Updated 7/20/2015. See info on Truvia at end of OTHER ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS section.
This post was prompted by a colleague who arrived on a hot summer day carrying a bottle of Diet Snapple sweetened with aspartame. Since I knew he’d battled cancer twice and is health conscious, I was surprised and sent him some information on aspartame that evening.
The next day he wrote to ask if there are any safe sweeteners since he’s trying to keep his weight down and avoiding sugar.
This is for him.
This is what Dr Robert Mercola says about the dangers of aspartame:
How Aspartame Can Wreak Havoc with Your Health
“Aspartame is primarily made up of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. The phenylalanine has been synthetically modified to carry a methyl group, which provides the majority of the sweetness. That phenylalanine methyl bond, called a methyl ester, is very weak, which allows the methyl group on the phenylalanine to easily break off and form methanol.You may have heard the claim that aspartame is harmless because methanol is also found in fruits and vegetables. However, in fruits and vegetables, the methanol is firmly bonded to pectin, allowing it to be safely passed through your digestive tract. Not so with the methanol created by aspartame; there it’s not bonded to anything that can help eliminate it from your body. That’s problem number one.
“Problem number two relates to the fact that humans are the only mammals who are NOT equipped with a protective biological mechanism that breaks down methanol into harmless formic acid. This is why animal testing of aspartame does not fully apply to humans. According to Dr. Woody Monte, a toxicology expert and professor emeritus at Arizona State University in food and chemistry:
‘There is a major biochemical problem here. Methyl alcohol is known now, and has been known since 1940, to be metabolized differently by humans from every other animal.’
“As explained by Dr. Monte, in humans, the methanol ends up acting as a Trojan horse, and here’s how. Both animals and humans have small structures called peroxisomes in each cell. There are a couple of hundred in every cell of your body, which are designed to detoxify a variety of chemicals. Peroxisome contains catalase, which help detoxify methanol. Other chemicals in the peroxisome convert the formaldehyde to formic acid, which is harmless, but, again, this last step occurs only in animals. Human peroxisomes cannot convert the toxic formaldehyde into harmless formic acid.
“So to recap: in humans, the methyl alcohol travels through your blood vessels into sensitive areas, such as your brain, that are loaded with ADH, which converts methanol to formaldehyde. And since there’s no catalase present, the formaldehyde is free to cause enormous damage in your tissues. Symptoms from methanol poisoning are many, and include headaches, ear buzzing, dizziness, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, weakness, vertigo, chills, memory lapses, numbness and shooting pains in the extremities, behavioral disturbances, and neuritis.
“The most well known problems from methanol poisoning are vision problems including misty vision, progressive contraction of visual fields, blurring of vision, obscuration of vision, retinal damage, and blindness. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that causes retinal damage, interferes with DNA replication and may cause birth defects. Not surprisingly, the most comprehensive and longest human study looking at aspartame toxicity found a clear association between aspartame consumption and non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and leukemia.”
– Mercola, 2015
In 1991, Doctor of Nutrition Janet Starr Hull was diagnosed with severe Grave’s Disease, a serious autoimmune disorder characterized by an overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism). Her doctors began treating her for this but she didn’t get well until she detoxed herself from aspartame, which was poisoning her – in her case, mimicking the symptoms of Graves Disease. She created an Aspartame Detox Program to heal herself and now teaches it to others.
551 people who reported toxicity effects from aspartame ingestion were surveyed in an epidemiological survey. The results were reported in the Journal of Applied Nutrition in 1988. Both acute and chronic toxicity effects from aspartame were covered.
This is a list of aspartame’s adverse health effects identified by the participants in this survey (FDA, 2003):
SYMPTOM # OF PEOPLE %
– Decreased vision and/or other eye problems 140 25%
(blurring, bright flashes, tunnel vision)
– Pain (or or both eyes) 51 9%
– Decreased tears, trouble with contact lens, 46 8%
– Blindness (one or both eyes) 14 3%
– Tinnitus (ringing, buzzing) 13 13%
– Severe intolerance for noise 47 9%
– Marked impairment of hearing 25 5%
– Headaches 249 45%
– Dizziness, unsteadiness, or both 217 39%
– Confusion, memory loss, or both 157 29%
– Severe drowsiness and sleepiness 93 17%
– Paresthesias (pins and needles, tingling) 82 15%
or numbness of the limbs
– Convulsions (grand mal epileptic attacks) 80 15%
– Petit mal attacks and “absences” 18 3%
– Severe slurring of speech 64 12%
– Severe tremors 51 9%
– Severe hyperactivity and restless legs 43 8%
– Atypical facial pain 38 7%
– Severe depression 139 25%
– Extreme irritability 125 23%
– Severe anxiety attacks 105 19%
– Marked personality changes 88 16%
– Recent severe insomnia 76 14%
– Severe aggravation of phobias 41 7%
– Palpitations, tachycardia (rapid heart action), 88 16%
– Shortness of breath 54 10%
– Atypical chest pain 44 8%
– Recent hypertension (high blood pressure) 34 6%
– Nausea 79 14%
– Diarrhea 70 13%
Associated gross blood in the stools (12)
– Abdominal pain 70 13%
– Pain on swallowing 28 5%
SKIN AND ALLERGIES
– Severe itching without a rash 44 8%
– Severe lip and mouth reactions 29 5%
– Urticaria (hives) 25 5%
– Other eruptions 48 9%
– Aggravation of respiratory allergies 10 2%
ENDOCRINE AND METABOLIC
– Problems with diabetes: loss of control; 60 11%
precipitation of clinical diabetes;
aggravation or simulation of diabetic
– Menstrual changes 45 6%
Severe reduction or cessation of periods (22)
– Paradoxic weight gain 34 5%
– Marked weight loss 26 6%
– Marked thinning or loss of the hair 32 6%
– Aggravated hypoglycemia (low blood sugar 25 5%
– Frequency of voiding (day and night), burning 69 13%
on urination (dysuria), or both
– Excessive thirst 65 12%
– Severe joint pains 58 11%
– Bloating 57 10%
– Fluid retention and leg swelling 20 4%
– Increased susceptibility to infection 7 1%
Aspartame may also trigger, mimic, cause , or worsen the following illnesses (FDA, 2003) (Hull, 2003):
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Arthritis (including Rheumatoid)
- Birth defects
- Brain tumors
- Chemical Sensitivities
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- EMS (Eosinophilia–myalgia Syndrome)
- Grave’s Disease
- Lyme Disease
- Meniere’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Mercury sensitivity from Amalgam fillings
- non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Post-Polio Syndrome
“These are not allergies or sensitivities, but diseases and disease syndromes. Aspartame poisoning is commonly misdiagnosed because aspartame symptoms mock textbook ‘disease’ symptoms, such as Grave’s Disease.
“Aspartame dissolves into solution and can therefore travel throughout the body and deposit within any tissue. The body digests aspartame unlike saccharin, which does not break down within humans.
“The multitude of aspartame side effects are indicative to your genetic individuality and physical weaknesses. It is important to put two and two together, nonetheless, and identify which side effects aspartame is creating within you.” ( Hull, 2002)
“Frequently, aspartame toxicity is misdiagnosed as a specific disease. This has yet to be reported in the scientific literature, yet it has been reported countless times to independent organizations and scientists…. In other cases, it has been reported that chronic aspartame ingestion has triggered or worsened certain chronic illnesses. Nearly 100% of the time, the patient and physician assume that these worsening conditions are simply a normal progression of the illness. Sometimes that may be the case, but many times it is chronic aspartame poisoning.” (FDA, 2003)
“There have been well over 7,000 aspartame toxicity reactions officially received by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration between 1982 (after aspartame was first approved) until 1995. From this figure, we can estimate the number of actual toxicity reactions observed. (FDA, 2003)
Dr Betty Martini, is a physician who learned about the toxicity of aspartame and founded Mission Possible World Health International, a volunteer organization working with doctors around the world committed to removing aspartame from all foods, drinks, and medicines.
Martini points out that 75% of all product complaints received by the FDA are about aspartame, considerably more than for any other additive. Recently the EPA declared aspartame to be a potentially dangerous chemical.
Martini says NutraSweet (a brand of aspartame) is a “deadly neurotoxic drug masquerading as an additive. It interacts with all antidepressants, L-dopa, Coumadin, hormones, insulin, all cardiac medication, and many others. It also is a chemical hyper sensitization drug so that it interacts with vaccines, other toxins, other unsafe sweeteners like Splenda which has a chlorinated base like DDT and can cause auto immune disease. It has a synergistic and additive effect with MSG…. The FDA has known this for a quarter of a century and done nothing even though it’s against the law.” (Genet, 2011)
Check this out!
DONALD RUMSFELD AND ASPARTAME
Yes indeed, that Donald Rumsfeld – the one who, as George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense, promoted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He’s also known for the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuses scandal and what were termed “enhanced interrogation techniques”.
So what’s his connection to aspartame?
In 1985, G.D. Searle, the pharmaceutic company holding the patent for aspartame, was purchased by Monsanto. Fifteen years earlier, in 1980, an FDA Board of Inquiry, made up of three independent scientists, confirmed a connection between aspartame and brain tumors. The FDA had previously banned aspartame based on this finding.
Rumsfeld was Searle’s President at the time of the company’s 1985 sale to Monsanto. He promised to “call in his markers” to get aspartame approved – and he did just that.
In 1985, Searle was absorbed by Monsanto (the giant chemical company that’s brought us genetically modified crops containing the pesticide Glyphosate – among other dangerous chemical products like PCB’s, dioxin, and Agent Orange – and now bills itself as a “sustainable agriculture” company).
Rumsfeld served first as CEO and then as President of Searle from 1977 to 1985. During his tenure there, he reduced the number of Searle employees by 60%, thereby creating a large spike in the company’s bottom-line profits. This maneuver earned him two awards as Outstanding CEO in the Pharmaceutical Industry – from The Wall Street Transcript in 1980 and from Financial World Magazine in 1981. He also played an instrumental role in Monsanto’s acquisition of Searle, for which he was rewarded with a large bonus, reportedly $12 mllion.
See Donald Rumsfeld and the Strange History of Aspartame if you’re interested in learning how Rumsfeld called in his markers to get the FDA’s approval of aspartame. (Genet, 2011)
Bayer’s Flinstone’s Children’s Vitamins
Aspartame is found in over 6,000 products under brand names such as Equal and NutraSweet. Products containing aspartame include carbonated soft drinks, powdered soft drinks, chewing gum, confections, gelatins, dessert mixes, puddings and fillings, frozen desserts, yogurt, tabletop sweeteners, vitamins, sugar-free cough drops, and some pharmaceuticals.
For a more complete list of products containing aspartame, see the Calorie Control Council’s Aspartame Information Center.
Currently, aspartame is consumed by over 200 million people around the world. (Calorie Control Council, 2015)
OTHER ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
Say you decide to avoid products containing aspartame and think maybe other artificial sweeteners are the way to go – there are problems with this plan too.
Here’s Dr Mercola on artificial sweeteners:
“For the last 17 years, I’ve warned that artificial sweeteners can wreck your health. Aspartame is among the worst of the bunch, and in general, people who consume aspartame tend to be in poorer health. They also tend to develop more of a sweet tooth.
“I found the evidence against artificial sweeteners to be so compelling, and the hazards so disconcerting, I wrote an entire book on the subject called Sweet Deception, published in 2006. Now, years later, the research I presented in that book has been confirmed many times over, and the tide is finally beginning to turn against this toxic food additive.” (Mercola, 2014)
As Mercola, along with many other respected health authorities, make clear, consuming artificial sweeteners is actually associated with WEIGHT GAIN.
“The connection between sweet taste alone and increased hunger can be found in the medical literature going back at least two decades…. two studies, for example, dating back to the late 80s and early 90s, both showed this link between artificial sweeteners and increased hunger.” (Mercola, 2014)
One of the largest studies of its kind followed nearly 60,000 post-menopausal women for about 10 years. The study found that drinking only two diet drinks a day dramatically increased the participants’ risk of an early death from heart disease. The findings were presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session in Washington, DC in 2014.
“The fact that low- or no-calorie sweeteners do as much harm (or more!) than sugar, on the other hand, has seemed, and still seems, counterintuitive to many.” (Mercola, 2014)
This just came to my attention:
The take away seems to be: To preserve or restore your health, stay away from processed food products.
How about getting a non-GMO stevia plant or seeds to use a leaf or two for sweetening your tea – or make your own organic stevia extract?
YOU NEED TO STAY HYDRATED – SO WHAT’S GOOD TO DRINK?
I certainly don’t have complete answers to this excellent question. This is what I’ve been drinking lately:
KEFIR (organic and full fat if possible) mixed with filtered water
Provides good probiotics because it’s fermented. I’ve even more than once accidentally left a cup of kefir out overnight and found it even tastier (more tang) than the day before. It’s a living food so continues fermenting, producing more probiotics, at room temp. Get the plain (unsweetened) kind. If you don’t like the tartness, add some pureed organic fruits. See KEFIR for more information. Kefir is a living culture so look for it in one of the refrigerated sections at grocery stores, perhaps near the yogurts.
KEVITA mixed with filtered water
Kevita makes these sparkling probiotic drinks in a variety of flavors. All the ones I’ve tried are delicious, almost completely organic, sweetened only with a bit of organic stevia, and vegan. I’m particularly fond of the flavors with coconut in them. See the Kevita site for more information, including stores that carry their drinks. Kevita is also alive so it’s sold from a refrigerated section at grocery stores carrying it.
HARMLESS HARVEST 100% RAW COCONUT WATER – usually mixed with filtered water
Coconut water is better at restoring electrolytes than Gatorade and doesn’t contain any of those nasty FDA approved (GRAS: “generally accepted as safe”) food colors or additives which turn out to be harmful. And raw coconut water tastes the very best. Raw coconut water needs to be kept cold so look for it in a refrigerated section at grocery stores carrying it.
ORGANIC ROOIBOS TEA – brewed at home
Rooibos is caffeine free and naturally sweet tasting. Good with some organic unsweetened almond milk in it.
ORGANIC LICORICE TEA – brewed at home
Also naturally sweet tasting.
PLAIN FILTERED WATER
A few years ago, I had a 3M Aqua Pure water filter installed under my kitchen sink so there’s always tasty filtered water at hand for drinking at home or taking with me. The filtered water is dispensed via a tap with a lever next to the regular taps for the sink. Much easier than lugging bottles of water home from the store and safer for the planet too. These are the filter cartridges the 3M Aqua Pure water filter uses. I change the cartridge twice a year.
The above are what I’ve figured out for me. It would be great if you’d be willing to share info about your own favorite healthy drinks.
Something I’ve noticed since cleaning up my diet is that my craving for sweetened drinks in general has gone way down. Every once in a while I’ll stir a little organic honey into some hot tea and that’s become about it.
MORE ON DIET SNAPPLE
Back to where we started, with Diet Snapple:
Snapple Diet Peach Tea
Smooth Snapple tea, perfect peach flavor. You won’t believe this peach of a tea could have this much taste and still be called diet.
NUTRITION FACTS FOR 16FL OZ :
|TOTAL FAT||0 G||0%DV|
|TOTAL CARBOHYDRATES||1 G||0%DV|
FILTERED WATER, CITRIC ACID, TEA, ASPARTAME, POTASSIUM CITRATE, NATURAL FLAVORS, MALIC ACID
Not listed on the label (because our FDA doesn’t require such labeling) are pesticides since the tea leaves and fruits Snapple uses are made from genetically modified sources. You can be sure they’d put “Non-GMO” or ‘Organic” prominently on the label if they were using healthier ingredients.
And who knows what falls under the umbrella of “natural flavors”?
“From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.” (FDA, 2015)
I learned years ago from my father, who was an enzyme chemist working in research and development in the processed food industry, that ground up cochineal insects are used to make foods red, orange, and pink.
You’re eating cochineal (sometimes called carmine) when you consume commercial brands of raspberry yogurt, maraschino cherries, Starbucks Strawberry Frappuccino, and hundreds of other food products. It’s also used in numerous cosmetics, including lipsticks.
CHOOSING HEALTHIER FOOD PRODUCTS WITH HELP FROM THE EWG
You can check out the nutrition, ingredients, and processing ratings of over 80,000 processed food products on the Food Scores section of the Environmental Working Group’s site. This is their health rating for Snapple Diet Peach Tea. They give it a 5 on their 1-10 rating scale. (EWG, 2015-C)
Lower scores indicate better foods. Product scores take into consideration nutrition, ingredients, and processing concerns. Ingredients are assessed for presence of pesticides, food additives, contaminants, and antibiotics. Since it’s known that whole foods are healthiest, EWG’s ratings help you choose less processed options.
“Nearly two-thirds of the 3,015 produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013 contained pesticide residues – a surprising finding in the face of soaring consumer demand for food without agricultural chemicals.” (EWG, 2015-A)
The EWG has a nifty free Food Scores app you can download to smart phones and iPads. (EWG, 2015-A)
They also have another useful free app for getting ratings of cosmetics and other personal care products:
The EWG’s Skin Deep database rates over 69,000 cosmetics and other personal care products. You can use it to check out the ingredient safety score of known and suspected health and environmental hazards for each product. (EWG, 2015-B)
These EWG mobile apps contain barcode scanners so you can check the EWG’s score for products you’re thinking of buying. Very useful when you’re out shopping – or if you want to check products you’re already using at home. (EWG, 2015-A & 2015-B)
Calorie Control Council. (2015). Aspartame Information Center. See: http://www.aspartame.org/about/consumer-products/
Environmental Working Group. (2015-A). Food Scores. See: http://www.ewg.org/foodscores
Environmental Working Group. (2015-B). Skin Deep. See: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/app/
Environmental Working Group. (2015-C). Snapple Diet Peach Tea. See: http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/products/076183163573-SnappleDietPeachTea
FDA. (2003). Letter from Mark Gold to the FDA: Recall Aspartame as a Neurotoxic Drug: Reported Aspartame Toxicity Reactions. See: http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dailys/03/jan03/012203/02p-0317_emc-000199.txt
FDA. (2015). What is the meaning of ‘natural’ on the label of food? See: http://www.fda.gov/aboutfda/transparency/basics/ucm214868.htm
Genet, R. (2011). Donald Rumsfeld and the Strange History of Aspartame. Huffington Post. See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robbie-gennet/donald-rumsfeld-and-the-s_b_805581.html
Hardin, J.R. (2013). Kefir. See: http://allergiesandyourgut.com/superimmunity/kefir/
HealthFreedoms.org. (2015). Truvia’s Sweet Scam: Highly Processed, GMO, and Contains Hardly Any Stevia. See: http://www.healthfreedoms.org/truvias-sweet-scam-highly-processed-gmo-and-contains-hardly-any-stevia/
Hull, J.S. (2002). Aspartame Side Effects. See: http://www.sweetpoison.com/aspartame-side-effects.html
Kevita. (2015). See: http://kevita.com/
Mercola, R. (2014). Some info on aspartame from – The Aspartame End Game … And What’s Next. See: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/04/16/aspartame-diet-soda.aspx
© Copyright 2015 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.