While everyone praises the sugar tax, who’s looking at aspartame?

A quick glance at Twitter shows a myriad of posts praising the sugar tax and it’s alleged benefits for the poor, oppressed and overweight Brits, maybe society should take a step back and check what the nation is celebrating.

As many pubs and restaurants have now removed sugar-containing beverages from their menu, the makers of widely used artificial sweetener Nutrasweet (aspartame) will be rubbing their hands in glee – but while the world slates sugar, has anyone checked what the long term side effects are before we start force feeding this relatively new chemical to our offspring?

It turns out, somebody has looked into the side effects – and according to Dr. Janet Starr Hull, it’s a pretty long list, allegedly affecting eyes, ears, the brain, mental health, chest and heart, the GI tract, skin, the endocrine system, and claims that poisoning can mimic other serious illnesses such as epstein barr, polio, meniere’s disease, MS and fibromyaligia, to name just a few.

Hull, the author of the book, Sweet Poison, claims to have ‘nearly died’ from ‘aspartame poisoning.’  She isn’t alone in her concerns.

Dr. Joseph Mercola, too, is an extremely outspoken critic of the sweetener, saying that it actually affects the metabolism in such a way that it promotes weight gain.  Meanwhile, clinical nutritionist, Dr. Josh Axe, who has worked with the Wellness Advisory Council and national swim teams, says that

“Aspartame is one of the worst artificial sweeteners you can ingest and has been associated with dozens of potential health risks.”

While many studies have shown no link to disease, a study was released in July 2017 connecting aspartame to an increased risk of heart disease and increased body mass index. Far from the small studies that are sometimes dismissed, this review included a total of almost 407,000 individuals with a median 10-year follow-up. (1)

Researchers found not only that participants derived no benefit from consuming artificial sweetener instead of sugar but that those who consumed them showed “increases in weight and waist circumference, and higher incidence of obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular events.”

Furthermore, Researcher Susie Swithers, neurobiologist at Purdue University found that long-term exposure to artificial sweeteners in rats altered how their bodies metabolized real sugar, creating an abnormal blood sugar spike.  Similar results were found by Yanina Pepino, a biopsychologist at Washington University’s School of Medicine in St. Louis.  Pepino studied how 17 obese subjects processed glucose after ingesting water or sucralose, the most commonly-used artificial sweetener.  Participants who consumed sucralose before glucose released 20 percent more insulin than when they had water before glucose.

The Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center of the European Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences conducted studies which claim that aspartame can increase several malignancies in rodents, concluding that aspartame is a potential carcinogen at normal dietary doses.  Although thirteen occupational safety and health experts signed an open letter from CSPI to the FDA expressing that the 2007 ERF study merited a reevaluation of aspartame’s safety in humans, these studies have been widely criticized and discounted by the FDA and other food safety agencies.

Meanwhile a 2017 study published in the journal Stroke found people drinking just one can a day of an artificially sweetened drink were nearly three times as likely to have a stroke or develop dementia.  No similar risk was found in those who drank sugar laden lemonade and cola.  Furthermore, a quick search on Google for ‘aspartame research’ finds plenty of other studies, although some admittedly show no dangers.  Surely though, isn’t even ONE study enough for cause for concern?

I’m not saying we should carry on over-consuming sugar, especially the over-refined white stuff we’re so fond of  adding to everything.  Refined sugar has virtually no nutritional benefits, can contribute towards obesity and many other conditions of ill-health.  Anyway, why do we need to sweeten food at all?  If even the smallest part of the research into aspartame is accurate, shouldn’t we be modifying our diets and food choices rather than modifying our food with chemicals?

If we really can’t do without, why not choose natural honey, for which there are some proven benefits?  Purists will argue that even honey is still sugar,  but for me there is no choice between a naturally occurring product like honey made by bees or one concocted in the lab by a chemical company.  I know who I trust more.

Moreover, I for one, am uncomfortable with that choice being made for me by a big brother society.

I’m no nutritionist but for me, there is at least enough negative research to pose the question, is aspartame truly safe?   Certainly not safe enough to tax the alternatives off the shelves.