Aspartame: the Sweet-Tasting Chemical

If you drink a lot of diet soda and prefer to not to know the risks of consuming the chemical sweetener aspartame read no further. If you are someone who cares greatly about your health, you may wish to read on.

After many hours reading volumes of research available on aspartame, I can write only that such research ranges from it being harmless to it being very harmful. Regardless of the varied research results, with possible down-sides of aspartame use such as brain tumors, diabetes, obesity and methanol poisoning, it may be a chemical to cut down on consuming.

The studies reveal that aspartame is about 200 times sweeter than sugar, but I’ve never seen anyone putting one two hundredth of a packet of it into their coffee.

I’m no nutrition expert but I understand that the chemical fools our bodies into treating it as if it were sugar. Yet our bodies get none of the energy that they have been triggered to react to. If that does not throw off our internal blood-sugar regulation systems, I wonder what would.

The artificial sweetener is also used in children’s aspirin and in children’s vitamins. Youngsters are especially susceptible to chemical damage because their brains and bodies are still in development.

The people of the U.S. pay for a government which is tasked with protecting us as its presumably number one concern. The FDA is just one of many agencies entrusted to keep our health safe. It regulates what may be added to the food and drinks offered for sale to our citizens.

I used to trust that if the FDA authorized something it must not be harmful to our health. Now I’m not so certain. It sadly appears evident that we live within a system where corporate profits have somehow become a higher priority to protect than the health of our citizens.

Before aspartame came into widespread use there were allegedly botched tests, controversies and a grand jury investigation called for of the aspartame manufacturer; that investigation drug on until the statute of limitations expired.

In 1983, the National Soft Drink Association asked the FDA to delay approval of aspartame for carbonated beverages. When liquid aspartame is stored in temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, it breaks down into formaldehyde and DKP (an acid with a complex name).

Questions remain about the safety of storing the beverage in the 100 degree-plus temperatures of Middle Eastern nations where many U.S. troops remain. Is the chemical a component of Gulf War Syndrome?

It is interesting to note that Coke’s formula varies. The soft drink maker uses different ingredients for its product when mixed for sale in the North American nation of Mexico.

In March at a local branch of the grocery chain Winco there was a large display containing “Mexican Coke products.” Upon reading the ingredients on the side of the famous soda bottle a main difference could be plainly read. Instead of the high fructose corn syrup that U.S. Coke contains, the product mixed for Mexicans contained good old-fashioned sugar.

The European Food Safety Authority is currently performing a full re-evaluation of aspartame, which is scheduled for completion this year.

With feedback, comments, progressive ideas or alternative perspectives, contact Orlando Martin at: mrm61@uw.edu