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Sickly Sweet: The Problem with Aspartame

What do you know about the artificial sweetener aspartame, found in everything from diet sodas, hot chocolate, yogurt, jello, and diarrhea medicine?

If you’ve ever tried to learn about it, you may have been surprised by how difficult it is to find unbiased, reasonable data. With titles ranging from things like “The Joys of Aspartame, the No-Calorie Wonder Sugar” to “Aspartame Will KILL YOU!,” not to mention the stories of FDA cover-ups, it’s not surprising if you’ve have a hard time discerning the truth about this controversial substance. The fact is that some of aspartame’s ill side effects have been definitively proven, and some are anecdotal, but I still strongly encourage you NOT to use the product. Here’s why.

Aspartame Will Not Make You Thin!

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Over 200 million Americans consume Aspartame products. Yet, obesity rates have soared in the past 20 years, with over 50% of Americans now considered obese. This increase in obesity rates has coincided with the huge number of low calorie “diet” foods now eaten by nearly three-quarters of the adults in this country! There is even evidence that sweet-tasting food products with aspartame are likely to keep you wanting more sweets. Diet-soda drinkers often consume 5 to 6 sodas per day! Aspartame, and other refined carbohydrates that are often included with Aspartame, will make your system more acidic, leading to disease states like osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, lupus, joint pain, and arthritis. Some patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia stopped their daily multi-can consumption of Diet Coke or Pepsi and all symptoms disappeared!

Aspartame Will Make You Hungry!

Aspartame actually makes you hungrier! The two main substances in aspartame, the amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid, stimulate the release of insulin into the body. Rapid, strong spikes in insulin remove all glucose from the blood-stream and store it as fat, resulting in hypoglycemia and severe sugar cravings. This can also inhibit the synthesis of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that tells the body it is full. If your body thinks it is still hungry, you’re likely to keep eating, no matter what your “willpower” is like, and ultimately gain weight!

These insulin spikes are exactly what I am working with in your body to avoid. The body’s reaction to insulin is to produce more cortisol (the fight or flight hormone), which when provoked time and time again, leads to adrenal fatigue.

Aspartame Has Never Been Proven Safe for Human Consumption

Since it came on the market in 1981, Aspartame has accounted for more than 75 percent of the complaints reported to the FDA’s Adverse Reaction Monitoring system.

The truth is that although many studies have been conducted on aspartame (with differing results), no studies have yet looked at long term use by humans. An MD named Christine Lydon was a user of aspartame who encouraged her patients to use the sweetener until she started doing her own research. What she found was alarming: The two main amino acids in aspartame are supplied in other foods we eat. However, they are usually consumed in combination with other amino acids. When consumed alone, they enter the nervous system in high concentrations, potentially causing neurological damage. According to Lydon, “The damage caused by excitotoxin food additives is not usually dramatic. In most instances, the effects are subtle, cumulative, and develop over a period of time.” This fact doesn’t bode well for the long-term safety of the product (and are you willing to wait and see?).

Aspartame’s Potential Side Effects List Is Too Long to Ignore

The FDA includes headaches, dizziness, hallucinations, and panic attacks among the possible side effects of consuming aspartame. Other common adverse reactions attributed to the sweetener (a list of symptoms often referred to as “Aspartame Disease”) include attention difficulties, memory loss, slurred speech and vision problems.

These side effects alone should be cause for concern. However, other, far more serious side effects have been noted. An MD at the Washington University Medical School in St. Louis believes there may be a link between brain tumors and aspartame. He notes that animal studies reveal high levels of brain tumors in aspartame-fed rats. In another study of seven infant monkeys fed aspartame mixed with milk for 300 days, five of the monkeys had grand mal seizures, and one died.

In my own practice, I have seen significant improvements in my clients’ health after a period of avoiding aspartame, including relief from fibromyalgia, joint pain, arthritis and insomnia. Bringing your pH back to a more alkaline state alone can help these syndromes, and as I mentioned earlier, constant use of aspartame containing products will acidify. (A very common result of acidosis is persistent sinus problems.) There are inconclusive studies linking Aspartame use with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders. Though the studies aren’t widely recognized, do you want to take the risk that they are right?

Simple Solutions and Sweet Alternatives

So how do I lose those extra pounds, you ask?

A moderate-protein, moderate healthy fats, low-carb, whole-food diet is a far more effective form of weight loss than a high-carb, low fat diet. It keeps you satisfied and prevents blood-sugar spikes that cause cravings between meals. (See newsletter number 5 for more info on low-carb diets.)

There are many other sweeteners available in the marketplace right now that taste good and have very few or no side effects, and are more healthful than sugar. Splenda is an excellent example, and it is available in most grocery stores and even online. It bakes, can be used raw, and is currently being used by many manufacturers to make candy, cookies, and other sweets that aren’t sugar-laden and don’t spike insulin. These can be an excellent “treat” when you need a comfortable, sweet pick-me-up and a diet-saving tool for losing weight. Most of you know that I endorse Suzanne Somers’ “Somersizing” program as one of the best ways of eating. She has her own sweetener, available viaher Web site , called “SomerSweet”. Both Splenda and SomerSweet have little “aftertaste” and can be used in cooking easily. They are made from vegetable fibers, and exhibit no side effects. There are other sweeteners now commonly being used in diabetic products, such as maltilol and sucralose (generic Splenda), and more are being developed.

The United States has problems with obesity, heart-attacks, blood-pressure, and stress-related diseases. All of these issues can be linked back to cortisol overproduction as a result of sugars in the diet. Aspartame can contribute to those problems. Keep in mind that as your blood sugar levels balance, you’re likely to have fewer and fewer sugar cravings!


“Dear Diet Coke.”

“Food Additives to Avoid.” Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Henkel, John. “Sugar Substitutes: Americans Opt for Sweetness and Lite.”

Lydon, Christine, M.D. “Could There Be Evils Lurking in Aspartame Consumption?” Oxygen Magazine.

Mercola, Dr. Joseph. “Aspartame. What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You. Why Isn’t the FDA Protecting Your Health?”

Whitaker, Dr, Julian. “The Lowdown on Aspartame (NutraSweet).”

* The information in this article cannot be substituted for medical advice about your unique body. Call for an appointment to discuss questions or concerns.

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