IMPORTANT HEALTH ARTICLE
By Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN
Nowadays, many individuals turn to artificial sweeteners as a substitute for their sugary counterparts. What most of the public isn’t aware of, however, is how dangerous these chemicals have been demonstrated to be in countless scientific studies.
Aside from the many neurological implications brought about artificial sweeteners, a surprising finding is the fact that can actually cause you to GAIN weight – rather than lose it.
If this is so, then that would defeat the purpose of consuming these zero-calorie sweeteners in the first place.
But before we jump into the negative consequences of artificial sweeteners, let’s have a quick look at how rampant they’ve become in our food supply…
This first graph represents the growing GLOBAL MARKET for artificial sweeteners (in US $billions)
This second graph shows the “sweeteners” market share in relation to sugar…
This next graph shows the race between the BIG 3 zero-calorie sweeteners
Contrary to popular belief, replacing blatant sugar with artificially sweeteners like splenda, aspartame, or others won’t necessarily not help you lose weight. A 2008 study from Purdue University compared rats eating yogurt that had been sweetened with glucose (simple sugar), compared to rats eating yogurt sweetened with a zero-calorie substitute called saccharin.
The study showed that the rats consuming the zero-calorie substitute gained more body fat, more overall weight, and that even after cessation of the saccharin intake, they were unable to make up for this weight gain.
The question that this brings to mind for most people is how does something that contains zero calories cause you to gain more weight than something loaded with sugar?
The answer lies in how the intake of these sneaky chemicals confuses your body’s sensory systems. Normally, sweet foods provide a “salient orosensory stimulus” that strongly predicts that you are about to take in a lot of calories.
Ingestive and digestive reflexes gear up for that intake but when false sweetness (such as by using artificial sweeteners) isn’t followed by lots of calories, the system gets confused. Thus, people may eat more or expend less energy than they otherwise would.
The researchers in the Purdue study stated that by breaking the connection between a sweet sensation and high-calorie food, the use of saccharin changes the body’s ability to regulate intake, and that this change is heavily dependent on experience.
Problems with self-regulation might explain in part why obesity has risen in parallel with the use of artificial sweeteners. It also might explain why research on the human use of artificial sweeteners is inconclusive, with various studies finding evidence of weight loss, weight gain or little effect.
Because people may have different experiences with artificial and natural sweeteners, human studies that don’t take into account prior consumption may produce a variety of outcomes.
Nonetheless, in this particular, the authors concluded that…
And even though this study was done on rats, they noted that their findings match emerging evidence that people who drink more diet drinks are at higher risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome, a collection of medical problems such as abdominal fat, high blood pressure and insulin resistance that put people at risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Though an increase in appetite is one contributing factor to the weight gain caused by artificial sweeteners, the chemical imbalances and confusion they create inside your body work in other ways as well.
For instance, frequent consumption of zero-calorie artificial sweeteners can impair your body’s normal metabolic response to food intake. Since your body begins to realize it can no longer predict with accuracy when it is getting foods with calories, as opposed to foods that only taste like they do, the typical metabolic boost you get from eating food (ie. thermic effect of food) decreases. This makes it harder to expend more calories from dietary intake.
Needless to say, there are studies that show weight loss is possible when substituting artificial sweeteners for sugar but in many cases these studies have been influenced or funded by corporations with a vested interested in their results (more on this later).
Aspartame, which is by far the most prominent artificial sweetener currently used in diet products, is also the most controversial of them all (you’ll see in the next section). Its origins are questionable, to say the least. Many claim it never should have been allowed on the market. The few who argue it is safe, have very little ground to stand on for those educated on how it became approved.
Many of the studies done to determine the safety of aspartame, in the process of its approval as a food additive, have had severe conflicts of interest mainly due to inappropriate by Searle, the very same company that produces NutraSweet (their “street name” for aspartame).
Dr. Robert Walton investigated the claims made that Searle essentially bought their way into the market. The results he found were quite shocking. In the 166 studies that he found to have relevance in regards to human safety, 74 of those studies had been funded by Searle. The 92 remaining studies were funded independently.
Unsurprisingly, of the 74 studies that were funded by Searle, 100% of them claimed that aspartame was safe for human use. As far as the independently funded studies, 92% of them found health concerns in regards to aspartame, and found it to be unsafe for human consumption.
Even before aspartame had come to this point, it encountered numerous legal, political, ethical, and moral barriers. Aspartame was inadvertently discovered back in 1965, by a chemist working on an ulcer medication. The timeline between when aspartame was discovered to when it was released on the market is blemished with countless actions of deception from Searle.
One of the earliest tests, done by the University of Wisconsin in 1967 by Dr. Harold Waisman, had been conducted on monkeys who drank milk which contained aspartame. Of the seven monkeys being fed the mixture, one died and five others experienced grandular seizures. Despite these early warning signs, Searle pushed on.
In 1971, a neuroscientist by the name of Dr. John Olney, conducted several studies which showed that the aspartic acid found in aspartame, caused holes in the brains of baby mice. Later, one of Searle’s own researchers, conducted a similar study and concluded the same results as the ones demonstrated by Dr. Olney. Again, Searle pushed on.
In 1976, an FDA investigation of Searle was initiated, sparked by the many concerns that Searle’s personal studies on aspartame were inconsistent with research from independent studies.
The investigation results found Searle’s tests were not only full of inaccuracies, but also manipulated data. An investigator involved was quoted as stating they “had never seen anything as bad as Searle’s testing.”
Shortly after the investigation, the FDA sent a formal request to the U.S. Attorney’s office to begin grand jury proceedings. Not surprisingly, one of the most significant events of this procession saw Samuel Skinner, the U.S. Attorney in charge of the investigation, resigning from the attorney’s office and taking a position within Searle’s law firm, allowing Searle to buy themselves out a bad situation.
In spite of the fact that 75% of all health complaints are related to the use of aspartame, its use continues.
And if this hasn’t scared you enough, then consider that the “G.D. Searle and Co” (mentioned as Searle above) became the pharmaceutical unit of Monsanto in 1985 – one of the most criminal and monopolist agricultural companies in the world.
It should come as no surprise then that the Searle pharmaceutical division was responsible for the development of one of the biggest pharmaceutical disasters of our time – Celebrex.
Just something to think about next time you’re deciding how to sweeten your coffee or tea.
Ideally, it should only be a matter of time before ALL these chemical sweeteners are pulled off the market but because of BIG business that probably won’t happen anytime soon.
Nonetheless, in 1970, cyclamate (one of these man-made chemicals) was removed from the market due to concerns that it promoted cancer growth.
Additionally, the artificial sweetener saccharin has also been found to cause tumors in the bladders of rats. Despite being briefly removed from the market after the study, it was soon back on the market again, without any warning of the health risks to the consumer. So saccharin, aspartame, and cyclamate have all been shown to have concerns for cancer risks, yet two of the three still remain on the market today.
Let’s look at the biggest concern – Aspartame – in more detail.
To understand its nasty side effects, it’s helpful to realize that Aspartame is comprised of 4 deadly compounds: phenylalanine, aspartic acid, methanol, and DKP.
The largest component of aspartame is called phenylalanine, making up 50% of the artificial sweetener.
Phenylalanine is an amino acid normally found in the brain. Persons with the genetic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot metabolize phenylalanine. This leads to dangerously high levels of phenylalanine in the brain (sometimes lethal). It has been shown that ingesting aspartame, especially along with carbohydrates, can lead to excess levels of phenylalanine in the brain even in persons who do not have PKU.
This presents a serious problems since high levels of phenylalanine in the brain can cause the levels of serotonin to decrease, leading to emotional disorders such as depression. It has been shown in human clinical trials that phenylalanine levels of the blood are increased significantly in those who chronically use aspartame.
Even a single use of aspartame raised the blood phenylalanine levels. In his testimony before the U.S. Congress, Dr. Louis J. Elsas showed that high blood phenylalanine can be concentrated in parts of the brain and is especially dangerous for infants and fetuses. He also showed that phenylalanine is metabolized much more efficiently by rodents than by humans. Thus, rodent studies showing minimal effects of phenylalanine should be considered with a grain of salt.
Now, let’s move on to the next deadly component with Asparatame – aspartic acid. Roughly 40% of aspartame is made up of aspartic acid.
Dr. Russell L. Blaylock, a professor of neurosurgery at the Medical University of Mississippi, has cited 500 scientific references to show how excess free excitatory amino acids such as aspartic acid in our food supply are causing serious chronic neurological disorders and a myriad of other acute symptoms.
Aspartate (from aspartic acid) acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain but too much of it can kill certain neurons by allowing too calcium into the cells, which triggers an onslaught of free radical damage. This influx triggers excessive amounts of free radicals, which kill the cells.
Unfortunately, the blood brain barrier, which normally protects the brain from excess influx of aspartate (as well as many other toxins) does not fully protect against excess levels of this “excitotoxin” in the blood. Thus, aspartame ingestion has been associated with a number of neurological defects such as memory loss, multiple sclerosis, headaches, vision problems, dementia, brain lesions, and more.
One common complaint of persons suffering from the effect of aspartame is memory loss. Ironically, in 1987, G.D. Searle, the manufacturer of aspartame, undertook a search for a drug to combat memory loss caused by excitatory amino acid damage.
But wait, there’s more.
Methanol (or wood alcohol) is a deadly poison and makes up 10% of aspartame. Some people may remember methanol as the poison that has caused some “skid row” alcoholics to end up blind or dead. Methanol is gradually released in the small intestine when the methyl group of aspartame encounters the enzyme chymotrypsin.
To make matters worse, methanol is then broken down into formic acid and formaldehyde in the body. Formaldehyde is a deadly neurotoxin. It’s the same stuff used to preserve dead bodies.
An Evironmental Protection Agency (EPA) of methanol states that methanol “is considered a cumulative poison due to the low rate of excretion once it is absorbed. In the body, methanol is oxidized to formaldehyde and formic acid; both of these metabolites are toxic.”
The EPA recommends a limit of consumption of 7.8 mg/day.
But why would ANY level of poison consumption be safe?
To give you some perspective, a one-liter bottle of Diet Coke contains about 56 mg of methanol. Heavy users of aspartame-containing products consume as much as 250 mg of methanol daily or 32 times the EPA limit!
Keep that in mind the next time you drink a Diet Coke or opt for NutraSweet.
Symptoms from methanol poisoning include headaches, ear buzzing, dizziness, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, weakness, vertigo, chills, memory lapses, numbness and shooting pains in the extremities, behavioral disturbances, and neuritis. The most well known problems from methanol poisoning are vision problems including misty vision, progressive contraction of visual fields, blurring of vision, retinal damage, and blindness.
Formaldehyde, on its own, is a known carcinogen, causes retinal damage, interferes with DNA replication and causes birth defects.
Sounds good to me. Sign me up for more.
Considering these dangers, why doesn’t the FDA or FTC step and shut down the use of these poisons in our food supply?
Well, it’s partly due to monetary reasons – artificial sweetener are HUGE business.
Another reason is that no scientist in their right mind would subject human beings to ingesting these poisons just to see what happens.
In fact, we humans lack a couple of key methanol-related enzymes, making more sensitive to the toxic effects of methanol than animals. Therefore, tests of aspartame or methanol on animals do not accurately reflect the danger for humans.
As pointed out by Dr. Woodrow C. Monte, director of the food science and nutrition laboratory at Arizona State University, “There are no human or mammalian studies to evaluate the possible mutagenic, teratogenic or carcinogenic effects of chronic administration of methyl alcohol.”
This is how sick and twisted our food supply has become…
Dr. Monte was so concerned about the safety issues of methanol (and aspartame) that he filed suit with the FDA requesting a hearing to address these issues. He asked the FDA to…
Shortly thereafter, the Commissioner of the FDA, Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr., approved the use of aspartame in carbonated beverages, he then left for a position with G.D. Searle’s public relations firm.
Aspartame also becomes more dangerous inside the human body when it has previously been heated about 86 degrees F. In spite of this reality, an “unconscionable” act was passed in 1993 by the FDA approving aspartame as an ingredient in numerous food items that would ALWAYS be heated to above 86 degree F (30 degree C)!
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this information is critical for you to understand. It’s just one more reason why proper education is so important to your health. By knowing this information you should hopefully feel a sense of disgust with how big business has no interest in your health – not in the slightest.
You need to be in control of your health and the only way to do that is by educating yourself.
But just before we finish, there’s still one more nasty byproduct of aspartame that you need to know about, especially if the above 3 have failed to convince you.
DKP is a byproduct of aspartame metabolism, which has been implicated in the occurrence of brain tumors, uterine polyps, and elevated blood cholesterol.
G.D. Searle conducted animal experiments on the safety of DKP. The FDA found numerous experimental errors occurred, including “clerical errors, mixed-up animals, animals not getting drugs they were supposed to get, pathological specimens lost because of improper handling,” and many other errors. These sloppy laboratory procedures may explain why both the test and control animals had sixteen times more brain tumors than would be expected in experiments of this length.
In an ironic twist, shortly after these experimental errors were discovered, the FDA used guidelines recommended by G.D. Searle to develop the industry-wide FDA standards for good laboratory practices.
The short answer is NO. As with any food item produced by man, the goal is usually to cut corners and maximize profits. Health is of little concern to most food conglomerates, especially considering that the big wigs at the top are so disconnected from what their “products” are doing to the health of millions of people
There are sweeteners on the market like splenda and acesulfame K but once again, they have many deleterious effects in the human body.
Your best bet is to avoid them at all costs. If I’m at Starbucks and have the choice between raw brown sugar or NutraSweet (or Sweet n Low), I’ll take the sugar any day of the week.
As a general rule of thumb, choose natural whenever possible.
Listen, if you need to sweetener your coffee, tea, or anything else you should first look at parting ways with this habit. Drinking is coffee is bad enough, let alone adding sugar to it. If you must have a cup of coffee, drink it black.
But if sweeteners are a must, here’s a list of what I would recommend. However, bear in mind that each of these can be better or worse depending on how they are processed:
Xylitol – naturally derived from the fiber within plant foods. Surprisingly, it actually helps fight cavities.
Stevia – derived from a natural plant in the sunflower family, it is 300 times sweeter than sugar. I’ve used this but I’m not too fond of its lingering after taste.
Raw honey – has many beneficial health properties but can range in glycemic index from low to high depending on the variety. It is usually harder to find but well worth using in small amounts.
Pure Maple Syrup – this sweet sap-derived sweetener is loaded antioxidants but comes with a higher glycemic index. I use maple syrup immediately post-workout (in a smoothie) as this is the only time your body can properly deal with high glycemic simple sugars.
Of these 4 sweeteners, I prefer the latter 2 simply because they usually involve the least amount of processing. However, they DO carry a higher degree of sweetness, glycemic load, and thus calories.
Purdue University; Behavioral Neuroscience, Vol. 122, No. 1.
Fowler, S.P. 65th Annual Scientific Sessions, American Diabetes Association, San Diego, June 10-14, 2005; Abstract 1058-P. Sharon P. Fowler, MPH, University of Texas Health Science Center School of Medicine, San Antonio.
Roberts, H.J.- Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic
Dr. Harold Waisman – 52 week oral toxicity study – http://dorway.com/raoreport.pdf
Olney JW. Excitotoxins in foods. Neurotoxicology 1994;15:535-544