Aspartame = Diet-astrous Results
by Rebecca Ephraim, RD, CCN




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"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease."
- Thomas Edison

Cancer is a political problem more than it is a medical problem.

"Dr. Gross told Congress that aspartame violated the Delaney Amendment, which had forbid anything being put in food you knew would cause cancer, and this was because without a shadow of a doubt, aspartame can cause brain tumors."

"And if the FDA violates the law, who is left to protect the public?"

There is new research showing that a sugar called xylitol (pronounced zy-li-tol) can significantly improve oral health, improve calcium absorption, increase bone density and remineralize tooth enamel. Xylitol also helps prevent or eliminate gum disease, cavities, tooth loss, asthma, inner ear infections, chronic throat and sinus conditions, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease. Xylitol has only 2.4 calories per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram for sucrose sugar. Xylitol is digested slowly, making it easier on your pancreas and useful for diabetics. You can purchase xylitol in five pound bags and use it in cooking and for all purposes you would ordinarily use sugar. Due to the health benefits from consuming xylitol, we suggest that it is a good substitute for ordinary sugar.

The herb stevia is the best no-calorie sweetener. Available in health food stores.

Sugar feeds cancer.

Rich Murray: Ephraim: against aspartame 5.28.1 rmforall

Aspartame = Diet-astrous  Results
by Rebecca Ephraim, RD, CCN
Conscious Choice, May 2001

As a nutritionist who straddles conventional and complementary therapies, I attend numerous lectures, workshops, and conferences in both realms. I can generally tell you whether a gathering is one of conventional practitioners or complementary practitioners simply by seeing who's drinking what! Where conventional practitioners such as registered dietitians, nurses, and medical doctors are meeting, the familiar, brightly colored cans of diet soda, sweetened with the artificial sweetener aspartame, prominently dot the meeting room landscape. Not so in a gathering of complementary practitioners such as naturopaths, "alternative" nutritionists, and chiropractors. Bottled or filtered water is the rule here.

It's an apt example of the conventional medical mindset butting heads with the philosophy of the health providers who are natural-living advocates. Aspartame, which goes by names such as Equal, NutraSweet, and Spoonful, is and has been the giant among artificial sweeteners for the twenty years it has been around. Most any "diet" food out there, in addition to the diet sodas, will surely have aspartame in its ingredient list. Wholistic practitioners tell their clients/patients to never use the stuff -- that it's literally poison. Conventional practitioners usually encourage their use. Many (perhaps most) of my R.D. colleagues, for instance, consider aspartame, with zero calories, pivotal in weight-control programs. Their perspective is that it's a safe replacement for high-calorie sugary foods that sabotage dieters' best intentions.

"No, no, no!" shout an escalating number of health practitioners, professionals, and laypeople. They point to ugly and debilitating side effects from the use of aspartame, including headaches, memory loss, slurred speech, and vision problems. For years these aspartame opponents were but small voices muffled by the incredibly loud sounds of money talking. Under the ownership of the giant international chemical company Monsanto, aspartame thoroughly trounced its competition by using an unstoppable combination of marketing brilliance and limitless spending -- along with tactics characterized as morally and ethically corrupt.

One critic, David Rietz, denounces Monsanto for plying "agency [e.g. Food and Drug Administration, FDA] officials with gratuities and/or very favorable future employment, politicians with campaign funds/PAC money, non-profit foundations with endowments, scientists with research grants, and the media with lots of advertising dollars" all for the sake of defending its safety and, hence, its ironclad hold on the artificial sweetener market. Monsanto sold its aspartame ingredient business last year to a number of buyers (including, by the way, MSD Capital, which is computer king Michael Dell's investment firm).

The voices of dissent have grown louder with the advent of the Internet. Rietz, for example, is the owner and master ( of one of thousands of "anti-aspartame" Internet Web sites. Like so many other "anti-aspartame" crusaders, Rietz founded his Web site after years of battling debilitating health problems and finally regaining his health after discontinuing his use of the artificial sweetener. Examining why so many attest to aspartame's role in scores of severe adverse reactions is beyond the scope of this column. But one thing is certain, despite what appears to be a concerted effort on the part of aspartame's makers to negate the allegations of health problems, adverse reactions from aspartame are real.

This was eloquently borne out in 1996, when Ralph G. Walton, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Northeastern Ohio University's College of Medicine, conducted an analysis of all the medical studies -- 164 of them at the time -- dealing with human safety as it relates to the use of aspartame. The studies were separated into two categories: 74 of the studies were sponsored by the aspartame industry and 90 of them were non-industry-sponsored studies. Dr. Walton found that of the 74 studies sponsored by the aspartame industry, 100 percent of them claimed there were no health problems associated with aspartame use. Of the 90 studies that had no connections to industry, all but seven of them identified one or more problems with aspartame use. Interestingly, of the seven studies that did not find problems, the FDA had conducted six. Critics suggest that since a number of FDA officials eventually went to work for the aspartame industry, these six studies should be considered industry-sponsored research as well.

Let's say, knowing all this, if a person desperately wanted to lose weight and was prepared to risk the safety problems associated with aspartame, might it make sense to use this sugar substitute as an easy and effective tool for weight control?

Hardly! Dr. Walton, who has also studied the effects of aspartame, is emphatic when he tells me, "Probably one major contributor to obesity is the widespread use of diet products!" A chorus of non-conventional health professionals echo his statement, which can just as well be read as a warning. The reasons are not simple; they involve complex biochemical reactions linked to hormones and brain chemicals.

The aspartame itself doesn't have any calories, but basically, one of its ingredients, the amino acid phenylalanine, blocks production of serotonin, a nerve chemical that, among other activities, controls food cravings. As you might well imagine, a shortage of serotonin will make your brain and body scream for the foods that create more of this brain chemical -- and those are the high-calorie, carbohydrate-rich snacks that can sabotage a dieter. Obviously, the more aspartame one ingests, the more heightened the effects. Simply put, aspartame appears to muddle the brain chemistry.

Nutritionist Susan Allen, R.D., C.C.N., at Chicago's Northwestern Center for Integrative Medicine suspects that something additional is going on in many of her patients who have been using aspartame and other artificial sweeteners. Allen believes that when they consume them, the sweet taste of no-calorie sweeteners triggers their bodies to release insulin, even though there is no food to feed the cells. Normally, when we eat, the sugar in that food, which is derived from carbohydrates, is broken down into simple sugars, like glucose, that then enters the blood stream (we call it "blood sugar").

We depend on insulin (secreted by the pancreas) to usher that blood sugar into our cells to supply energy and maintain normal blood-sugar levels. The problem Allen sees is that an "insulin-sensitive" person who uses artificial sweeteners teases his or her body into thinking food is on its way, so insulin is released. But when the body discovers it was cheated out of food, it revolts by throwing a food-craving tantrum that can only be quelled by eating blood sugar food that will more than likely be high-calorie sugary snacks. "I point out to them how it doesn't make sense...they're trying to save themselves sugar but then they eat more foods that are going to raise their blood sugar anyway."

Yet, the unabashed public acceptance of artificial sweeteners, namely aspartame, is fueled by the approval of a host of scientific and professional organizations, including the American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, American Medical Association, and the National Cancer Institute. Is it any wonder why some 200 million Americans use this ubiquitous product?

Rebecca Ephraim is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Clinical Nutritionist and a nutrition reporter specializing in integrative medicine issues. She can be reached at
© Rebecca Ephraim. All rights reserved.
Rebecca Ephraim, RD, CCN Registered Dietitian and Certified Clinical Nutritionist with seventeen years in media and mass communications including as the new anchor / producer for the Chicago National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate. Ms. Ephraim is a columnist and writer for Conscious Choice magazine in Chicago and is the Chairperson of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) specialty group on Nutrition and Complementary Care.
Rebecca Ephraim, who recently completed her dietetic internship at Orlando's Florida Hospital, an internship administered by Andrews University, is one of the many students who have directed their search towards the Seventh-Day Adventist dietetic internships specifically due to their vegetarian component. Ephraim was pleased with her experience at the 1200-plus bed Florida Hospital, which claims the "world's largest institutional vegetarian cafeteria." "Vegetarianism was enhanced and even highlighted," she says. "And that was really what I wanted to get out of an internship." As a part of her internship Ephraim presented a case study project related to the benefits of plant-based diets on multiple sclerosis.


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