If you have been drinking diet soda and chewing gum, chances are you have been enjoying aspartame in generous quantities. Aspartame is a popular sugar substitute that can be found in diet soda drinks, chewing gum, fruit spreads and sugar-free products to name a few. It is also known by the brand names, Sweet One, NutraSweet and Spoonful. Despite its popularity in the market, what many do not know is that aspartame accounts for 75 percent of side effect complaints received by the Adverse Reaction Monitoring System (ARMS) of the US Food and Drug Administration.
Can aspartame be addictive?
Yes, according to Dr. Betty Martini, popular anti-aspartame advocate. She explains that it is an "addictive, exitoneurotic, carcinogenic, genetically engineered drug and adjuvant that damages the mitochondria." Moreover, Dr. Janet Hall, another famous advocate against aspartame, shares on her website that all artificial sweeteners create an artificial need for more sweetness. She goes on to add that forced sweetness, being a class of altered food, is a trap that cause people to become addicted to sweeter tasting food with no nutritional value.
Recent studies have shown that aspartame is addictive because it affects the absorption of dopamine in the brain.
Side Effects of Aspartame
Aspartame is made up of 3 components: phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol. Understanding the effects of aspartame will require us to look into its genetic make up.
In its website, manufacturers of aspartame continue to assure the public that low-calorie sweeteners are effective for weight reduction, weight maintenance, reduction of tooth decay, management of diabetes and reduction of risks associated with obesity. They claim that consumers of low-calorie, sugar-free beverages were able to incorporate these products into a healthy lifestyle not because they need to manage their weight (since a majority of people use low-calorie foods and beverages for reasons other than dieting) but because use of low-calorie products is part of a healthy lifestyle.
Despite the benefits cited in the aspartame website, independent studies have been shown that aspartame is not as safe as it appears to be. In a recent study conducted by researchers from the University Of Miami Miller School Of Medicine and at Columbia University Medical Center, it was discovered that those who drank diet soft drinks on a daily basis were more likely to contract vascular diseases compared to those who took none.
Supporters of aspartame insist that aspartic acid and phenylalanine are found in many foods. What they have conveniently left out, however, is that the said neurotoxins are harmless only when consumed with other nutrients like fats, amino acids (protein) and carbohydrates. On their own, they are absorbed by the nervous system in large concentrations causing the stimulation of brain neurons and cell death. Symptoms of the conditions include headaches, confusion, balance problems and seizures.
Methanol, on the other hand, is also a highly toxic substance. It is released in the small intestine gradually with the assistance of chymotrypsin and then broken down into formaldehyde: a chemical used for embalming which is a carcinogen that causes birth defects, retinal damage and DNA replication.
Again, supporters of aspartame insist that methanol is safe because it is found in vegetables and fruit juices. What they neglect to mention, however, is that methanol in vegetables and fruit juices is bound with pectin and the body does not possess the digestive enzyme to break down pectin and release ethanol into the body. Furthermore, ethanol, the methanol toxicity antidote, is found in natural sources of methanol, inhibiting the metabolism of methanol and giving the body sufficient time, through the lungs and kidneys, to clear it. Methanol found in aspartame is easily absorbed because it is in a free form.
Aspartic acid, methanol and phenylalanine and their breakdown in the body are cumulative because of their fast absorption and slow excretion.
In 1984, studies conducted revealed that the toxicity of NutraSweet (aspartame) to living organisms. The State of Arizona arrived at findings which showed that aspartame in carbonated drinks can break down into free methanol in temperatures of 99 degrees Fahrenheit. On May 13, 1998, the University of Barcelona also arrived at results revealing that aspartame was transformed into formaldehyde in the bodies of living creatures, and on later examination formaldehyde had spread through the vital parts of the body.
"Artificial sweetener disease"
The US Food and Drug Administration has received reports of 92 medical health problems resulting from aspartame, ranging from abdominal pain to migraines, dizziness and hives. Aspartame poisoning is often misdiagnosed because its symptoms mock other syndromes. It changes the ratio of amino acids in the blood, lowering or blocking levels of hormones like dopamine and tyrosine that are necessary for bodily function.
Since aspartame cannot be detected through lab tests and x-rays, these diseases and disorders may actually be a toxic load. Below are some specific health conditions that are associated with aspartame you might want to recall next time you open a can of diet soda:
1. Cancer - The Ramazzine Foundation, a European Cancer Research Center, conducted a study on aspartame which revealed that aspartame increases the risk of cancers (lymphoma, leukemia and breast cancers). Despite the National Cancer Institute's stand that no such connection was ever firmly established between aspartame and cancer, it might well be worth thinking that what is harmful to rats is also harmful to humans. Moreover, the dismissive stand of regulatory bodies concerning aspartame is merely based on the absence of data that can conclusively support such a connection and NOT on a finding that establishes that aspartame does not cause cancer.
2. Mental disorders and degeneration of brain cells - Excessive ingestion of artificial sweeteners, according to researchers from the University of Praetoria and the University of Limpopo, may lead to various mental disorders and the degeneration of the brain. Publishing in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers noted that aspartame appeared to cause excessive signals, damage and even death to nerve cells. Since aspartame disrupts the functioning of the cell's energy source, it will lead to a cascade of effects on the whole system.
3. Headaches - As early as 1994, a study conducted published on PubMed.gov showed that ingestion of aspartame was associated with headaches. Subjects in the study revealed that they experienced headaches 33 percent of the time when taking aspartame compared to 24 percent when on placebo treatment. Moreover, Dr. Robert Milne and Blake More in their book "Headaches" report that headaches are the most reported side effect given by those who take products containing aspartame. They add that in a University of Parkinson's at Florida study, it was found out that the incidences of migraines doubled for a majority of test subjects who took aspartame. Their headaches lasted longer and were marked by significant signs of shakiness and diminished vision.
4. Weight gain and increased blood sugar - Aspartame is not a healthy alternative for diabetics or those wanting to lose weight. Contrary to popular belief, a recent study has shown that regular consumption of diet soft drinks is strongly connected with abdominal obesity and that aspartame can increase blood sugar. Researchers from the University of Texas Health Center San Antonio reported in a study that, as a group, 70 percent of those who drank diet soft drinks gained weight as opposed to those who did not. Moreover, those who drank 2 or more diet sodas regularly experienced an increase in their waist circumference by 500 percent more than those who did not drink them.
In another related study that analyzed a possible relationship between intake of aspartame and fasting glucose and insulin levels among 40 diabetes-prone mice, one of the researchers in the study, Dr. Gabriel Fernandes, revealed that heavy aspartame exposure might potentially contribute to the associations noticed between soda consumption and the risk of diabetes in humans.
The above health conditions are just some of the 92 reported medical health problems reportedly associated with aspartame. Despite the stand of aspartame manufacturers that their product has been declared safe for human consumption, it is still strange that there are still reports from sectors who do not stand to benefit from such declarations that aspartame is not safe. Prudence would dictate that avoiding a product may be better in the long run than to discover firsthand that all that was said about it was true. Why? Because you happen to be living proof of it.
How to protect yourself
To keep yourself safe from contracting "artificial sweetener syndrome," it is suggested that you stop taking all products containing this chemical.
If you have brought or stocked up on products containing aspartame, you can arrange to return the products so you can get a refund of your money. If you feel that you may need professional help in getting over the disease, please see your doctor as soon as possible. Take a proactive approach to being healthy.
Finally, for those taking aspartame simply because they want to observe a healthy diet, replace your aspartame habit with real sugar. Although it may have more calories, it offers a far better solution than being poisoned. Those who want to manage their weight problems are advised to seek a healthier course of action like eating more whole foods, vegetables and fruits and getting regular exercise. True and sustainable weight loss cannot be achieved through a quick fix without a change in lifestyle. Set a personal example to be healthy and watch yourself regain your life.
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