NutraSweet (TM): The Bitter Truth

NutraSweet (TM): The Bitter Truth

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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It looks like sugar, tastes like sugar (so I'm told), even feels like sugar. But it has virtually no calories, doesn't rot your teeth, and, unlike saccharin, has not been proven to cause cancer. The advertisements say it's as natural as a glass of milk and a banana. I always say if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

NutraSweet(TM), the trade name for the sweetener aspartame, was developed by the B.D. Searle pharmaceutical company and is now consumed by more than 100 million persons in the United States several times daily. Searle's 100 million per year advertising campaign, the largest ever for an ingredient, is clearly paying for itself and a whole lot more. During 1986, aspartame grossed-more than 750 million for the pharmaceutical company.

Food manufacturers have switched from sugar to aspartame in unprecedented numbers. This food additive, marketed as a food, is now found in over 1200 products, including everything from baked goods and breakfast cereals, to children's vitamins, laxatives and drugs. In fact, it's hard to find a packaged product that doesn't contain aspartame. But nowhere is the artificial sweetener more visible than in cans of diet soft drinks.

With the introduction of NutraSweet(Tm), consumers began drinking as much as six times more diet drinks. In 1985, 800 million pounds of aspartame soft drinks were consumed. That translates into 5.8 pounds per person, a figure which has probably doubled by now. Sales of diet sodas grew five times faster in 1988 than those of regular sodas, with two million American households.

Why are so many people drinking so many aspartane-sweetened drinks? Partly because tap water is unhealthy, but mainly because sugars are addictive and because aspartame creates an increased thirst.

NutraSweet(Tm) is a synthetic chemical additive. It is not a natural product derived from banana plants or cows as implied by TV commercials. Rather, it is-a man-made substance composed of three ingredients which are natural, but never found together in nature in such a combination. It is composed of two amino acids, phenylaianine and aspartic acid, as well as methyl alcohol, also known as methanol.

NutraSweet(TM) Politics

During the early 1970's, Searle submitted the results of more than 100 tests which persuaded the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) that aspartame was safe. However, during the FDA's approval deliberations, several scientists, more notably Dr. Richard Wurtman, a professor of neuroendocrinology at MIT, raised serious questions about the sweetener's safety. As a result, the agency created a public board of inquiry to audit the Searle tests. The board, headed by Walle Nauta, a professor of psychology and brain science at MIT, recommended against approving NutraSweet(TM).

In recommending against approval, the board said Searle's studies were scientifically deficient and did not demonstrate reasonable safety. After entering the body, the components of aspartame are rapidly released nto the blood stream. Methanol, a deadly metabolic poison, is apparently the first to be separated. How many people who abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages are regular consumers of methyl alcohol as users of drinks with NutraSweet?

Rarely found in its free form, methyl alcohol is usually derived or produced from other substances. It can cause serious tissue damage, including blindness, and even death. One of the reasons methanol is so toxic is becausethe body lacks the necessary enzymes to detoxify it. Its rate of elimination is five times slower than a similar amount of ethyl alcohol, as found in whisky, beer and wine. For aspartame to be eliminated at all, the body must first convert it to formaldehyde, then to formic acid and ultimately to carbon -dioxide.

One 12 ounce can of most aspartame-sweetened soft drinks contains about 10 mg. of methanol. The amount of methanol ingested by heavy consumers of NutraSweet(Tm) could easily exceed 100 mg. daily, 13 times the limit recommended by the EPA.

The NutraSweet(TM) ingredient, phenylalanine, is known to be toxic to the -brain in large dosesas a free aminio acid. The amino acid can cause mental retardation and seizures in people with phenylketonuria (PKU), a genetic disorder. But their numbers are relatively small (about 1 in 15,000) and most are careful to avoid phenylal. The problem, according to Dr. Wurtman, is the rest of us.

An estimated two percent of the U.S. population, or about 4.5 million people, have one of the two genes necessary for PKU. They do not develop the disease, but may be sensitive to phenylal. Unfortunately, there is no test for the one gene condition.

Dr. Wurtman says that a typical adult who drinks about four or five aspartame sweetened soft drinks a day might introduce enough phenylal into the brain to affect the synthesis of brain neurotransniitters, possibly leading to mood swings, irritability, anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches, high blood pressure, increased appetite and even seizures.

The relative concentration of phenytal and spartic acid, the two amino acids in aspartame, is ten times higher than found in foods. Aspartame promotion literature implies that the body treats these two amino acids differently than if they were derived from fruits, vegetables, milk or meat. Many researchers strongly disagree with the promotional claims.

Physician and aspartame researcher, Dr. H.J. Roberts, M.D., says, There are profound differences in both the rate of digestion and the degree of digestion and the degree of absorption depending on whether these amino acids are provided by food or by aspartame. Consumed in their natural state, in foods, these aminoacids are digested and released into the bloodstream slowly, he says, buffered and balanced by other amino acids.

When aspartame is consumed, however, especially in beverages, the body is suddenly deluged with large amounts of phenylal and aspartic acid, which can -then cross into the brain unopposed and cause significant disturbances of the brain neurotransmitters and endocrine functions.

NutraSweet(TM) May Be Hazardous To Your Health

Dr. Roberts has recently published his findings of more than 500 cases of -aspartame-induced illnesses in +ACI-Aspartame (NutraSweet(TM)): Is It Safe?

In his preface, he states-aspartame is potentially dangerous and may produce -a wide variety of physical and mental symptoms, most of which now go -unrecognized or are misinterpreted as serious illnesses. These misdiagnosed cases are often referred to doctor after doctor at great expense to the patients and health care system. These patients are then treated with a host of other drugs, often adding additional side-effects, or banished to -psychiatry while the simple cause, NutraSweet(Tm), goes untreated.V An exceptional physician, Dr. Roberts has published more than 2000 articles and letters in leading medical journals and written five books, including the highly respected medical text +ACI-Difficult Diagnosis: A Guide to the -Interpretation of Severe Illness.

In 1984, soon after the introduction of aspartame, Dr. Roberts noticed clusters of symptoms that even he, the doctor who wrote the book on difficult -diagnosis, could not diagnose or effectively treat.

NutraSweet(TM) Alternative

If you must use a sweetener, a truly natural and healthful alternative to aspartame is the juice from the Brazilian shrub, Stevia, which is 30 to 40 -times sweeter than sucrose, has been used as a sweetener in South America for -several hundred years and in Japan for 20 years. Two drops of the liquid extract equals one teaspoon of table sugar and is less than one calorie. One teaspoon finely ground Stevia powder is equivalent to one cup of sugar.

NutraSweet (TM) Side Effects:
Complaints from 551 reactors

Headaches   (45.2%) 249
Dizziness, unsteadiness or both   (39.4%) 217
Confusion, memory loss or both 157
Decreased vision and/or other eye problems 140
Severe depression 39
Severe anxiety attacks 105
Severe drowsiness and sleepiness 93
Marked personality change 88
Palpitations, tachycardia (rapid heart action or both) 88
Paresthesia (tingling) or numbness of the limbs 82
Convulsions (grarid nial epileptic attacks) 80
Nausea 79
Recent severe insomnia 76
Tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) 73
Diarrhea 70
Frequency of voiding, buming or urination, or both 69
Excessive thirst 65
Severe slurring of speech 64
Precipitation or aggravation of diabetes 60
Severe joint pains 58

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