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.