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Aspartame: What is That Stuff?

By C.J. Renner

Would it be possible to get through the day without those Diet Cokes? When a product is advertised as "sugar-free" it means more than just that it doesn't contain sugar - for most products, it means that it does contain aspartame. And this is one ingredient that's worth taking a closer look at.

The list of the alleged negative effects of aspartame is a long and frightening one. It ranges from relatively mild complaints of headaches and dizziness to cases where the sweetener is the supposed culprit of brain cancer and MS. As with just about any contentious product in this age, it is difficult to sort out the facts from the opinions - there are dozens of studies that prove that aspartame is harmless and dozens that prove its toxicity. Billions of dollars worth of products that contain aspartame are consumed each year, so there is much to be gained or lost from swaying consumers one way or the other on the issue of whether to purchase products that use this sweetener.

What kinds of products contain aspartame?
Nutra-Sweet and Equal are both brand names for aspartame. Most diet sodas and artificially low calorie foods contain aspartame under one of these three names. Chewable vitamins and sugar-free gums are other products that are likely to contain the sweetener (make sure to check labels).

Why do people think aspartame causes these negative affects?
When Aspartame is ingested about half of it is broken down into aspartic acid. This acid is an excitotoxin and has been shown to cause damages to brain tissue in animal studies.

About ten percent of the sweetener is broken down into Methanol which is in turn converted to formaldehyde.

Aspartame breaks down over time into DKP, which is a suspected carcinogen.

Formaldehyde? Carcinogens?
But all of the chemicals that aspartame breaks down into can be found in natural foods - fruit juices, protein-rich foods. It's just that in the case of aspartame and especially in soft drinks, these chemicals flood into the body much more quickly and in a larger quantity than one would find by consuming foods without the artificial sweetener.

The bottom line:
There are many scientists and consumers calling for the ban of aspartame. If you're concerned about your family's intake of aspartame, it would be worth a trip to the library or computer to inform yourself further and draw your own conclusions. In my personal opinion, the human body is a pretty efficient detoxing machine - I'm not going to lose much sleep over a stick of sugar-free gum here and there. But regardless of its questionable toxicity, drinking multiple cans of diet soda a day is taxing on your body. Call me old fashioned, but I'll stick with a tall glass of water.

Categories: Children's Health, Health & Wellness, Women's Health,

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