Aspartame Unplugged

I am a confessed lover of sweets.  Not a sugar-holic but I have an affinity for sugar – in my coffee, tea, and of course the occasional dessert.  I know my limits and I understand how sugar is not so good for us, but one thing I will not succumb to is using artificial sweeteners.  I have just learned to use less real sugar over the years, or eliminate all together, before even thinking about using artificial sweeteners.  Call it intuition or having enough nutritional science background to appreciate, but I think after you read today’s post on artificial sweeteners, you too will think twice about using artificial sweeteners yourself, especially those containing aspartame.

Don’t Sprinkle This

Back in 2001, an urban nutritional legend was born. The EPA released a report citing evidence of an epidemic of multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus. While it’s certainly difficult to determine exactly what specific toxin could be causing these two diseases to be so rampant, one of the possible causes cited was the widespread use and availability of aspartame in our food supply. Aspartame, sold under the common brand names Equal and Nutra-Sweet, is a low calorie sweetener replacement 200 times sweeter than sugar made from aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. Aspartic acid and phenylalanine are amino acids and methanol is wood alcohol. Its use can be found in diet soft drinks, sugar free candies/desserts, and most notably the little color packets found on dining room tables in restaurants. It is also fortified in many diet/health related packaged foods as an alternative to sugar and as a preservative. But what about the aspartame legend makes it so dangerous?

Don’t Sprinkle That

When the temperature of aspartame is heated to 86 degrees F, either through external heating or your internal body temperature (98.6 degrees), the methanol (wood alcohol) converts to formaldehyde (a deadly neurotoxin) and then to formic acid. Formaldehyde is an absolute toxin and is used primarily to preserve tissue specimens. Our bodies treat it as a toxin and store it in the fat cells as such, particularly in the hips and thighs. Formic acid is the poison found in the sting of fire ants. Over time, the body can develop what is known as methanol toxicity, which can mimic and/or is misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus. Although both conditions are generally not a death sentence, methanol toxicity is! Thus, the legend was born as it was concluded that aspartame ingestion possibly leads to multiple sclerosis and/or lupus.

The Great Diet Dupe

Diet products are NOT diet products at all! They are chemically altered, multiple ingredient crap that in the end is worse for you than any promise and hope of weight loss you might think you are buying. In fact, there is a ton of research to show that “diet” food items that contain aspartame and other sugar substitutes actually make you crave carbohydrates thus making it more likely that you are going to GAIN weight!

Not Any Sweeter 

Aspartame is especially dangerous for diabetics. Retinopathy, a complication of diabetics where the blood vessels of the eye become damaged possibly leading to blindness, has in fact been linked to causes of aspartame toxicity and its effects of driving the blood sugar out of control. Although more common in diabetics, these same conditions can occur in non-diabetics as well. The neuro toxic effect of aspartame has also been suspected in the case of Gulf War Syndrome, a condition suffered by many of the men and women who fought in the Gulf War and consumed thousands of pallets of Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi. Documentation and observation also reveal that thousands of children diagnosed with ADD and ADHD have had complete turnarounds in their behavior when these chemicals have been removed from their diet. Coincidence? The list of things linked to aspartame can go on.

And why is this allowed to go on despite what we know? Because it has been deemed safe by the FDA. That’s for another discussion that I’m not qualified to comment. Bottom line, artificial sweeteners, aspartame in particular, should be avoided. They are chemically altered substances, not natural, that the body treats and reacts to as if it was a poison and in time, the body will get tired of fighting the battle, FDA approved or not. When it comes to sweet things, especially real sugar, just consume in smaller doses and in moderation.  The payoff is much sweeter.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

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