Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Reader Asks: Sweet Poison Revisited

Aspartame 3D ballsImage via Wikipedia
A reader asks:

Do you really believe Snopes when they tell you Aspartame is harmless when studies by a myriad of doctors have shown health problems such as brain damage, retardation, neuro-chemical changes and that one-third of the Aspartame molecule is wood alcohol?
Dear Reader,

I am still not convinced that Aspartame is the toxin many people think it is. Here is why:

1) When I read your question, I completed another Google scholar search on Aspartame to see if I could find references to "Aspartame poisoning" on Pub Med, which is a service of the US National Library of Medicine.

I thought I might have found some new information in the article
Cytotoxic effects of methanol, formaldehyde, and formate on dissociated rat thymocytes: A possibility of aspartame toxicity in the journal Cell Biology and Toxicology (Volume 18, Number 1, 2002 , pp. 43-50(8)).

Unfortunately the conclusion of the study was: "
It is suggested that aspartame at abuse doses is harmless to humans."

Despite an exhaustive search, I could not find any credible scientific, peer-reviewed information that shows there is such a thing as Aspartame poisoning.

2) I did find an article at the Mayo Clinic website, one of America's premier medical providers. You would think that if Aspartame posed a risk to people who ingested it, they would mention this fact in their article: Artificial sweeteners: Understanding these and other sugar substitutes.

This is what they did say:

...according to the National Cancer Institute and other health agencies, there's no sound scientific evidence that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use in the United States cause cancer or other serious health problems. And numerous research studies confirm that artificial sweeteners are generally safe in limited quantities, even for pregnant women.

The FDA has also established an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for each artificial sweetener. This is the maximum amount considered safe to consume each day over the course of your lifetime. ADIs are intended to be about 100 times less than the smallest amount that might cause health concerns.
3) So when I learned there was an ADI for Aspartame, I went looking for it. My search took me to Wikipedia and article on the Aspartame Controversy.

In my opinion, the article is well researched, written and filled with many reputable sources of information. But don't take my word for it--read it yourself.

I learned that the ADI for Aspartame set by the FDA is 50mg/kg. I also learned that the average 12 ounce diet soda sweetened with Aspartame has 180 mg of Aspartame. With my husband's help, I figure out that I would have to drink
27 12 oz. cans of diet Coke a day to reach the ADI for my weight.

If I start drinking 27 cans of diet Coke a day, please say something to me. Because, obviously, I have a problem that goes way beyond Aspartame...

4) In the same Wikipedia article, I learned that the amount of methanol produced when aspartame is digested is less than the amount of methanol produced by things like fruit juice and citrus fruit. We also shouldn't forget that digesting fermented beverages like beer produce more methanol than Aspartame does.

What my reader didn't mention is that Aspartame also breaks down into formaldehyde. But don't be alarmed. Turns out our bodies make formaldehyde naturally and lots of the foods and drugs we ingest turn into formaldehyde in our small intestines. Fortunately, our bodies are equipped to quickly and efficiently break down formaldehyde into formic acid to prevent any problems.

5) In conclusion, I still stand by my original article Is Aspartame Really "Sweet Poison?" As I said:

It is true that some people are highly sensitive to artificial sweeteners and can develop symptoms like headaches, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue. It may even be possible that some extremely sensitive people could develop an allergic reaction or maybe even severe symptoms. But for the overwhelming majority of us, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners have been proven to be safe to consume.
If you are concerned that Aspartame is negatively affecting your health, I suggest your read my post How to Become a Fibromyalgia Scientist. I believe using the scientific method can help you and your doctor determine if Aspartame consumption is problematic for you.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and this post does not constitute medical advice. Always consult your doctor or registered dietitian if you have concerns about the effects the foods and drinks you ingest have on your health and your chronic illnesses.

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Anonymous said...

I look at it as any normal thing. It's unhealthy in excess. People eat, drink a lot worse!

Anonymous said...

Selena, I'm glad...I love my Diet Pepsi. I'll stop at 24 cans a day though!

Anonymous said...

Ah, in denial I see!

check out my latest post on the health benefits of aspartame...