The Aspartame Diet Myth

Please select a featured image for your post

To begin with one has to mention that aspartame was discovered in 1965 by James M. Schlatter, a chemist working for G.D. Searle & Company. Schlatter had synthesized aspartame in the course of producing an anti-ulcer drug. He discovered its sweet taste serendipitously when he licked his finger, which had accidentally become contaminated with aspartame. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener because it is 180 times as sweet as sugar, without the high energy value of sugar. The quantity of aspartame needed to produce a sweet taste is so small that its caloric contribution is negligible, which makes it a popular sweetener for those trying to avoid calories from sugar. As a matter of fact, the taste of aspartame is not identical to that of sugar: the sweetness of aspartame has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, and some consumers find it unappealing. Blends of aspartame with acesulfame potassium – usually listed in ingredients as acesulfame K – are alleged to taste more like sugar, and to be sweeter than either substitute used alone.

That made aspartame the none plus ultra as a “healthy sugar” substitute present in so-called light and diet products preferred by individuals seeking to have sweet and tasty food and beverages without suffering from the unnecessary calorie load associated with ingesting fructose, glucose and sweet corn syrup enriched items. Diet Soda, NutraSweet and Canderel are a few examples of famous products containing aspartame. This sweetener is used in millions of foods and beverages, most commonly seen as an added sweetener in diet soft drinks. Most products which are labeled as being sugar free contain aspartame. This sugar substitute is widely used among diabetic patients who cannot have natural sugar in their diets. But instead of seeing an immediate shrinking and trimming in the waistline of the thousands of individuals belonging to the obese population, and a drastic drop in the number of overweight persons just the opposite happened and obesity increased in an almost exponential form. So what went wrong with this diet hype?

Aspartame is composed of phenylalanine (50%), aspartic acid (40%) and methanol (10%), blocks the production of serotonin, a nerve chemical that, among other activities, controls food cravings. As you might well visualize, a lack of serotonin will make your brain and body scream for the foods that create more of this brain chemical – and those are the high-calorie, carbohydrate-rich snacks that can sabotage any diet program. Obviously, the more aspartame one ingests, the more heightened the effects. Simply put, aspartame appears to muddle the brain chemistry. The results are an enormous craving for carbohydrates that can negate any weight loss effect immediately; as there is a misconception that more carbohydrates will cause elevated levels of serotonin, but the elevated levels are only temporarily before the vicious circle starts over again to imprison the person in question!

Are these the only drawbacks of aspartame? Nope!

H.J. Roberts, MD, coined the term "aspartame disease" in a book filled with over 1,000 pages of information about the negative health consequences of ingesting aspartame. Dr. Roberts reports that by 1998, aspartame products were the cause of 80% of complaints to the FDA about food additives. Some of these symptoms include headache, dizziness, change in mood, vomiting or nausea, abdominal pain and cramps, change in vision, diarrhea, seizures/convulsions, memory loss, and fatigue. Along with these symptoms, links to aspartame are made for fibromyalgia symptoms, spasms, shooting pains, numbness in your legs, cramps, tinnitus, joint pain, unexplainable depression, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, blurred vision, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, and various cancers. While the FDA has assured us that the research does not show any adverse health complications from aspartame, there has been some evidence to suggest that some of these symptoms can be related to aspartame:

Headaches: One study confirmed that individuals with self-reported headaches after the ingestion of aspartame were in deed susceptible to headaches due to aspartame. Three randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled studies with more than 200 adult migraine sufferers showed that headaches were more frequent and more severe in the aspartame-treated group.

Depression: In a study of the effect of aspartame on 40 patients with depression, the study was cut short due to the severity of reactions within the first 13 patients tested. The outcome showed that individuals with mood disorders were particularly sensitive to aspartame and recommended that it be avoided by them.

Cancer: In an initial study, 12 rats out of 320 developed malignant brain tumors after receiving aspartame in an FDA trial. There have been other studies to both support and contradict this finding. A recent study, however conducted by Italian and French researchers indicates there is no association between low-calorie sweeteners and cancer. The researchers evaluated a variety of studies between the years of 1991 and 2004. These studies assessed the relationship between low-calorie sweeteners and many cancers, including oral and pharynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, larynx, breast, ovary, prostate and renal cell carcinomas. The researchers examined the eating habits of more than 7,000 men and women in their middle ages (mainly 55 years and over). Based on the data evaluated, there was no evidence that saccharin or other sweeteners (mainly aspartame) increase the risk of cancer at several common sites in humans. The debate continues while more research is conducted.

Increased hunger: A study done with 14 dieters comparing the effects of aspartame-sweetened and sucrose-sweetened soft drinks on food intake and appetite ratings found that substituting diet drinks for sucrose-sweetened ones did not reduce total calorie intake and may even have resulted in a higher intake on subsequent days. Weight results from consuming fewer calories than your body needs without shifting the human organism to a starvation mode and bringing the metabolism to a complete standstill. When you replace a caloric beverage with a healthy non-caloric beverage (e.g. water), you will be saving calories and could lose weight if it is enough calories to put you in a negative balance.

After all this, are you seriously considering ingesting anything labeled with an ingredient sheet showing the presence of aspartame? If you are found of playing Russian roulette with your health, then go ahead I certainly will not try to stop you!





No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.