Friday, December 23, 2005

The Truth About Aspartame (NutraSweet)

I drink about 4 Diet Pepsi's per day. So when folks I trust tell me that the Aspartame in the drink can cause brain tumors, dizziness, and other such problems, I hit the internet to get the latest. I first did this about 5 years ago. My finding was that every site I visited which made such claims used anecdoatal evidence and unnamed studies. The few studies that purported to find problems with Aspartame seemed to have problems with causality. It is not the same thing to say something is linked as it is to say one thing causes another.

Anyway, the subject came up again today. I hit the web to see if anything had changed. The anit-apartame sites were still primarily over-the-top sites that made claims which were far from scientific. Two neutral sites you might want to visit if you're interested:

First study

# (MIT News):

Even daily large doses of the high-intensity sweetener aspartame, also known as NutraSweet, had no adverse effect on study subjects' health and well-being, a visiting scientist at MIT reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition last week.

"We conclude that aspartame is safe for the general population," said Paul A. Spiers, visiting scientist in the Clinical Research Center (CRC).

The other study

Sure, where there's smoke maybe there's fire. The problem is that people tend to blame aspartame for everything. The sweetener has been associated with something like 90 different symptoms, including vision problems, dizziness, drowsiness, abdominal pain, anxiety attacks, depression, confusion, memory loss, ringing in the ears, chest palpitations, personality changes, convulsions, and irritability. It's also been linked to conditions ranging from brain tumors, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis to chronic fatigue syndrome.

Scientists say real toxins don't work that way--they produce a specific cluster of symptoms. One chemical can't possibly be causing all this stuff.

For the most part researchers have been unable to replicate adverse aspartame reactions in the lab. In numerous studies investigators recruited individuals who said aspartame triggered headaches, epileptic seizures, or what have you. Typically they fed half the subjects aspartame and the other half a placebo. In most cases there was no observable difference.

I like Diet Pepsi. I'll continue to indulge.

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