Aspartame was discovered by accident in 1965. It was originally developed as a drug to treat peptic ulcer disease. One day the scientist who was working with it licked his fingers to pick up a piece of paper and found that his fingers tasted sweet. The developing company, G.D. Searle & Co., quickly realized aspartame’s potential as an artificial sweetener and applied for FDA approval in 1973. It was initially denied due to lack of safety evidence, and at one point Searle was actually investigated for misrepresentation of data. In 1981, Donald Rumsfeld (then CEO of Searle) made it his mission to get aspartame approved. With the help of his political ally, president Ronald Reagan, he succeeded. Within two years, aspartame found its way into all sorts of diet foods and diet sodas. Soon the FDA was being flooded with consumer complaint calls. Some of the symptoms that people reported after consumption of aspartame include:
These symptoms are easy to understand when you look at the structure of aspartame. It is made of two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid, and methanol (aka wood alcohol or paint remover).
While amino acids are the normal building blocks of protein, they are never found by themselves in nature- they are always combined with other amino acids, fats, and carbohydrates. When consumed as isolated, concentrated substances, they act like excitotoxins in your brain. This means that they cause excessive firing of the neurons in your brain, sometimes even leading to cell death.
Methanol breaks down into formaldehyde in your body. According to the EPA, formaldehyde can cause cancer in laboratory animals and likely in humans as well. Since aspartame was introduced, breast cancer rates have increased right along with aspartame consumption.
So if aspartame is so dangerous, why hasn’t the FDA removed it from the market? This is where it gets scary. Apparently I was naive in thinking that the FDA’s purpose was to protect the American public. It turns out that the FDA is heavily funded by the very food and drug companies that it is supposed to be regulating. Therefore, if they deny approval or take something off the market, they risk losing a lot of money. Also, the FDA leaves it up to the food manufacturer to prove that its product is safe. This leads to biased studies and skewed data. There is a huge conflict of interest going on here!
What is the moral of this story? You can’t trust food companies to tell you whether their product is safe- their only goal is to make a profit. And unfortunately you can’t trust your government either, because they are working for the food companies, not you. You need to trust your instinct. Does eating something that would never be found in nature seem like a good idea? Does drinking wood alcohol sound safe? Stick to real, whole food!
If you want to learn more, check out the book, Sweet Deception, by Dr Joseph Mercola.
By the way, if you have a carpenter ant problem, pour a little pile of NutraSweet in the corner. The ants will bring it back to their colony and they will die within 24 hours. For small black ants, mix the NutraSweet with a little apple juice (they are too smart to eat the aspartame on its own!)