Often referred to as the most studied substance in the world, the artificial sweetener Aspartame owes its economic resiliency to the millions of repeat consumers who use it every day, sometimes without even knowing it.
Not to be outdone by its competitors such as saccharin, sucralose and more recently the Stevia plant, aspartame can be found in everything from diet cola, children’s pain relievers and vitamins, most sublingual pharmaceuticals, all mint flavored nicotine replacement lozenges, and cough drops.
With the current global sugar prices expected to remain high through to 2012, aspartame, a combination of the two amino acids phenylalanine (50%) with aspartic acid (40%), and Methyl Alcohol (10%), has a global market presence in the sugar replacement industry that remains solid. However, in spite of the number of studies done on this substance, empirical evidence as to Aspartame’s long term effects on the human body have yet to be reliably established.
A cursory internet search for information regarding the safety of Aspartame use poses a challenge. From one website to another a searcher is faced with trying to decide credible information from that which is inaccurate and possibly spurious. Right up to the present many personal reports of aspartame’s long term ill-effects on humans have been thought of in terms of a co-relational association with excessive aspartame use acting synergistically with a previous, or underlying health condition.
In spite of a lack of solid empirical data on causality of any type of illness pre-existing or not, the FDA receives more adverse reports on aspartame use than any other food and beverage product on the market. Many independent reports claim that aspartame has been the cause of blindness, brain tumours (primarily high grade astrocytomas), Gulf War Syndrome and seizures, while others claim aspartame mimics auto-immune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and Lupus Erythematosus.
Additionally, aspartame appears to aggravate many mental health conditions such as Depression, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism and anxiety/panic disorders. All in all aspartame has been indicated as a cause of 92 distinct symptoms, some quite severe and debilitating. Fortunately many of these symptoms reportedly abate upon the cessation of aspartame in the diet.
Much of the ground breaking recognition of aspartame’s link to these conditions and symptoms can be attributed the medical community. Two physicians and bestselling authors, Dr. Russell Blaylock, author of the book Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills and Dr. Joseph Mercola author of Sweet Deception have become outspoken critics of aspartame use and its debilitating effects along with the revealing documentary Sweet Misery. With the co-operation of patients, physicians, and even a woman convicted poisoning her husband, Sweet Misery portrays the stories of many people who have felt that the artificial sweetener was a primary cause of their health issues.
More recently, however, Victoria Inness-Brown, M.A., an independent private citizen, conducted her own aspartame experiment on rats. Although her experimental design and methods would be subjected to immense scrutiny by the scientific community, Inness-Brown’s dedication and resolve produced some compelling findings on the long in term effects of aspartame use, especially in reference to tumour growth in rats. Over a two and a half year period, Inness-Brown recorded and photographed giant tumours she believes were caused by aspartame on many of her experimental rats.
It is true that academic science may not recognize Innes-Brown’s work formally but her results raise many more questions about the long term and/or chronic use of aspartame, in spite of a safe rating by governing authorities. This statement from an article in Food Quality News” mentions two studies currently under review by the agency responsible for food and drugs in France:
“It said while the two studies which are also under evaluation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), did not warrant a “toxicological re-evaluation” of aspartame, it was nonetheless establishing a working group to further research the risks and benefits of intense sweeteners.”
With all these sources in mind, it is worth noting that even the official safe rating of aspartame continues to be challenged, even in countries where it is already approved. It is definitely something to keep in mind when considering an alternative to our usual sweetener. Aspartame will continue to be the most studied substance in the world.