What Is Aspartame And Why You Should Avoid It.

July 6, 2007

Just so we are clear what aspartame is, it is the methyl ester of the dipeptide of the natural amino acids L-aspartic acid and L-phenylalanine. Huh? Exactly. So why consume it?

For one, we cannot help it for the most part because it is found in so many food products. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener marketed under such brand names as Equal, NutraSweet, Canderel, and is an ingredient of approximately 6,000 consumer foods and beverages sold worldwide. You probably come in contact with it the most if you drink Diet Cola’s, as aspartame is how they make the beverage “drinkable” without any real sugar in it.

The strange thing about aspartame is how it got approved.
For the longest time since it’s discovery (in 1965) it was not approved for human consumption due to some concerns about the possibility of brain cancers. Then thanks to good ole Ronald Reagan, it was approved in 1982/83…but here is the kicker…From Wikipedia: The head of the FDA, Jere E. Goyan, who had not approved legalization of aspartame due to the brain cancer in rats issue, was fired on the first day Ronald Reagan was president of the U.S. (1981). Reagan hired Arthur Hayes MD (FDA Commissioner 1981-1983), who legalized aspartame a year later. Reagan supporter Donald Rumsfeld was president and later CEO of G. D. Searle & Company from 1977 to 1985. Arthur Hull Hayes MD was a defense contractor before he was head of the FDA. He quit and joined Searle’s public-relations firm as senior medical advisor. Searle lawyer Robert B. Shapiro, renamed aspartame NutraSweet. Rumsfeld received a $12 million bonus.

Some say that is the only reason it was approved and it is in fact dangerous for human consumption. I will leave that up to the scientists to prove, but I try to avoid it whenever possible.

What problems could aspartame be causing? Oh just little things like headaches, brain tumors, brain lesions, and lymphoma. Approximately 10% of aspartame is broken down into methanol in the small intestine, which is absorbed and quickly converted into formaldehyde. Since when was extra formaldehyde good for you? (Small amounts are part of the natural human digestion cycle) A new study conducted by the Ramazzini Foundation shows that aspartame causes an increase in cancers (lymphomas, leukemias and breast cancers) when consumed at levels approaching those in diet soft drinks. The results of this study were presented April 23, 2007 at the Mount Sinai Medical School of New York and can be read here.

And to those of you who will email me to to tell me I am wrong…you are entitled to your opinion. But for me, I try to avoid aspartame as much as possible because there does seem to be a risk. This is an FYI post; it is not meant as a fear-factor like post. Just be sure to investigate what you are ingesting as there are many things that have been approved by the FDA as safe, only to be proven as toxic in later years. For us, the chance that it could cause cancer is enough for us to think twice about consuming anything with aspartame in it.

Filed in: Food • Tags: , ,

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (6)

  1. Rich Murray says:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/aspartameNMmessage/1437
    stevia to be approved and cyclamates limited by Food Standards Australia New Zealand: JMC Geuns critiques of two recent stevia studies by Nunes: Murray 2007.05.29

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/aspartameNM/message/1427
    more from The Independent, UK, Martin Hickman, re ASDA
    (unit of Wal-Mart Stores) and Marks & Spencer ban of aspartame, MSG, artificial chemical additives and dyes to prevent ADHD in kids: Murray 2007.05.16
    http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article2548747.ece

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/aspartameNM/message/1426
    ASDA (unit of Wal-Mart Stores WMT.N) and Marks & Spencer
    will join Tesco and also Sainsbury to ban and limit aspartame,
    MSG, artificial flavors dyes preservatives additives, trans fats,
    salt “nasties” to protect kids from ADHD: leading UK media:
    Murray 2007.05.15

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/aspartameNM/message/1271
    combining aspartame and quinoline yellow, or MSG and
    brilliant blue, harms nerve cells, eminent C. Vyvyan
    Howard et al, 2005 education.guardian.co.uk,
    Felicity Lawrence: Murray 2005.12.21

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/aspartameNM/message/1277
    50% UK baby food is now organic — aspartame or MSG
    with food dyes harm nerve cells, CV Howard 3 year study
    funded by Lizzy Vann, CEO, Organix Brands,
    Children’s Food Advisory Service: Murray 2006.01.13

    formaldehyde as a potent unexamined cofactor in cancer research — sources include methanol, dark wines and liquors, aspartame, wood and tobacco smoke: IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans implicate formaldehyde in #88 and alcohol drinks in #96: some related abstracts: Murray 2007.05.15
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/aspartameNM/message/1417

  2. Dan says:

    My Cellular & Molecular Biology prof (PhD in Organic Chem from UC Berkeley) said that this is a myth propagated by people who don’t understand chemistry. At the time he actually explained the reactions that take place, but that was about 6 years ago and I’ve forgotten the details. He drank a Diet Pepsi before every class.

    Note, however, that if you have the metabolic disorder Phenylketonuria (and you would know if you do), then yes – Aspartame can lead to many of the problems you cited. For most people though, per the professor, there is nothing to worry about.