Aspartame is a man-made sweetener, used in some diet drinks and foods, that many of us know as Equal, Nutrasweet, or Canderel. Claims have been made that use of Aspartame is safe, and even beneficial. But what, exactly, is this chemical sweetener made up of? The contents of Aspartame can be broken down into the following:
1. aspartic acid
3. methanol – which breaks down in your diet coke into formaldehyde
Wait! Formaldehyde? Isn’t that a chemical that is carcinogenic? So when we drink diet coke, we are actually drinking a chemical that causes cancer!?! And Aspartame is claimed to be safe? Let’s look at this a little more closely …
The side effects of the use of Aspartame have been documented in studies: symptoms which can occur gradually or immediately. When looking at the list I found, these are the side effects that stood out to me:
• Loss of memory
• Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
• Trouble with vision
• Epileptic seizures
• Shortness of breath
• Joint pain
• Weight gain due to overeating of foods sweetened with Aspartame
• Increased hunger and cravings
• Increased thirst because Aspartame dehydrates the body.
I find it ironic that, although Aspartame is touted as helping with weight loss, one of the side effects of using this sweetener include weight gain and increased hunger. How does this work? Aspartame stimulates the appetite and the body’s craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods. In addition, it affects the eater’s ability to determine the sweetness of a food – and the body’s ability to receive the body’s signal that you have eaten enough dessert, chocolate, or whatever food it is that you are eating. And to top it all, the increased thirst experienced by ingesting Aspartame leads to drinking even more soda laden with chemicals and additives!
The body’s reaction to Aspartame can look like one of the following diseases: ADD, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis, Lupus and epilepsy. In addition, some doctors believe that the use of this chemical contributes to hyperactivity and other neurological problems in children. Aspartame has also been connected to cancer, atherosclerosis, and arthritis. Dr Betty Martini wrote an article on how Aspartame increases the chance of getting cancer. The article makes interesting reading because:
- it describes how the FDA supported the use of Aspartame in foods even though it was known to be carcinogenic;
- it refers to two studies that have proven Aspartame increases the chance of experiencing cancer.
Dr Martini first mentions a 2005 study that took place at the Cancer Research Center in Bologna, Italy. This study confirmed that the formaldehyde breakdown product of Aspartame damages cellular DNA; that this damage is accumulative; and that the damage increases one’s risk of developing leukemia, lymphoma, or even a malignant brain tumour. Secondly, she mentions a 2007 study conducted by Dr Morando Soffritti that proved low dosages of Aspartame causes cancer – findings which confirmed the 2005 study. Russell Blaycock, MD, reviewed both studies and commented that both used doses within the range seen in everyday users of Aspartame.
You may now be asking yourself what foods and drinks contain Aspartame? Reduced calorie products (those claiming to be sugar-free or with no added sugar), cereals, fruit spreads, diet soft drinks (both the carbonated and non-carbonated ones), sugar-free cookies, fat-free and sugar-free yoghurt, nutritional bars, low calorie dessert. The list includes more products than you would expect. The best way for you to know whether a product has Aspartame in it, is to read the nutrition label.
Which would be the lesser of two evils for you: a refined natural product like cane sugar, or the artificial chemical made by man? Will you reach for that diet soda the next time you want to have a drink? Will you still choose the fat-free yoghurt over the full cream one? Mmmmm, personally I think I will start reading labels and try to avoid a chemical that could be harmful to my body.
What would you chose?
© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013