It seems redundant to write about the dangers of artificial sweeteners yet the consumption of sugar substitutes still continues in great quantity. A simple google of the side effects of aspartame turns up more than you would ever want to know about theses poisonous food additives. Aspartame is sold under the brand names Nutrasweet (Monsanto Corp.) and Equal, and since the patent is up it is likely to be sold under many more names. How this chemical got FDA approval is a lesson in political malfeasance involving Donald Rumsfeld (yes- that Donald Rumsfeld) and corporate ties to FDA, best captured in the documentary Sweet Misery, which you can watch free online. Chemically speaking aspartame has three components: phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol (wood alcohol). Methanol is used in antifreeze, as an industrial solvent and is used in the process of making biodiesel. Because of its toxicity it is added to industrial ethanol to avoid liquor laws and taxes. It is also found naturally in some foods bound to pectin, which is a fiber that allows methanol to pass through your body harmlessly. Methanol that is found in aspartame is not bound to anything and when consumed, gets widely distributed throughout the body including brain, muscle, fat and nervous tissue. It is then metabolized to formaldehyde which enters the cells and binds to the proteins and DNA. Formaldehyde is used as a paint thinner and embalming fluid and is a well-studied toxin. The EPA has determined that there is no safe level of formaldehyde in your body. Phenylalanine and aspartic acid are amino acids that in high concentrations are neurotoxic. The neurotoxic effect of these chemicals can result in headaches, mental confusion, dizziness and seizures. There are in fact over 90 different health side effects associated with aspartame. Currently aspartame is banned for all children’s products on the European Common Market.
The number one selling artificial sweetener is Splenda- a sugar molecule that has had three chlorine molecules added to it through a patented process producing a sugar that does not occur in nature. It was accidentally discovered by a researcher who was trying to come up with a new insecticide. To date there have been no long-term studies done on Splenda (or on aspartame). According to a study from Duke University , Splenda “suppresses beneficial bacteria and directly affects the expression of the transporter P-gp and cytochrome P-450 isozymes that are known to interfere with the bioavailability of drugs and nutrients. Furthermore, these effects occur at Splenda doses that contain sucralose levels that are approved by the FDA for use in the food supply.” In short- don’t eat it.
The primary reason people consume these artificial sweeteners is the mistaken belief that they will help them lose weight, or at least not gain weight. This however does not seem to be the case. A recent study done at Purdue university concluded that consuming artificial sweeteners actually increases the odds of gaining weight. The report offers strong evidence that animals fed with artificially sweetened foods actually consumed more calories and gained more weight than animals eating foods flavored with glucose, a natural, high-calorie sweetener. Another reason diet drinks can lead to increased weight gain has to do with the toxicity of artificial sweeteners. One of the places the body stores toxins is in your fat cells,because fat is a very effective chemical buffer. The fat surrounds the toxin and protects both the fat cell and the rest of your body from the potentially damaging effect of the toxin, until your body is ready to deal with it. Toxins can block your body’s ability to burn fat, causing a resistance to losing weight.
There is no doubt the consuming sugar, in all its forms, is bad for you. However, if you must sweeten your drink, use plain old sugar. Remember- Friends don’t let friends eat artificial food substitutes.