This is a Tale of Two Sweeteners, full of sound and fury, signifying
that the FDA has sold you and your kids to the drug companies again, and you
are unwitting receptacles of a sweetener that has obvious toxicity. The FDA
has blocked the use of a natural sweetener that is totally safe.
If you drink diet sodas or add Equal or NutraSweet to your coffee,
listen up. These sweeteners contain aspartame, which was first approved by
the FDA in 1974. That approval was rescinded because of two studies showing
that the substance caused brain tumors in laboratory animals.
These studies were never refuted, and the additive was approved
in spite of these studies, in 1981, and for soft drinks in 1983. According
to National Cancer Institute data, there was an alarming jump in the incidence
of brain tumors in 1983 - 1987. The estimated annual percent change (EAPC)
rose from 2.1% to 8.1% in males, and from 2.1% to 11.7% in females. This could
be related to the consumption of aspartame-sweetened products.
Aspartame has both potential and real toxicities. My associate
editor, Jane Heimlich, wrote about the effects of aspartame in the January
1993 Health & Healing, and I have suggested alternative natural sweeteners
such as Sucanat and honey.
However, there is a natural, non-caloric sweetener that is totally
safe - stevia.
Try a Natural, Non-Toxic, Calorie-Free Sweetener
Stevia is an herb that has been used as a sweetener in South
America for hundreds of years. It is calorie - free, and the powdered concentrate
is 300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia is widely used all over the world.
In Japan, for example, it claims 41% of the sweetener market, including sugar,
and was used in Japanese Diet Coke until the company replaced it with aspartame
to "standardize" worldwide. There have not been any reports of toxicity with
stevia, which is consumed by millions of people daily.
The Scary Truth About Aspartame
Not so with aspartame sweeteners, such as NutraSweet and Equal.
As of February 1994, 6,888 cases of adverse reactions had been reported to
the FDA. In fact, more than 75% of all non-drug complaints to the FDA are
about aspartame. These complaints include headaches, dizziness, mood changed,
numbness, vomiting or nausea, muscle cramps and spasms, and abdominal pain
and cramps. There are also sizable numbers reporting vision changed, joint
pains, skin lesions, memory loss, and seizures. Five deaths were reported
to the FDA prior to 1987 as possibly attributed to aspartame. This is only
a small fraction of the actual adverse reactions caused by aspartame. Most
people would not associate the problem with it, and even if they did, only
a small fraction of people or doctors would take the time to report it to
the FDA. I estimate that for every reported adverse reaction, 10 to 100 go
unrecognized or unreported, which would bring the number to 70,000 to 700,000
Ralph G. Walton, M.D., Chairman of the Center of Behavioral
Medicine of the Western Reserve Care System, has published accounts of how
the excitatory characteristics of aspartame could lower the threshold for
and even cause seizures, mania, depression, or other psychological or central
nervous system disorders. In one study, he demonstrated that people with a
history of mood disorders had a significantly higher number of adverse reactions
to aspartame than those with no such history. He estimated that considering
everything that the substance could do, about 35% of the population is vulnerable
to an adverse reaction to aspartame.