Saturday, July 24, 2010

Aspartame - how sweet it isn't

NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful and Equal Measure are all brand names for aspartame, another one of the popularly used artificial sweeteners used by weight conscious folks. It was first approved for usage in foods in 1981. A few years later, in 1985, Americans used 800 million pounds of Aspartame, with an average intake of 5.8 pounds per person. That is a lot of artificial sweetener.

But what exactly is aspartame, and should we be concerned about using it?

What is it?

Aspartame is made up of three chemicals: aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol. (Dr. Mercola, "Aspartame: What you don't know can hurt you" mercola.com) Methanol breaks down in the body to formaldehyde. Remember, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. It is also highly neurotoxic and is responsible for symptoms such as headaches/migraines, dizziness, seizures, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, depression fatigue, tachycardia, slurred speech and memory loss.

Interestingly, animal studies are conducted in order to gain study results on a product's likely response in humans, however, in the case of aspartame, it has been found that animal studies are basically null because humans lack certain enzymes to properly metabolize this substance. This makes aspartame even more of a danger for humans. Therefore, it seems likely that no test results are available to the FDA regarding safety trials. It is however, recommended that a limit of 7.8 mg be adhered to.

Questionable FDA approvals

The effect of politics, and new product FDA approval makes one wonder about the entire testing and approval process.

In Dr. Mercola's article, "Aspartame:what you don't know could hurt you" Dr. Mercola points out that Russell L. Blaylock's book, "The taste that kills" cites some irregularities in the testing process for aspartame.

 "In 1975 the drug enforcement division of the Bureau of Foods investigated the G. D. Searle company as part of an investigation of "apparent irregularities in data collection and reporting practices." The director of the FDA at that time stated that they found "sloppy" laboratory techniques and "clerical errors, mixed-up animals, animals not getting the drugs they were supposed to get, pathological specimens lost because of improper handling, and a variety of other errors, (which) even if innocent, all conspire to obscure positive findings and produce falsely negative results."

Is the FDA more concerned about consumer safety or pleasing manufacturing companies and pharmaceutical companies?  Hmm, sounds, at the very least, that we do have some reasons to be concerned.

Until the facts are all in, it might be safer to bypass this sweetener.

Sources:

(Dr. Mercola, "Aspartame: What you don't know can hurt you" mercola.com)
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