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Dangers of aspartame: is it really a silent killer?

Topic of the most heated discussions on health nowadays, are the dangers of aspartame. That's not really surprising, because the dangers of artificial sweeteners are such that they tend to cause a whole array of health problems, ranging from hair loss and shortness of breath to all sorts of gastric distress.

 

Scientists believe to have found a direct link between mass consumption of aspartame and the increasing number of patients with Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

So how is it that this sweetener still receives the unshakable faith and approval of the Food And Drug Administration, while stevia and the FDA just can't seem to get along? How did the FDA come to back it up in the first place? To find out, we have to go back to where it all began...

dangers-of-aspartameAspartame was first discovered back in 1965 by a scientist called James Schlatter, who was looking for an ulcer medicine at the time. He added methanol to a mixture of two amino acids: aspartic acid and phenylalanine, and discovered that the new substance had a particularly sweet taste. Note: methanol is lethal in high quantities, without its natural antidote ethanol. Both of these substances can be found in various fruits (which contain ten times more ethanol than methanol). Aspartame, however, does not contain ethanol!

Early studies indicated that there were a lot of potential risks in consuming aspartame, and the FDA actually banned the sweetener for some time. The shift came in 1981, after the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. Although scientific studies didn't agree whether aspartame was safe or harmful, the sweetener was approved thanks to a lot of political lobbying. The first soda's with aspartame hit the shelves in 1983, despite vigurous protest from the National Soft Drink Association.

I'm not going to go into the whole history of aspartame here. If you're interested in learning more about the dubious history of the sweetener, check out how aspartame became legal.

The FDA claims that enough research has gone into aspartame over the years to prove to the public that it's safe for consumption. They fail to mention though that most of this research was conducted by aspartame producing companies, and that most of the independent research (ignored by the FDA) points out that there are indeed malign side effects to consuming aspartame. Various doctors have reported symptoms of aspartame use to the FDA, but the allegations were labeled as fiction.

Some of the reported short-term dangers of aspartame measured in large test groups throughout the 1980's include (among many others):

  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing of the ears   
  • Depression and irritability   
  • Heart rhytmn disorders   
  • Nausea and diarrhea
Long-term dangers are harder to blame directly on aspartame, but many MD's believe it is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility that the artificial sweetener heightens the risk of developing (among many others):   
  • Brain tumors   
  • Epilepsy   
  • Parkinson's disease   
  • Alzheimer's disease   
  • Multiple Sclerosis   
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome   
  • Arthritis
Exposing aspartame to temperatures over 85°F (30°C) causes it to break up into DKP and formaldehyde, which in themselves are toxic. Some believe that poor storage of diet soda's may have contributed to the development of Gulf War Syndrome in veterans.

 

As with the suggested dangers of stevia and probably many other products, for each study that points out the possible dangers of aspartame, there is another one to refute it.

 

There are a lot of pro and con websites out there, and at the end of the day it's always best to use your own judgement. Because whatever the case may be, it's hard to deny that something sure smells like fresh dollar bills. Me, I like to err on the side of caution...




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