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Issue Home August 5, 2009 Site Home

Letters to the Editor Policy

Aspartame: The Bitter Side Of Sweetness

Can you have your cake and eat it, too? Well, yes, if you believe the seductive promise of artificial sugars such as aspartame. It promises sweetness with no calories. And it makes good on its promise, but there's a hidden price to pay and it's not what you think.

Aspartame had a difficult birth. Test animals fed the substance developed brain tumors, suffered seizures, and died prematurely. The chemical could not win FDA approval. For 8 years it languished in limbo until a cooperative FDA chairman overruled the agency's own Board of Inquiry (1981). Aspartame took its first tentative steps into the marketplace. One obstacle lay in its path: the Delaney Amendment.

This attachment established a zero tolerance level for any food additive that caused cancer in either humans or animals. Aspartame was outlawed. But at that time, it was the only artificial sweetener on the market. The public outcry for this product was such that Congress intervened and allowed it to be sold as long as products containing it carried a warning label: “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health” (1983).

Then, in 1996, after its first halting steps, aspartame reached maturity. Without public notice, the FDA removed all restrictions. The warning label was disregarded, and the zero tolerance requirement was replaced with a less than one-in-a-million lifetime-risk threshold. Its use was now allowed in all foods and beverages. The floodgates were open.

Today, under the brand names of Equal, Equal-Measure, Spoonful, and NutraSweet, it is found in more than 6,000 products: foods, beverages, toothpastes, chewing gum; even vitamins and baby food. A cause for concern?

The FDA reports that is has reviewed more than 100 studies and is convinced that the synthetic sweetener is safe. Moreover, its use has been approved in 90 countries. But, on the other hand, independent analysis showed that 92 percent of the studies that were not sponsored by an industry with a financial interest found problems with the sweetener.

Consumers, too, have found problems.

More than 10,000 complaints against aspartame have been lodged with the FDA. According to this agency, each complaint represents 100 unregistered complaints. This means that the actual number of people who claim to be suffering from aspartame ingestion is over 1 million.

The FDA lists 92 symptoms. A person might have one or more symptoms and yet never identify the cause of his discomfort.

The question arises: Is aspartame dangerous? Ask rather: How dangerous is aspartame?

When aspartame is heated to over 85 degrees, as in cooking or in hot beverages, it breaks down to toxic by-products. One of these by-products is formaldehyde, a Class 1 cancer-causing agent; another is wood alcohol, a neurotoxin.

What about cold diet drinks? Even when stored and used at temperatures under 85 degrees aspartame still degrades to the same poisonous by-products only more slowly.

How about habitual consumers of diet drinks? Wouldn't a person have to drink extremely large amounts to exceed the FDA's daily limit? A man weighing 165 pounds would have to consume 21, 12-oz. cans of diet soda to exceed the FDA's recommended daily limit of aspartame. For a 120-pound woman, the amount would be 15 cans. Sound safe? It's not. A small portion of aspartame's by-products are not excreted; they accumulate.

Dr. Russell Blaylock, neurosurgeon and health authority, states, “the fact that it [aspartame's by-products] accumulates with each dose, indicates grave consequences.” The National Library of Medicine Index lists 900 studies detailing these “grave consequences.”

Another metabolite of aspartame is methanol. Heavy users commonly consume several bottles of soda a day. One quart of an aspartame-sweetened beverage contains 56 mg of methanol, 7 times the recommended limit of daily consumption.

Drug companies err on the side of profits. Consumers are wise to err on the side of caution.

And exactly what is that hidden price mentioned at the beginning? Aspartame makes you fatter. It does this by slowing the metabolism while stimulating the appetite. If one is interested in losing weight, tossing diet products into the trash would be a good first step.


Robert Scroggins

New Milford, PA

Freedom Lost, Part II

Sometimes it is difficult to understand why certain things are happening in government. We get the news every day but something doesn’t seem right. We can’t put our finger on it, but we are uneasy with the direction which we see our country moving. Why is this? Consider this. If you drop a frog into a kettle of hot water, it goes ballistic. However, if you drop the frog into a kettle of cool water, it will soon comfortably relax on the surface. Now, if you turn the stovetop burner, upon which the kettle sets, to low heat, the water will slowly rise in temperature but the frog will not be alarmed and will stay quietly relaxed until it is dead. We are the frogs. There are big things going on in our government and the water is heating up rapidly. Alarmingly so. The Executive branch of our government has been rapidly staffing an exogovernment (that is, a government outside of the regular government, akin to the shell of a lobster). This XOG, for lack of a better term, is comprised of the thirty some odd “Czars” and their staffs which have been appointed to “oversee” certain segments of our government: industry, healthcare, stimulus, compensation, TARP, banking, GM and, but not limited to, our borders. They are appointed, not elected nor confirmed by the Congress, and report directly to the Executive branch. They are the “muscle” which sees to it that the country goes in the direction chosen by the Executive. If the Czar doesn’t like what you are doing, you can be fired (remember Rick Wagner, CEO of GM) or find yourself “investigated,“ “defunded” or whatever is required to force you to comply with the direction laid out by the Executive. Shortly before the election, our new Executive bragged that in five days the transformation of America begins. What? Do we want the USA to be transformed? Like it or not, the US is being rapidly transformed into the image of ACORN, SEIU and radicals like Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Our government is spending trillions of dollars which we don’t have, it is pushing to radically take over our health care system, it is pushing to expand the Federal government in ways which we could not imagine even a year ago.

Where are our elected representatives? You know, those guys who never listen to you anyway. We have three branches of government for the purpose of checks and balances. Unfortunately, the Congress is caving in to the wishes of the Executive, to our great harm. We are watching while the Executive branch screams Hurry!!!, Hurry!!!, Hurry!!! Our elected representatives pass bills which are bankrupting our country without even reading them! It is imperative to look beyond the obvious. This is much like the shell game played at the carnival midway - follow the pea and win the prize (Right!). Like I wrote a couple of weeks ago, we had better look at the motives and people behind this transformation and decide if this is the new government model under which we want to live. If this transformation goes to its’ logical conclusion, we will find that we have kissed goodbye, as we know it, our Constitution and Bill of Rights and substituted a banana republic dictatorship.

This is August recess for Congress. Tell your Congressional representatives, in no uncertain terms, to throw the brakes on this rape of our Liberty before it is too late. In my opinion, if it is not done by election of 2010, it will be too late.


Joe McCann

Elk Lake, PA

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Thank you, Susquehanna County Transcript

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