus and Attention Deficit Disorder.
Hit the road Jack…
How is it then still possible for it to be OK to consume a poison that poses serious health risks to men, women, foetuses and children? Because our regulatory authorities say it’s OK?
Well that may all change soon…
According to Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, Professor emeritus of Environmental & Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, Aspartame’s days may soon be over and this is all due to the 2006 Ramazzini Foundation’s study on rats.
Here is what Dr. Epstein wrote: ‘Under the explicit provisions of the 1958 Delaney Law, which requires an automatic ban on carcinogenic food additives, it is anticipated that Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the newly appointed FDA Commissioner and inspiring public health advocate, will promptly ban the continued use of aspartame.’
I know it is a small glimmer of hope, but it is one I am prepared to hold on to and I am even willing to hold my breath for the EFSA to follow suit.
Aspartame: The Not-So-Sweet Facts About Aspartame
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‘EFSA defends controversial sweetener aspartame (again)’ by Dr. Rob Verkerk and Sophie Middleton, published online 14.08.09, anhcampaign.org
‘New review proclaims aspartame to be safe, but is it?’ by Dr. Briffa, published online 01.10.07, drbriffa.com
‘New review catalogues the myriad of ways aspartame can mess up your body and brain’, by Dr. Briffa, published online 02.04.08, drbriffa.com
‘Is aspartame about to be banned? (I hope so)’ by Dr. Briffa, published online 07.08.09, drbriffa.com
‘Aspartame Side Effects’ by Janet Star Hull, published online, sweetpoison.com
‘Aspartame – Do you know what you and your children are eating and drinking?’ published online, organicnutrition.co.uk
‘An Overdue Ban On A Dangerous Sweetener’ by Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, published online 03.08.08, huffingtonpost.com
Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.