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Old 01-09-2008, 10:18 AM   #38
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S Starr
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Re: How bad are they? (Artificial Sweeteners)

Adding to the aspartame thread.... I spent four months researching this in 1995. I've seen DS people rant about CDs and carseats. For me it's aspartame. I eat a few Splenda foods, and would consider stevia if I couldn't have sugar, but aspartame scares me. I recognize that it's easy to be reassured about it and that a lot of its opponents come across as freaks, but I am convinced about its dangers. I have a large box full of primary documents (Congressional hearing reports, journal articles). I actually talked to a Nutrasweet Co rep about my concerns, and was not reassured at all. Here's the short article that I wrote:

July, 1997

I'm a typical American female. Wanting to fit into last year's jeans, I drink diet pop. I buy low-fat ice cream. I freshen my breath with sugar-free gum. Basically, I'm drawn to anything "diet"--or I was until I began researching this article. Now I check every label for aspartame (the technical name for NutraSweet, Equal, and Spoonful), and, because of it, shun most diet foods. Here are some highlights of aspartame's history.

In the mid-seventies, the FDA began investigating G.D. Searle Company, aspartame's manufacturer. FDA reviewers, according to a former FDA investigator's testimony in the 8/1/85 Congressional Hearing, uncovered terrible recordkeeping and what appear to be deliberate lies.

Examples: Searle scientists reported several aspartame-fed hamsters as healthy when the hamsters had died 12 weeks before. They mixed animals up, reporting the same rat alive at week 88, dead until week 104, alive at week 108, and dead again at week 112. They didn't submit reports that made aspartame look bad. They even changed data before giving it to the FDA.

I called G.D. Searle Company for comments. They referred me to The NutraSweet Company. NutraSweet spokesman Rich Nelson refused to discuss those early studies, citing a 1987 report from the General Accounting Office that concluded that the FDA followed proper procedures in the approval of aspartame.

Not, mind you, that the studies were acceptable. That GAO report contained the disclaimer "We did not evaluate the scientific issues raised ... nor did we determine aspartame's safety."

In 1977, the FDA Chief Counsel recommended that a grand jury investigate G.D. Searle Company. According to a 1987 United Press International (UPI) report, U.S. Attorney Sam Skinner was in charge of the investigation. Skinner withdrew from the case and from his job, taking a position with the Searle law firm instead. Assistant U.S. Attorney William Conlon convened a grand jury, but he let the statute of limitations run out. Fifteen months later, he, too, was hired by Searle's law firm.

In 1980, the FDA-appointed Public Board of Inquiry unanimously voted to deny aspartame's approval. The day after Ronald Reagan took office as President, Searle reapplied. Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr., the new FDA Commissioner under Reagan, approved it in 1981. When Hayes left the FDA, Searle's public relations firm hired him as a consultant. This also is detailed in the UPI investigative report.

At least eight federal officials that helped get aspartame approved later took jobs linked to the food industry. The six besides Skinner and Conlon are discussed in a 1986 briefing report from the US General Accounting Office to Senator Howard Metzenbaum.

Even the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA) objected to aspartame's approval. The 5/7/85 Congressional Record includes a NSDA "Objections of the National Soft Drink Association to a Final Rule Permitting the Use of Aspartame in Carbonated Beverages...".

NSDA researchers knew that aspartame breaks down to phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol.

Phenylalanine and aspartic acid, according to testimonies at the 11/3/87 Committee on Labor and Human Resources, US Senate, can cause brain damage. (Amino acids are necessary, but can be harmful if not balanced.)

Methanol, according to the late opthalmologist Morgan Raiford, is the intoxicant that caused alcoholics in the Prohibition to go blind and die. And, as Raiford pointed out in a 1987 report, methanol eventually turns into formaldehyde--that stuff you embalmed frogs in back in high school.

(NutraSweet's position is that these components are all "found in natural foods in greater quantities--there's more methanol in a tomato!" However, natural foods have other ingredients that counter ill effects from these. According to a 1984 article by Dr Woodrow Monte, "Ethanol, the classic antidote for methanol toxicity, is found in natural food sources of methanol at concentrations 5 to 500,000 times that of the toxin. Ethanol inhibits metabolism of methanol and allows the body time for clearance of the toxin." Diet drinks contain no ethanol.)

The NSDA also worried because, as they noted in their "Objections" draft, aspartame inhibits your body's production of serotonin. Since serotonin helps limit your cravings for carbohydrates, aspartame makes some people gain weight! Quite the trick for a diet drink.

I have a copy of a consumer complaint report from the FDA, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. By April of 1995, almost 10,000 consumers had called the FDA with 92 different aspartame-related complaints. Headaches topped the list, at 1,847 complaints. Other reactions included dizziness, mood changes, nausea, joint pain, diarrhea, heart irregularities, memory loss, seizures--and even four deaths. (These were not problems proved to be caused by aspartame, but complaints that the consumers thought were linked -- and that they bothered to call about, which is generally a small percentage.)

Considering this history, how can so many doctors approve aspartame's use? According to aspartame opponents quoted in a 1994 article "Is NutraSweet Poison?", doctors rely heavily on industry research; for every study showing adverse effects, the industry funds other studies showing the opposite.

Unfortunately, many of these studies are badly flawed. Dr. H.J. Roberts detailed several of these flaws in a 1995 letter to Newt Gingrich. In the study which "proved" that aspartame doesn't cause seizures, for example, the aspartame was fresh, and was given as a pill--totally different stuff from the aspartame in months-old soda.

Roberts, whose book "Defense Against Alzheimers" has been nominated for a Pulitzer, believes that NutraSweet has caused the increase of Alzheimer's.

I interviewed him by phone after reading his testimony to the Committee on Labor and Human Resources. He says millions of people are affected by NutraSweet. He's especially concerned about diabetics. They consume more aspartame than non-diabetics, but, he says, aspartame can actually cause poorer diabetic control, can lead to the aggravation or simulation of diabetic complications (especially eye problems), and can cause convulsions.

In June, 1996, the FDA gave aspartame a blanket approval. Betty Martini, the founder of a volunteer force fighting NutraSweet, says the FDA claimed to have received only 11 complaints in the year prior to approval--but that she personally forwarded them over 1,000 case histories during that time.

"Several people told me they'd called the FDA and been told that the FDA didn't accept NutraSweet complaints anymore. Of course complaints have gone down!" Martini said.

The NutraSweet spokesman confirmed that neither NutraSweet nor the FDA has tracked NutraSweet complaints since the end of 1995, since "over the years there was no evidence of a need for concern about its safety." No evidence? It's true, few of those complaints were accompanied by a doctor's affidavit--but ten thousand?

Some people have an instant reaction to aspartame--a can of diet soda will give them a headache every time. I don't get headaches, but that doesn't mean I'm immune. You and I could be suffering from aspartame reactions without knowing it. Doctors have a hard time attributing symptoms to aspartame because reactions are so varied, and so much like some diseases. Researchers believe aspartame can trigger or mimic diseases including multiple sclerosis, ALS, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's. Neurologist Russell Blaylock discussed these and other reactions in his book "Excitotoxins--The Taste That Kills," published by Health Press in Santa Fe, NM.

Aspartame can now be in vitamins, hot dogs, baked goods, yogurt, breath mints, over-the-counter drugs--even non-diet sodas! And its patent has expired, so you can't just look for the NutraSweet swirl. Check your labels with fear and trembling.

After doing all this research, I quit buying it for my household, and my husband's mystery swellings went away. He had been to many doctors about occasional huge swellings on face, hands, feet, and genitals, and we realized a year after quitting diet 7Up that he hadn't had them for eleven months. I tried to call the FDA, and they refused to log any complaint about an ingredient; they said they would only log a complaint against a particular product with barcode. So I'm not impressed with the FDA's approval.

I also wrote a looong piece about NutraSweet that includes references; I'd be glad to email it to any DS people.
Mama to E 3/06 and M 7/08

Last edited by S Starr; 01-09-2008 at 11:13 AM. Reason: clarification
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