Is “Diet” Cola a Better Choice?

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Millions of people today consume aspartame, the artificial sweetener known as “NutraSweet”. Despite aspartame’s approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and their equivalents in countries around the world, there is overwhelming evidence that aspartame is not a safe substance to consume. Unfortunately, the decision to allow the public to be subjected to the harms of aspartame has been influenced more by those who directly benefit from the sales of the substance rather than by government organizations whose responsibility it is to protect the public’s health and safety.

As a product composed of natural ingredients, one would assume that it is likely safe, but that is not what “natural” necessarily means. As is often advertised, people are led to believe that aspartame can help control body-weight and even blood-sugars. However, aspartame’s shady history of approval and potentially toxic ingredients casts serious doubt on its safety, and makes it more a health threat that should be exposed and publicised. Following are brief summaries of the effects of aspartame on certain body functions as well as some of the scientific studies that have been overlooked during the substance’s peculiar approval.

Cancer

In a two-year study conducted by the manufacturer of aspartame, twelve of 320 rats fed a normal diet and aspartame developed brain tumors while none of the control rats developed tumors. The startling fact was that five of the twelve tumors were in rats given a low dose of aspartame. Despite this and other research, aspartame was still approved.

As such, the approval of aspartame was in direct violation of an extremely important and common-sense amendment that prevents cancer-causing substances from entering food. Instead, the FDA responded by invoking this cancer-preventing amendment from being applicable to aspartame where it was still applicable to other substances, such as methanol (formaldehyde), a substance that is released from aspartame during digestion within the body. An FDA toxicologist was reported to have testified about this before the U.S. Congress saying,”If the FDA itself elects to violate the law, who is left to protect the health of the public?”

Diabetes

Certain diabetes associations actually recommend aspartame to persons with diabetes. According to research conducted by diabetes specialists, however, aspartame can actually:

1) Cause poorer diabetic control in diabetics on insulin or oral drugs.

2) Lead to the worsening of diabetic complication

3) Cause convulsions

Depression

Mood is directly affected by what one eats. People with high amounts of aspartame in their diets have been known to have low brain serotonin levels, depression and other emotional disorders. Further, various mood problems are commonly relieved when stopping the intake of aspartame.

Other Illnesses Caused by the Amino Acids In Aspartame

Aspartame can reach all tissues within the body because it is absorbed once dissolved into solution. Aspartame is comprised of three amino acids,aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. When the structure is broken down, methanol becomes formaldehyde, a dangerous neurotoxin and a known carcinogen. It is known to cause retinal damage in the eye, and can interfere with DNA replication leading to birth defects.

Aspartic acid makes up almost half of the structure of aspartame. Aspartic acid is known to cause endocrine (hormone) disorders, vision problems, and affects the central nervous system. As such, conditions of ADD/ADHD and hyperactivity can be aggravated by its use as well. Adverse reactions to aspartic acid are: headaches/migraines, nausea, abdominal pain, fatigue, sleep disorders, vision problems, anxiety attacks, depression, and asthma/chest tightness.

The other isolated amino acid in aspartame’s chemical structure is phenylalanine. Too much phenylalanine causes seizures, elevated blood plasma, birth defects when taken during pregnancy, and PMS including insomnia and mood swings since phenylalanine can block the use of serotonin, an important substance in the brain.

What food is Aspartame found in?

Aspartame can be found in thousands of products and is currently being sold in over 70 countries throughout the world. Examples include:

  • instant breakfasts
  • breath mints
  • cereals
  • sugar-free chewing gum
  • cocoa mixes
  • coffee beverages
  • frozen desserts
  • gelatin desserts
  • juice beverages
  • laxatives
  • multivitamins
  • milk drinks
  • pharmaceuticals and supplements, including over-the-counter medicines
  • shake mixes
  • soft drinks
  • tabletop sweeteners
  • tea beverages
  • instant teas and coffees
  • topping mixes
  • wine coolers
  • yogurt

Why don’t we hear about these things?

There is a general lack of public awareness about aspartame, and its use has become so common that people don’t even suspect that something so common could be doing them so much harm. ] aspartame-caused illnesses is because they occur one at a time in thousands of different locations. Moreover, most of these illnesses develop over a long period of time and so people do not associate their symptoms with the long-term use of aspartame. Both reasons make it difficult for much attention to be directed to aspartame and similar harmful common substances.

The Corporations

The widespread acceptance of a harmful substance such as aspartame demonstrates how chemical and pharmaceutical companies can have a significant and powerful influence on the government, health associations such as diabetic associations, and ca flood the scientific community with flawed and fraudulent industry-sponsored studies.

To many it may seem unfathomable that even science could be corrupted by the sway of corporate decisions. The reality of this far-reaching influence, however, has been been detailed by many writers. Eric Schlosser, in his national best seller Fast Food Nation disturbingly exposes how corporation’s irresponsible and greedy drive to sell more, by any and all means, can indeed penetrate and manipulate those “scientific facts” that we so sacredly hold as unbiased. He writes about corporate-sponsored textbooks, core teaching materials that deliver “factual” and “‘mainstream” information to millions of children, that;

A 1998 study of these study materials by the Consumers’ Union found that 80 percent were biased. Procter & Gamble’s Decision Earth program taught that clear-cut logging was actually good for the environment’; teaching aids distributed by Exxon Education Foundation said that fossil fuels created few environmental problems and that alternative sources of energy were too expensive; a study guide sponsored by the American Coal Foundation dismissed fears of a greenhouse effect, claiming that “the earth could benefit rather than be harmed from increased carbon dioxide”.

With this in mind, we as consumers should recognize that everything the public is led to know, or not know, is hardly a source of security, as true knowledge can be. Extra investigation about newly-manufactured and potentially dangerous ingredients within food is essential because it has a direct impact on our health and publicly presented information can often be slanted to favor finances of powerful corporations rather than consumer health.

With all the dangerous side-effects that aspartame can precipitate, what is most peculiar is why healthy natural alternatives have not been given more attention. The example of stevia leaf is one that deserves such attention. Stevia is a completely natural substance, a plant to be precise. It’s powdered leaves have been used for hundreds of years as an alternative sweetener. It is used widely in Japan with no adverse effects. In 1991, certain countries began to ban the importation of stevia. But scientists involved in reviewing it have declared it to be completely safe for human consumption–something that has been well known in many parts of the world where it is not banned. One proposed theory for this substance’s ban has been that it was perceived as a threat to the artificial sweetener industry, a threat that was likely quite real. Therefore, because it is a substance for which no patent could be applied, and from which only a small profit could be made, corporate influence has led to its being banned as a harmless and healthy alternative for millions of people looking for a sugar substitute.

The Crux

Aspartame is a harmful substance that has been added to a plethora of widely-used processed foods. The components of aspartame can lead to a variety of ailments. Some of these problems occur gradually while others are immediate, acute reactions. A closer look at its world-wide acceptance as an allowable ingredient in foods points to unscientific studies, suspicious approval methods, and its being a public health threat. There is even research suggesting that artificial sweeteners do the exact opposite of what they are touted for, namely controlling blood sugar levels in diabetics and facilitating weight loss. For these reasons, there is absolutely no reason that anyone should allow aspartame to enter their bodies. Instead consumers should be encouraged to read ingredients cautiously for aspartame, avoid those products completely, and be made aware of its dangerous effects on health, especially for diabetics and weight watchers who consume it regularly as a sugar alternative.