Bittersweet: The Truth About Aspartame
BITTERSWEET: THE TRUTH ABOUT ASPARTAME
February, 2002 — The desire for something sweet is a natural instinct: It is the compulsion that spurred our early ancestors to seek out foods that were a source of concentrated energy. The human brain is hardwired to crave sugar when it is low on serotonin, dopamine and beta endorphin — chemicals that help us focus our attention, tolerate pain, and initiate movement and emotional expression. Natural sugar, in small amounts, is requisite for normal brain and body function.
But, as we all know, too much sugar is the perfect example of “too much of a good thing is bad.” Excess sugar in the bloodstream overstimulates the adrenal glands and pancreas, depletes nutrient reserves, inhibits the immune system, and promotes the overgrowth of opportunistic microorganisms like Candida albicans. Over-consumption of refined sugar is linked to diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, hypoglycemia, atherosclerosis, chronic fatigue, hypertension, tooth decay, cancer, heart disease, depression, PMS, hyperactivity and aggressive behavior.
It’s no wonder then, that so many weight- and health-conscious Americans enthusiastically embrace artificial sweeteners, those seemingly magical compounds that are meant to provide all the sweetness but none of the distasteful side effects of sugar. Since the introduction of diet soft drinks in the 1950s, the artificial sweetener industry has become a $1.1 billion juggernaut; sugar substitutes are now used in everything from bottled water to frozen cheesecakes to protein drinks. But, ironically, the health risks from artificial sweeteners are turning out to far outweigh those of the sugar they replace.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permits six low-calorie sweeteners to be used as food additives: Saccharin, aspartame (known around the world as NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonfuls, Canderel, Bienvia, NatraSweet and Miwon), acesulfame potassium (sold under the brand name Sunette), sucralose (marketed as Splenda), trehalose and tagatose. Of the six, aspartame is by far the most widely used — and the most controversial.
According to the FDA, over 100 million people worldwide consume aspartame-sweetened products. In the United States alone, it is found in more than 5,000 products, including tabletop sweeteners, baked goods, baking and dry beverage mixes (including many protein powders), breakfast cereals, chewing gum, gelatins, puddings and pie fillings, dessert toppings, carbonated beverages, ice cream, popsicles, breath mints, yogurt, frozen desserts, fruit spreads, syrups, candies, cough drops, malt beverages, wine coolers and pharmaceuticals.
Aspartame was discovered in 1965 by a scientist working for pharmaceutical behemoth G.D. Searle and Company. In the course of experimenting with amino acids, the chemist inadvertently created a sweet-tasting compound containing 40% aspartic acid, 50% phenylalanine and 10% methanol. While all three are natural substances, excessive amounts of any one of them, much less all of them, can wreak havoc on the human mind and body.
Phenylalanine is one of the “essential” amino acids, meaning that humans must get it from their diet. When consumed as a natural constituent of protein, it facilitates the necessary synthesis of tyrosine and several neurotransmitters. In unnaturally high concentrations, however, phenylalanine becomes a neurotoxin, lowering the seizure threshold, inhibiting the production of serotonin, and causing mental retardation. During pregnancy, high levels of phenylalanine can cause retardation in the fetus. The dangers of excess phenylalanine have long been known to science: A condition called phenylketonuria, in which the body is unable to metabolize phenylalanine, was the first genetic disease to be routinely screened for. Persons having phenylketonuria must monitor their diet carefully, therefore aspartame-sweetened products must be labeled as containing phenylalanine. Iron deficiency and kidney disease may also cause unnaturally high phenylalanine levels, though physicians rarely think to council those patients to avoid diet drinks and other products containing aspartame.
Aspartic acid is a naturally occurring amino acid and a component of all proteins. It is important in the synthesis of new DNA and in the creation of urea, and as a neurotransmitter in the brain. In the body, the level of aspartic acid is carefully regulated; like phenylalanine, it is neurotoxic in high concentrations, causing brain tumors and lesions, endocrine disorders and genetic damage. It is considered particularly hazardous to young children, as it penetrates the blood brain barrier and disrupts the development of the central nervous system.
When aspartame is heated above 85 degrees — whether through baking, boiling, dumping it in hot liquid, or storing it in a warm place — it breaks down into methanol, also known as methyl alcohol. The results of methanol poisoning are legion and well-documented: vision problems, confusion, headache, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, abdominal pain, cramping, impaired speech, labored breathing, fetal alcohol syndrome, DNA damage and birth defects. A fatal dose is a mere two teaspoons.
Methanol is considered by the FDA to be a “cumulative poison,” as once it is absorbed, it is slow to be excreted. In the body, it breaks down to into formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), formic acid, and diketopiperazine (which causes brain tumors). As the NutraSweet Company loves to point out in their literature, fruits and vegetables also contain methanol, but they fail to mention that all natural products also contain its antidote, ethanol. Aspartame, on the other hand, contains no ethanol.
Aspartame is responsible for approximately 85% of all the complaints made to the FDA. Over 90 symptoms resulting from aspartame consumption have been well-documented, including headache, dizziness, depression, migraine, fatigue, convulsions, vision problems, hyperactivity, nausea, irritability, insomnia, heart palpitations, memory loss, anxiety, tinnitus, vertigo, slurred speech, rashes, joint pain, breathing difficulties, menstrual irregularities, bloating, excessive thirst, tremors and numbness. Many researchers believe that a number of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, lymphoma, brain tumors, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, blindness, systemic lupus, Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Lyme disease, Graves disease, non-Hodgkins lymphoma and heart valve disease can be worsened — or triggered — by aspartame ingestion. And paradoxically, aspartame can actually cause weight gain, as well as uncontrollable cravings for sweets.
“The whole concept of artificial sweeteners in general, and aspartame in particular is bizarre,” says Washington D.C. consumer protection attorney James Turner. “The craving for something sweet is a physiological reaction, caused by your serotonin level going down. So you eat sugar, and it goes back up. But if you eat aspartame, not only does it not go back up, it goes down farther, so you’ve defeated the entire purpose and put yourself deeper in the hole.”
Turner, who was the first of Ralph Nader’s famous “Nader’s Raiders” consumer protection advocates, has been involved in food safety issues since the late ’60s, when he joined neuropathologist Dr. John Olney in fighting against the use of MSG in baby food.
“Dr. Olney had a grant from the National Institutes of Health to examine foods that might cause mental retardation,” he explains. “He found that MSG caused holes in the brains of mice. When he looked at aspartic acid, he found the same kinds of holes.”
Other scientists were finding similarly alarming reactions to aspartame and its ingredients. In 1969, Dr. Harry Waisman, an expert on phenylketonuria, was approach by G.D. Searle officials to conduct a study on the effects of the phenylalanine in aspartame. In the only aspartame study ever conducted on primates, Waisman fed seven infant monkeys aspartame-laced milk: One of the monkeys died after 300 days, and five suffered grand mal seizures. Other early, Searle-sponsored tests found high incidence of uterine, liver, mammary, pancreatic, thyroid, testes and brain tumors. According to the late Dr. M. Adrian Gross, an FDA toxicologist who later investigated Searle’s laboratory practices, at least one of Searle’s studies “established beyond any reasonable doubt that aspartame is capable of inducing brain tumors in experimental animals,” a fact he considered to be of great significance.
Unfortunately, Searle officials failed to mention the majority of those negative findings to the FDA when they applied for approval of aspartame. Olney’s test results were hidden from sight, while Waisman’s and many others were falsified. In several subsequent investigations, it was found that many of the tumors developed by the aspartame-fed lab animals had been excised, and the animals returned to the study. When questioned, Searle scientists stated they had to remove the tumors “because these masses were in the head and neck areas, and prevented the animals from feeding.” In many cases, the tumors were not even examined for malignancy, but merely thrown away; others were examined, but the malignancies not reported. And in several instances, animals that were reported as dead were later miraculously revived in final reports.
Many of the studies conducted by Searle and their contractor Hazelton Laboratories also lacked protocols and were written as chatty narratives, rather than reports. “At the heart of FDA’s regulatory process is its ability to rely upon the integrity of the basic safety date submitted by sponsors of the regulated products,” wrote Task Force member Adrian Gross. “Our investigation clearly demonstrates that, in the case of the G.D. Searle Company, we have no basis for such reliance now.”
Despite the troubling test results and Searle’s blatant disregard of scientific procedure — and over the heated objections of many of its own scientists — the FDA approved aspartame for limited use (as a food additive and tabletop sweetener) in 1981. [See sidebar for a chronicle of the political maneuvering involved in the approval process.] In 1983, despite protests from the National Soft Drink Association, aspartame was again approved, this time for use in aqueous solutions. And in 1996, the FDA approved aspartame as a “general purpose sweetener,” removing all restrictions for its use in cooking and baking.
That same year that Dr. Olney published his findings showing that incidence of brain tumors had increased by 10% in the 10 years since aspartame had been used in soft drinks.
Other independent researchers continued to make similarly worrying discoveries: Aspartame was found to exacerbate mood disorders (particularly when consumed with carbohydrates), disrupt endocrine and reproductive functions, trigger severe fluctuations in blood sugar, and cause extreme agitation and loss of motor function — especially in children. In 1998, a Price, Utah girl won a the National Science Fair award for her findings that aspartame hindered learning ability in elderly rats. She found her results to have “frightening implications.”
Mary Nash Stoddard, founder of the Aspartame Consumer Safety Network, had her own first bittersweet taste of aspartame [in 1984], soon after it was approved for use in soft drinks in ’83. “It came in the mail to as samples,” she says, “The NutraSweet Company mailed out thousands of packets of Crystal Light.” Concerned about her weight, Stoddard enthusiastically embraced the new low-cal sweetener, and encouraged her young daughter to do the same. “My 16-year-old daughter started drinking it because I didn’t want her to have sugar,” she says. “Like millions of other people, I was so paranoid about sugar that I rushed unquestioning into the open jaws of something far worse.”
Soon after they started using aspartame, Stoddard and her daughter began experiencing unusual and frightening physical symptoms, including migraines, joint pain, fatigue and chest pains. Most terrifying of all, says Stoddard, was her daughter’s grand mal seizure. “I was very familiar with seizures,” she says. “My husband had just died from a brain tumor, so I’d seen plenty of them. It was terrifying; I thought, ‘Oh, dear God, I’m going to lose my daughter, too.’”
After Innumerable medical tests failed to diagnose either of their problems. Stoddard mentioned the new sweetener to her MD.., wondering if it might be at fault. After researching aspartame’s breakdown components, her doctor agreed confirmed her suspicions, and recommended the family stop using it. He also wrote to the NutraSweet Company, which sent him a letter back saying that his patient could not possibly be responding to their product, and that he should look elsewhere for answers. Nonetheless, both Stoddard’s and her daughter’s symptoms ceased within six weeks of going off aspartame, though Stoddard sustained permanent muscle damage and a tremor.
She might have let the situation drop (“I was willing to put it down to allergic reactions”) had she not heard a woman on television describe a similar experience with the sweetener. Stoddard, a former broadcast journalist, expert medical witness and Texas state judge, tracked down the woman and, as she says, “things just clicked into place.”
The Florida woman was working with James Turner on a lawsuit against the NutraSweet Company, and also had the rough beginnings of a consumer organization, which she asked Stoddard to take over.
After several meetings with Turner and Ralph Nader (“Ralph told me, ‘always tell the truth, and have the facts to back it up’”), July, 1987, Stoddard formally launched the Aspartame Consumer Safety Network. Among her first supporters were a large number of airplane pilots.
“In 1987, I was asked to testify at the Senate safety hearings on aspartame,” she says, “and after my testimony, I was approached by an F16 pilot, who had also testified. He told me that he and many other pilots had suffered aspartame-related seizures in the cockpit. So I set up a special ACSN pilot hotline, and since that time we’ve had thousands of calls.”
Although the FAA and military cannot prohibit pilots from consuming aspartame — since it is a legally approved product — Stoddard says that off the record, officials have acknowledged the problem. Dozens of articles cautioning against aspartame use have been published in aviation magazines, and former Defense Secretary William Cohen sent Stoddard’s warnings to the heads of each branch of the military. Unfortunately, says Stoddard, current Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld — who, as president of G.D. Searle, used his political clout to ram aspartame’s approval through FDA — is unlikely to issue a similar warning.
Stoddard has also received hundreds of calls from Gulf War Veterans, who wonder if aspartame could be one of the causes of Gulf War Syndrome. The troops of Desert Storm were treated to thousands of cases of Diet Coke and other aspartame-sweetened beverages, which sat on pallets for months beneath the blistering Saudi Arabian sun. Many of the symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome are similar to those seen in methanol poisoning — and aspartame breaks down into methanol when heated over 85° — and that’s a coincidence Stoddard and many other members of the ACSN would like to see investigated.
The NutraSweet Company and other aspartame distributors continue to tout the sweetener’s safety, calling it “the most tested product on the market.” But, as James Turner points out, the artificial sweetener industry has funded — either directly or indirectly — virtually every study that has ever given aspartame a clean bill.
“There are all kinds of studies that supposedly show that it’s safe,” he says. “But if you take a close look at them, they’re foolish and poorly designed. I feel sorry for those so-called scientists who can only make a living whoring themselves out to industry; they’re a pathetic lot.”
But what troubles Turner even more than the research that’s been done, is the research that hasn’t been done. “We don’t know just who aspartame affects, if it’s everybody, or a just subset of people. Searle also never looked at its impact on the human brain, because the FDA didn’t require it. So why bother? The FDA and the [artificial sweetener] industry have based their decisions only on the things that they know — not what they don’t know. If they haven’t looked at the brain to see if there are problems, then there must not be any problems. That’s a very poor way of doing science.”
Turner says too that none of the original tests done by Searle — those found questionable or inconclusive by the FDA — have ever been repeated. Nor, he adds, are they likely to. “As far as the FDA and industry are concerned, aspartame is a billion-dollar-a-year product, so they’re just going to just keep their mouths shut and make their money.”
It’s also money — in the form of major funding — he says, that inspires such supposedly reputable organizations as the American Dietetic Association, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, the American Cancer Society and the American Diabetes Association (which regularly sponsors “Cooking with Aspartame” classes), to endorse aspartame, despite the scientific controversy surrounding its use.
While neither Turner or Stoddard expect so see it taken off the market any time soon, they do hope to make a dent in the aspartame’s artificially sweet image.
“Our goal is very simple,” says Stoddard. “We want educated consumers. People need to know that there are two sides to the aspartame story. Their side has all the money and political influence, but we have the truth and unbiased science on our side.” Turner would like to see aspartame labeled in the same way as saccharin, and believes the warning should state: ‘Aspartame caused brain tumors in lab animals during its original testing, and it is responsible for more complaints from consumers than any other food additive in history.’
Stoddard fields dozens of calls to the Aspartame Consumer Safety Network hotline [214.387.4001] each week, from people concerned that the sweetener is making them ill. [They also email her their filled-in questionnaire forms to email@example.com.]Her advice: “Stop using it for four to six weeks; if the symptoms don’t cease or diminish, look for another cause. If you feel better, never use it again. And tell all your friends and family not to use it either.”
Stoddard and Turner are also working to prevent neotame, the NutraSweet Company’s new artificial sweetener, and alitame (created by Pfizer, Inc.), from entering the U.S. market. “NutraSweet opened the door for all these other chemically synthesized sweeteners that are every bit as bad, if not worse [in the case of Neotame],” says Stoddard. “And we have to slam the door on them, to stop embracing artificial foods and supplements. We need to learn to eat real food again — that’s the lesson that we should be learning from all this — when it comes to food, real is always better.” •
ASPARTAME’S HISTORY OF POLITICAL INTRIGUEAspartame was discovered in 1965 by a scientist working for pharmaceutical behemoth G.D. Searle and Company. Recognizing a potential cash, G.D. Searle and Co set about gaining FDA approval for their entry into the lucrative artificial sweetener market. In a 1970 internal memo, company officials laid out a strategy of “bringing the FDA into a subconscious spirit of participation.” Our approach …should be to try to get them to say “Yes,” to rank the things that we are going to ask for, so we are putting first those questions we would like to get a “yes” to, even if we have to throw some in that have no significance, other than putting them in a yes saying habit.
The first scientists who conducted clinical studies on aspartame, biochemist Dr. Harry Waisman and neuroscientist Dr. John W. Olney, gave it thumbs down. Searle’s only reaction to their findings was to use their own scientists — or those of their favorite contractor — throughout the rest of approval process. Waisman’s results, when reported to the FDA, were falsified, while Olney’s were hidden from sight, techniques the company would continue to use in all their dealings with the FDA and other government and consumer agencies concerning aspartame.
Searle’s slight of hand was noted early on by a number of FDA scientists and officials, but in July of 1974, the director of the FDA approved aspartame for limited use. Before it could go on the market, however, Dr. Olney and James Turner Esq. filed a formal objection, stating they believed that aspartame had the potential to cause brain damage, and that they were particularly concerned about its effects on children. Searle’s non-response to the subsequent questions about their methodology set off a controversy within the FDA, and a special in-house Task Force was convened to examine the key studies done on aspartame and a number of pharmaceuticals.
The task force’s preliminary findings caused the FDA to put a hold on aspartame’s approval. Further obfuscation by Searle led FDA Chief Counsel Richard Merrill to recommend a grand jury be convened to investigate Searle — a recommendation that ran into a brick wall when presiding U.S. Attorney Sam Skinner left his job to work for Sidley & Austin, G.D. Searle’s law firm. Following Skinner’s departure, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Conlon convened a grand jury, but let the statue of limitations run out on the complaint. Fifteen months later he, too, went to work for Sidley & Austin.
In 1977, amidst continued rumblings about the company’s fraudulent research, Searle brought out the Big Gun. Donald Rumsfeld, former Chief of Staff in the Ford administration — and current Secretary of Defense — was hired as president of the company. Though it took nearly four years, Rumsfeld eventually proved to be worth his weight in artificial sweetener. The day after Ronald Reagan took office in 1980, G.D. Searle reapplied for FDA approval of aspartame. At that time, according to a former Searle employee, Rumsfeld told his sales force that, “he would call in all his markers and that no matter what, he would see to it that aspartame would be approved that year.” Six months later, it was approved (for use in dry foods only) by the new, Reagan- appointed Commissioner of the FDA.
Soon after, an amendment was attached to the Orphan Drug Act which extended Searle’s patent on aspartame by 5 years, 10 months and 17 days. The bill passed, speeded along by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, who later received $2,500 from the soft drink political action committee, and $1,000 each from William and Daniel Searle and a Searle brother-in-law and William Searle. Since then, Hatch has been an outspoken advocate for the sweetener, possibly due to his holdings in Twin Lab, a health supplement company that uses aspartame in a number of their products. Between 1979 and 1982, four FDA officials who assisted in the aspartame approval process landed jobs in artificial sweetener industry.
In 1983, aspartame was approved for use in carbonated beverages. Shortly after, the Commissioner of the FDA, Arthur Hayes, left the FDA under charges of impropriety, and was hired as a consultant with Searle’s public relations firm, Burson Marsteller [at $1,000 a day]. That same year, James Turner, Esq. filed a petition with the FDA on behalf of himself and Community Nutrition Institute objecting to the approval of aspartame. Three months later, the FDA denied the request “because public interest did not require it.”
In May of 1985, the U.S. Senate heard testimony relating to an amendment put forth by Senator Howard Metzenbaum requiring the quantity of aspartame used in products to be labeled. Senator Orrin Hatch led the fight against the labeling amendment, which was defeated. Three months later, Metzenbaum introduced the Aspartame Safety Act of 1985, another attempt at labeling, that also mandated a moratorium on new uses of aspartame until independent research could be conducted by the National Institutes of Health. The bill died in the Senate.
Also in 1985, G.D. Searle sold the NutraSweet Company (the subsidiary formed by Searle to market aspartame) to the Monsanto Company, over the objections of Monsanto’s stockholders, who were leery of the legal liabilities associated with the product.
In November, 1987, a hearing was held in a U.S. Senate Committee to address aspartame safety and proposed labeling. Senator Orrin Hatch once again blocked the proceedings.
The patent for aspartame expired in December of 1992, opening up the market to other companies, such as the Holland Sweetener Company.
In 1996, the FDA approved aspartame for “general use,” allowing it to be used in baking and cooking.
In 1999, Brand Week magazine named NutraSweet one of the top 100 brands of the century. NutraSweet brand aspartame is sold in more than 100 countries and used in approximately 5,000 products by 250 million people on a regular basis. In May 2000 The J.W. Childs company purchased the NutraSweet Company from Monsanto for $440 million in cash. The sale includes the sweetener business, the NutraSweet brand name and rights to the company’s new sweetener, neotame.
“The NutraSweet Company revolutionized the sweetener industry in 1981 with the introduction of
aspartame,” says Nick Rosa, the new president and CEO of the NutraSweet Company, “and we intend to do it again with neotame when we receive approval from various regulatory agencies around the world.” •
OTHER NON-CALORIC SWEETENERS
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permits six low-calorie sweeteners to be used as food additives: Saccharin, aspartame (known around the world as NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonfuls, Canderel, Bienvia, NatraSweet and Miwon), acesulfame K, (sold under the brand name Sunett), sucralose (marketed as Splenda), trehalose and tagatose.
Discovered in 1879, saccharin was initially used as an antiseptic and a food preservative. Its use as a sweetener developed slowly until World Wars I and II, when sugar rationing caused its popularity to boom. The FDA has allowed the makers of saccharin to make a self-determined Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) declaration, claiming exemption from the premarket or food additive approval requirements, although the FDA also lists it as an “anticipated” human carcinogen. All saccharin-sweetened products must bear a label stating: “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.”
Acesulfame-K (5,6-dimethyl-1,2,3-oxathiazine-4(3H)-one-2,2-dioxide) is approximately 200 times sweeter than sucrose. It has been approved by the FDA in 1988 for use in baked goods, refrigerated and frozen desserts, alcoholic beverages, yogurt, dry dessert mixes, confections, hard and soft candies, tabletop sweeteners, bulk sweeteners, chewing gum, dry dairy analog bases, syrups, sweet sauces and toppings. Acesulfame K, produced by Hoechst Food Ingredients in Germany, is often used in combination with other artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and saccharin. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a food watchdog agency, has repeatedly expressed concern that acesulfame K is a potential carcinogen, and that the FDA has failed to require the manufacturer to conduct high-quality tests of the artificial sweetener.
According to CSPI, testing done on acesulfame K “ followed inadequate protocols, which are greatly at variance with current standards for test design, execution and reporting required for the National Toxicology Program’s bioassays.”
Sucralose (trichlorogalactosucrose) was approved by the FDA in 1988 as a tabletop sweetener and for use in a number of desserts, confections, and nonalcoholic beverages. Sucralose is produced by chlorinating sucrose (sugar); three chlorine atoms are substituted for three three hydroxyl groups. According to Consumers Research Magazine , some concern was initially raised about sucralose being a chlorinated molecule, as chlorinated molecules also serve as the basis for pesticides such as D.D.T., and accumulate in body fat. However, the manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson emphasized that “sucralose passes through the body unabsorbed.”
Research animals fed sucralose exhibited the following symptoms: Shrunken thymus glands (up to 40% shrinkage), enlarged liver and kidneys, atrophy of lymph follicles in the spleen and thymus, reduced growth rate, decreased red blood cell count, hyperplasia of the pelvis, extension of the pregnancy period , aborted pregnancy, decreased fetal body weights and placental weights and chronic diarrhea.
In the wake of the continued controversy over aspartame, many pharmaceutical and health food manufacturers — including Pro Lab, Twin Lab and Ross Products, makers of Pedialyte) — have switched over to sucralose.
Tagatose & Trehalose
Like saccharin, both of these sweeteners have slipped through the FDA with a Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status.
The Calorie Control Council — which enthusiastically endorses the use of all artificial sweeteners — describes tagatose as “a naturally occurring reduced-calorie sweetener that can be found in some dairy products” and “commercially produced via a patented process.” Less sweet than sugar, tagatose also “browns” more readily than sucrose in baked goods, and has been shown to cause diarrhea and gas. Nonetheless, manufacturers plan to use tagatose in chocolate, caramel, chewing gum, ice cream, soft drinks, cereals and meal replacements.
Trehalose is almost half as sweet as table sugar, and is said to occur naturally in honey, mushrooms, lobster, shrimp and foods produced using baker’s and brewer’s yeast. It is approved for use in beverages, including fruit juices, purees, fillings, nutrition bars, dehydrated fruits and vegetables and white chocolate for cookies or chips. though because of its low sweetness rating, trehalose is most often used as a preservative.
And On the Horizon…
Discovered by Pfizer, Inc., alitame (brand name Aclame) is 2,000 times sweeter than sugar. Like aspartame, it is made from amino acids, including aspartic acid, D-alanine and a novel amine.
Alitame has the potential to be used in almost all areas where sweeteners are presently used —e.g., baked goods and baking mixes, hot and cold beverages, dry beverage mixes, milk products, frozen desserts and mixes, fruit preparations, chewing gums and candies, tabletop sweeteners, toiletries and pharmaceuticals.
Pfizer applied for FDA approval of alitame in 1986, but it has yet to be granted. It is, however, available in other countries, including Australia, New Zealand and the People’s Republic of China.
Neotame contains all the dangerous elements of aspartame and more: the amino acids L-aspartic acid and L-phenylalanine, and two organic functional groups: one known as a methyl ester group and the other as a neohexyl group. These components are joined together to form an incredibly sweet (8,000 times sweeter than sugar) and potentially dangerous compound.
The FDA was petitioned in 1997 to approve neotame for use as a tabletop sweetener. Approval is still pending. [Ed.-Final approval of Neotame came in 2002, over rigorous objections of consumer groups and some scientists. Unlike aspartame, there is no Federal labeling requirement for Neotame . . . allowing it to be covertly added to products.] The NutraSweet Company, which owns the right to neotame, plans to use the sweetener in chewing gum, carbonated soft drinks, refrigerated and non-refrigerated ready-to-drink beverages, frozen desserts and novelties, puddings and fillings, yogurt-type products, baked goods and candies.
Cyclamate was first introduced as a sweetener in the early 1950s, and dominate the artificial sweetener market though much of the ‘60s. In the late 60s, however, concerns arose over cyclamate’s potential to cause genetic damage, testicular atrophy and cancer, and in 1970, the FDA imposed a total ban on its use. Under pressure from the sweetener industry, the FDA is said to be considering reapproval of cyclamate, which is still in use in 50 other countries. In many products made overseas and shipped to the United States, cyclamate, Acesulfame-K and aspartame are blended together to create a “super sweetener.” •
WHAT TO EAT WHEN YOU CRAVE SWEET
Sugar cravings are natural: It’s the way we answer them that’s unnatural. All too often, when our energy starts to flag, we reach for a cookie or a soda — or, worse yet, a sugar-free cookie or a diet soda. But what our body really wants is the natural sugar found in fresh fruits and vegetables.
According to Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons, author of Potatoes, Not Prozac, the ultimate sugar snack is one low in fat and protein and high in complex carbohydrates — such as baked potato. Eating protein and fat at each meal, she says, will also help stabilize blood sugar and lessen cravings for sweets. People who are prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and other forms of depression often consume excessive amounts of sugar and carbohydrates in an effort to boost their serotonin levels. DesMaisons recommends potatoes, yams and winter squash — and regular exposure to full-spectrum light — to increase serotonin levels without loading up on refined sugar (or Prozac).
ASPARTAME / BREAST CANCER CONNECTION EXPLAINED:
Strong statistical evidence links the artificial sweetener, aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) to breast cancer. The American Cancer Society figures show that breast cancer cases have doubled since 1981, the year aspartame was approved for use as a food additive. Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) is added to over 5,000 food and drink products and is sold in almost 100 countries.
There is chemical proof that the synthetic amino acids that compose aspartame– phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and the methanol in which they are bound, are neurotoxins [nerve poisons]. Phenylalanine (50% of aspartame) lowers the seizure threshold and degrades into DKP, a tumor causing agent. Aspartic acid (40% of aspartame) caused holes in the brains of mice (Dr. John Olney, neuroscientist, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.)
Methanol (wood alcohol, 10% of aspartame) causes cumulative damage in the body. Since it is “free” methanol”, appearing without ethanol (the antidote for methanol toxicity always present in natural food such as fruit juice), the methanol in aspartame is lethal. Methanol destroys the optic nerve and can cause blindness. Fetal tissue cannot tolerate methanol.
In addition, the methanol in aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) breaks down into formaldehyde (embalming fluid) and formic acid which has the chemical composition of ant venom. Formic acid is used commercially in products such as paint stripper.
There is actual proof from recent records released by the Freedom of Information Act that aspartame caused dozens of mammary tumors in animals tested from 1971 to 1974 by G.D. Searle, the pharmaceutical company, responsible for aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet).
Searle falsified results of their animal testing when they presented evidence of aspartame safety to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for approval as a “food additive.”
The U.S. Government trusts the manufacturer of a product to perform its own safety tests.
To verify the breakdown of aspartame into its toxic breakdown products (phenylalanine into DKP and methanol into formaldehyde) Jennifer Cohen, eleven, a student in the sixth grade did her own experiment.
Jennifer bought a case of diet Coke, and she took three cans to a food-testing laboratory that found the aspartame amount in one can was 0.06%. Jennifer stored seven cans of the diet Coke in the refrigerator, seven cans at room temperature (68 to 70 degrees) and seven cans in an incubator at 104 degrees Fahrenheit. “I chose that temperature because in 1983, the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA) said that 104 degrees was the average daily high for July in Phoenix, Arizona.”
Jennifer checked the temperatures of the diet Cokes daily and after seventy days took them out of storage and performed a double blind experiment (neither the subject nor the tester knows who gets what) on ten adult subjects. “I was going to do a taste in my sister’s fourth grade class, but the school nurse said that I couldn’t because of all the bad things people say about aspartame.”
“I put all of the cans in a cooler and covered them with ice. I gave each person a small cup of the soda from the refrigerator, from the incubator, from my room, and from a new can of soda fresh from the supermarket. I asked them to rate the taste on a scale of one to four, four being the worst and one being the best.”
The subjects preferred the new can of diet Coke, and the average rating was 2.0. The refrigerated sample was rated 2.5. Lab analysis showed this coke contained 0.058% aspartame, 0.001% DKP and 53.5 parts per billion of formaldehyde. The diet Coke sample at room temperature was rated 2.6 and lab analysis showed 0.051% aspartame left with conversion to 0.002% DKP and 231.0 parts formaldehyde, (the most formaldehyde in the test.) The diet Coke stored in the incubator rated the worst taste at 3.8. All that was left of the 0.06 % aspartame was 0.02%. The aspartame had turned onto 0.010 % DKP and 76.2 parts per billion of formaldehyde.
The experiment to prove aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) breakdown into formaldehyde and DKP cost Jennifer $1200. (Chemical News, 1997)
A twenty-five year old trade memo reveals Searle’s concern about aspartame’s stability: “We have no way of estimating maximum likely abuse, and hence need to utilize data based on almost complete conversion to DKP. We stand a good chance of ending up with nothing.”
Among the findings Searle Laboratories ended up with in a complete conversion to DKP were mammary tumors, brain tumors, uterine polyps, enlarged pituitary and thyroid glands and atrophied testes.
The animals under test in the 115 Week Oral Tumor Study in the Rat, with DKP, were 360 albino rats, 21 days old. Rats are less sensitive than human beings and the amount of DKP fed to the test animal correlates to human ingestion.
“In any such study of even a few hundred test animals, it takes no more than a dozen or so of them to exhibit a particular lesion… to associate with the test agent, i.e., aspartame or its related chemicals.” (Dr. Adrian Gross, FDA toxicologist, in a letter to Senator Metzenbaum, Oct. 30, 1986.)
Here is a description of mammary tumors found in Female Rat.No.M17LF, (a low dose female) fed DKP in rat chow. “In toto” means the tissue has been left to deteriorate before microscopic examination, one of the felonious things Searle did to hide negative results.
Mass (1) A 3 X 3 X 2.5 cm. Spheroidal Multi-nodular yellowish non-adherent to the surrounding muscles or tissue (submitted in toto)
Mass (2) 2X5 X 2X1 cm. Irregularly shaped, spheroidal, smooth, yellowish white firm mass located subcutaneously and adjacent to the above described mass (submitted in toto) mass non-adherent to the surrounding muscles or tissues.
Mass (3) A 2.3 X 1cm. Irregularly shaped, multinodular, yellowish white, firm mass located subcutaneously on the rt. Axillary area. Mass non-adherent to the surrounding muscles or tissues (submitted in toto).
Mass (4) A 3X1X1 cm. Elongated, multinodular, yellowish white, firm mass located subcutaneously on the left inguinal area. Mass non-adherent to the surrounding muscles or tissues (submitted in toto.)
Mass (5) A 2X1.5 X 1 cm. Flat, multinodular, yellowish white firm mass located subcutaneously of the rt. Inguinal area. Mass non-adherent to the surrounding muscles or tissues (submitted in toto.)
Pathologist Dr. Charles H. Frith spent 3 days with the FDA to review 145 animals from Searle’s DKP toxicity study. Sufficient slides substantiated 73 female animals with grossly observed masses. (Bressler Report to FDA)
To hide the mammary tumors, Searle scientists excised them and returned the animals to the study or removed the tumors, post-mortem (after death).
Malignancies were made to appear benign. Searle explained that a computer “programming error” was responsible.
Dr. Gross interviewed all concerned with the tests and concluded that “to accept the Searle explanation is to believe that the unfavorable mammary malignancy data were innocently omitted from the summary table four separate times by three different individuals (Congressional Record, 1985.)
The following statistics are from SEER, (Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program) of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) The statistics are age standardized and computed to account for slight surges, due to mammogram screening.
Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women between the ages of 35-54. In 1971, a woman’s lifetime risk for contracting breast cancer was one in fourteen. Today it is one in eight. (The Breast Cancer Prevention Program, Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. and David Steinman, Macmillan, 1997)
Breast cancer began to rise rapidly concurrent with the use of aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), when it was approved in 1981 for table top use in dry foods and, in 1983, for use in sweetening aqueous solutions – carbonated beverages.
Between 1940-1982, there was a steady, annual rate of breast cancer increase of about 1% per year.
Between 1982-1987, the increase in breast cancer accelerated to 4%, annually. (ACS)
Between 1983-1988 the per capita consumption of aspartame quadrupled (USDA)
Increased longevity is not the reason for the rise in breast cancer cases. Life expectancy rates have remained relatively stable since 1950, while the incidence of breast cancer has increased by about 55% (The Breast Cancer Prevention Program, Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. and David Steinman), Macmillan, 1997)
Mammogram accounts for finding 10% of all breast cancer cases. The woman herself discovers the other 90% of breast cancer cases.
Although the numbers are recorded separately from other breast cancers by the American Cancer Society, DCIS, Ductile Carcinoma in Situ accounts for 40% of all breast cancer detected by mammogram. DCIS is abnormal (sometimes called pre-cancerous) cells confined to the milk ducts of the breasts. (As reported by cookbook author, Carol Guilford.)
On a mammogram, DCIS shows up as tiny specks of calcium.(Wessex Cancer Trust, England).
Oncologists now categorize different kinds of DCIS (cribiform, comedo, papillary, solid type, low intermediate and high nuclear grade) One description of a case of DCIS, comedo type reads: Solid sheets of malignant cells fill the dilated (milk) ducts. The center of the involved ducts undergoes necrosis and calcification (Online, Management of Breast Diseases).
From 1983-1989, the years in which aspartame use quadrupled, DCIS rose 52%. There were 23,000 DCIS cases in 1992; 30,000 in 1996 and 36,000 estimated for 1998, 200% higher than was projected in 1983. (Ductile Carcinoma In Situ of the Breast by Gil Lederman, M.D.)
“A Diagnosis on the Rise.” “Is It Really Breast Cancer?” “Weighing Treatment Options”, and “A Mysterious Condition” are medical problems “Good Housekeeping” magazine tried to answer for their readers, in 1996.
The problem is that there is no way to tell if early stage cancer, as DCIS is sometimes called will develop into invasive cancer. The only information about its natural course comes from three small studies which found 30% of women who had biopsies developed breast cancer within ten years of the biopsies, but it wasn’t clear why this happened in some cases and not in others.
DCIS is a poorly understood condition. A University of California, San Francisco report, found that while the number of cases of ductile carcinoma in situ has risen dramatically in the last 15 years, clinicians still do not know the best treatment approach.
In 1992, 10,000 American women diagnosed with DCIS underwent a mastectomy.
The increasing incident rates for DCIS “mirror what all of us have been seeing in practice for the last decade”, says Dr. Hiram Cody, a breast cancer specialist at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. “This study (from UCSF) creates the impression that a large number of women are being treated with mastectomy, but these numbers are declining all the time.”
Dr. Virginia Ernster, UCSF professor: “These findings (the unexpected increase in DCIS) underscore an urgent need to determine the best treatment for DCIS, as well as for research to define which DCIS cases will progress to invasive cancer.”
When aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) is exposed to temperatures above 86 degrees F, it breaks down into its neurotoxins faster.
Mary Nash Stoddard, Founder & President
Aspartame Consumer Safety Network
P.O. Box 2001 – Frisco TX 75034 – U.S.A.
ACSN’s worldwide Pilot Hotline: