Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Put Down the NutraSweet

The more I learn about nutrition, the more I realize I have to learn. With all the new discoveries and breakthroughs, it’s almost impossible to be truly nutritionally knowledgeable these days. This realization that I’m just smart enough to know how ignorant I am keeps me from being smug and acting like a know-it-all to the general public, for the most part. I don’t open my mouth when someone tells me that a grilled factory farmed chicken breast is healthy or that all carbs are bad because it’s not my place to “teach” everyone and I’m aware that every time I speak about food, there’s someone who knows much more than I do biting her tongue as well.

But it really, truly bothers me that there are so many people who still think aspartame is safe and that diet soda, Crystal Light, or “sugar free” anything is a better choice. I certainly don’t think these people are stupid. Hell, when I was a teenager I’d order my McDonald’s Value Meal (argh) with a diet Coke (double argh) to save calories. I had no idea I was fueling my body with a chemical cocktail because the truth is not readily available. In fact, when I first heard that aspartame was dangerous, I didn’t believe it. After all, it was approved by the FDA, so it was safe, right? Then I got curious and read more studies. I learned more than I ever wanted to know and now not only am I pissed off at the FDA, I’m pissed off that there are outright lies on the aspartame website. Allow me to give you a brief history of the poison that’s in your diet soda and sugar free lattes:

Aspartame was invented in 1965 by some dudes working for a company called GD Searle. They were working on a chemical compound they hoped would lead to an ulcer drug. James Schlatter, one of the dudes, accidentally got some powder on his hands and licked it. He noticed it tasted sweet. He decided since it was calorie free, it would make a great sweetener. He tried to get FDA approval in 1973 and was denied eight times between 1974 and 1980. Despite warnings from neuroscientists, GD Searle managed to get FDA approval to use aspartame in dry foods. Before it even made it into the food, the FDA put together a task force and discovered the “tests” run that “proved” aspartame was safe were clearly manipulated.

By the way, guess who was the CEO of GD Searle? Donald Rumsfeld. Just sayin’.

Here’s where it gets pretty interesting. In 1977, the US attorney’s office began the process of pressing charges against GD Searle for “knowingly misrepresenting findings and concealing materials and facts and making false statements in aspartame safety tests.” GD Searle offered the attorney leading the investigation a job with the law firm that represented their company. The attorney withdrew from the case, resigned as US attorney and accepted the job he was offered. GD Searle once again tried to get aspartame approved. In 1980, it was determined by the FDA that it should NOT be approved. In 1981, a shady dude named Arthur Hayes was appointed FDA Commissioner. Hayes ignored the evidence and approved aspartame for dry goods. In 1983 it was approved for beverages even though the National Soft Drink Association advised against it until further testing could be done. What happened to Hayes, you may be wondering? He left the FDA amid charges of impropriety and went to work for JD Searle’s Public Relations firm. I am not making this up. Research this! In 1996 aspartame was approved without restriction despite the fact that there were 92 known symptoms from ingesting it. Now it’s in Equal, Sweet & Low, diet drinks, yogurt… check your labels. Prepare to be pissed off.

Why do people eat and drink this? The aspartame site describes it as a great weight loss aid since it has no calories. People believe it since it’s in their food. People don’t buy into the “hype” or “crazy theories” and believe what they’re told. Sucks to be them, because aspartame actually causes weight gain. Looking back on my childhood, the heaviest women I knew were major diet soda drinkers.

What IS aspartame, anyway? Well, according to their website, www.aspartame.net, “It is made from two building blocks of protein, just like those found naturally in many everyday foods such as meat, fish, cheese, eggs and milk. Aspartame is digested by the body in exactly the same way as these other protein foods and so does not bring anything new to our diet.” Gosh, sounds as harmless as a kitten! But one can’t really trust information on the product’s own website. Here’s what an unbiased study says: aspartame is aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and…. methanol.

Wait… what? Here’s the definition of methanol according to Wikipedia: It is toxic. Drinking 10 mL can cause blindness, and as little as 100 mL can cause death. It is the simplest alcohol, and is a light, volatile, colorless, flammable, liquid with a distinctive odor that is very similar to but slightly sweeter than ethanol (drinking alcohol). At room temperature it is a polar liquid and is used as an antifreeze, solvent, fuel, and as a denaturant for ethanol.
Phenylalanine is an amino acid. Well, amino acids are good for us, right? Of course they are, but not when you separate the individual amino acid from its protein chain, and use it alone. The Aspartic acid in aspartame, is also an excitotoxin. An excitotoxin is a substance that over-stimulates nerve cells. This occurs in the brain, as well as the peripheral nerves, because aspartic acid, in free form, is an absorption accelerant & easily crosses the blood-brain barrier.
I’m no scientist but I know that that’s a bunch of shit I do NOT want to mess around with. The aspartame website claims that “people around the world have been enjoying the taste of aspartame for over 25 years.” That makes me want to cry. I drank this shit as a child because nobody knew (because they were lied to). And across the country, millions of people dump Equal into their coffee every morning blissfully ignorant of the fact that they are poisoning themselves.

I’m not saying that if you have one sugar free Redbull you’re going to die. Small amounts won’t likely do major damage. But there are aspartame support groups. So clearly, people are ingesting enough to do damage. Some of the many side effects are memory loss, migraines, Alzheimer’s, blindness and depression. Sure, legally you’re free to do that to yourself. But why would you want to?
Still not convinced? Do your own research. Just be aware that once you learn what’s really going on, you can’t go back. The aspartame site calls these “internet rumors” though, so make sure you go to the library and look it up in a book.







“Skinny Bitch” by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, pgs. 32-35


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