Due to the great popularity of “Can Diet Coke Kill You?” combined with a lot of controversy over it, I have decided to write this follow-up post.
Most of the controversy over the last article was around the fact that the documentary I referenced cited data from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) but that organization itself claims there is no proven link between aspartame and cancer.
What was presented previously was a short explanation of why aspartame is expected to cause cancer and other health problems and a summary of some information presented in Sweet Misery, including findings from analyzing NCI and other data. This article, however, cites other scientific findings and discusses the economic-political history of this topic a little bit as well.
The first thing to mention is that this is not a comprehensive, academic literature review or survey of all articles and studies on the relationship between aspartame and cancer. This covers a handful of articles, information, studies, or books I have been made aware of or have found myself, combined with a little commentary on the context surrounding this topic. The conclusions are irrefutable in my opinion, but the world is open to many views and there are still people who do not believe smoking causes cancer, so what can we expect here?
For additional information, there are plenty of further reading materials mentioned and everyone is always welcome to do their own research.
Another thing to mention: over 250 million people and about two-thirds (66%) of the US population consume aspartame and it is in over 6000 food and drink products in the US. Diet drinks and gum all seem to contain it, but thousands of other products do as well. If you are in Europe, this product is listed as E951 in ingredients.
Aspartame Linked to 90+ Health Problems, Numerous Serious Ones
H. J. Roberts, M.D., is a well-respected and very extensively honored doctor named “The Best Doctor in the U.S.” by the editors of a national medical journal. So well-respected, he has authored textbooks used to train thousands of doctors and has been “knighted by the Order of St. George for his professional and humanitarian efforts.” He is the author of 24 texts and over 280 original, published articles and letters. He is considered the number one expert on aspartame’s relationship to numerous health problems. Rather than only link it to one disease, however, he created the term “aspartame disease” because of the various side-effects or health problems it creates. His 1038-page book, Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic, is one of the most comprehensive publications on the negative health effects of aspartame. If you are not satisfied with the evidence presented in this web post, maybe this book is for you!
Dr. Roberts states what was briefly mentioned in my previous post: “As far back as 1988, seven years after the initial release of aspartame, 80 percent of complaints volunteered by consumers to the FDA about supplements involved aspartame products. By April 1995, it had received 7,232 complaints.”
A few of Roberts’ published findings that give more scientific weight to these complaints include identified associations between aspartame and “the initiation or aggravation of diabetes mellitus, hypoglycemia, convulsions, headache, depression, other psychiatric states, hyperthyroidism, hypertension and arthritis; the simulation of multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and lupus erythematosus; increasing aspartame addiction; an apparent causative role in brain tumors; a neurologic condition in overweight young women known as pseudotumor cerebri; and even the carpal tunnel syndrome.”
In another article, Mark D. Gold writes: “Aspartame is, by far, the most dangerous substance on the market that is added to foods. Aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Many of these reactions are very serious including seizures and death as recently disclosed in a February 1994 Department of Health and Human Services report.”
Furthermore, Gold writes that a few of the 90 or so documented symptoms this report listed as being caused by aspartame are: “Headaches/migraines, dizziness, seizures, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, weight gain, rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, tachycardia, insomnia, vision problems, hearing loss, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, loss of taste, tinnitus, vertigo, memory loss, and joint pain.”
Additionally, as found by other researchers and physicians, aspartame can trigger or worsen several chronic illnesses: “Brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, alzheimer’s, mental retardation, lymphoma, birth defects, fibromyalgia, and diabetes.”
In addition to these findings, a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives recently found that rats given small amounts of aspartame were significantly more likely to develop brain cancer and called for “an urgent reevaluation of the current guidelines for the use and consumption of this compound.” But all of this information is actually nothing new.
Politics is …, Business is …, Politics is…, Business
If you think FDA experts have always considered aspartame completely safe for consumption, think again. As Dr. Roberts reports: “Senior FDA scientists and consultants vigorously protested approving the release of aspartame products. Their objections related to disturbing findings in animal studies (especially the frequency of brain tumors), seemingly flawed experimental data, and the absence of extensive pre-marketing trials on humans using real-world products over prolonged periods.” How did aspartame get approved for wide, public consumption?
Aspartame was invented by the G D Searle Co. acquired by Monsanto in 1985. For 16 years FDA refused to approve it until 1981 when Commissioner Arthur Hayes overruled the objections of a Public Board of Inquiry and the protests of the American Soft Drink Association and blessed it. The tests submitted by Searle were so bad the Department of Justice initiated prosecution of Searle for fraud. Then the defense lawyers hired the prosecutors, Sam Skinner and Wm. Conlon, and the case expired when the statute of limitations ran out. If the Godfather hires the District Attorney, don’t expect a conviction!
Who was the CEO of Searle at this time? None other than fan favorite Donald Rumsfeld. He was also the on Reagan’s transition team at that time and got Arthur Hayes appointed as the head of the FDA the day after Reagan took office (the same day that his company, Searle, applied to have aspartame approved as a food sweetener). Who says politics and business aren’t related? Donald Rumsfeld gets Arthur Hayes a good job, Arthur Hayes gives Rumsfeld’s company’s bottom line more importance than the safety of the American public he is supposed to protect. And where does Arthur Hull Hayes go after leaving the FDA “under allegations of impropriety”? To work for Searle and Monsanto’s chief PR Agency, Burson-Marstellar, for, reportedly, hundreds of thousand of dollars a year. Since then, Hayes has never publicly spoken about aspartame again. This is life-cycle politics and business — or death and pain-cycle for countless people, you might say.
Similar things happened to get aspartame into soft drinks within just a couple more years. In Rich Murray’s “How Aspartame Became Legal — The Timeline,” Murray reports:
October 15, 1982– The FDA announces that Searle has filed a petition that aspartame be approved as a sweetener in carbonated beverages and other liquids.
July 1, 1983– The National Soft Drink Association (NSDA) urges the FDA to delay approval of aspartame for carbonated beverages pending further testing because aspartame is very unstable in liquid form. When liquid aspartame is stored in temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, it breaks down into DKP and formaldehyde, both of which are known toxins.
July 8, 1983– The National Soft Drink Association drafts an objection to the final ruling which permits the use of aspartame in carbonated beverages and syrup bases and requests a hearing on the objections. The association says that Searle has not provided responsible certainty that aspartame and its’ degradation products are safe for use in soft drinks.
Legal action followed, but as we know, aspartame is in diet soft drinks today (ironically, since aspartame is also shown to make people gain weight — as Dr. Martini states: “The Congressional record said, ‘It makes you crave Carbohydrates and will make you FAT.’ Dr. Roberts stated that when he got patients off aspartame, their average weight loss was 19 pounds per person.”).
Why has nothing been achieved since this time to get aspartame out of food and drink products?
Dr. Ralph Walton, psychiatrist and Chairman of the Center for Behavioral Medicine, found that in all Monsanto/NutraSweet-funded studies, aspartame was shown to be safe but that in 100% of independent studies, the researchers did find a link between aspartame and health problems.
Nonetheless, Monsanto has a lot of influence over the world of food, medicine, and associated drugs. Monsanto funds the American Diabetes Association, American Dietetic Association, Congress, and the Conference of the American College of Physicians. As Dr. Martini goes on to report: “The New York Times, November 15, 1996, ran an article on how the American Dietetic Association takes money from the food industry to endorse their products. Therefore, they cannot criticize any additives or tell about their link to MONSANTO. ” Monsanto’s top people are on the boards or in the pockets of nearly every major related association or body. Combine that with the fact that aspartame is now in about two-thirds of all food and drink products in the US, and then play ‘connect the dots’…
Unimaginable cover-up? Not really. This happens in the world of food, drugs, vaccines, and tobacco year after year, whether we believe it or not. There are other similar stories out there, some more common or well-acknowledged than others.
Correlation is Not Causation
As some people commenting on “Can Diet Coke Kill You?” pointed out, correlation does not mean causation. However, with the theory of why aspartame causes cancer and other health problems clearly stated as well as additional studies of a different nature, causation is quite a reasonable conclusion now. As Dr. Roberts reports: “The causative role of aspartame products has been repeatedly shown by (a) the prompt improvement of symptoms (grand mal seizures, headache, itching, rashes, severe gastrointestinal reactions) after stopping aspartame products, and (b) their recurrence within minutes or hours after resuming them. The latter included self-testing on numerous occasions, inadvertent ingestion, and formal rechallenge.”
In one unique case involving several pilots, proof of the causative effect of aspartame on their health problems went beyond what most would put themselves through. “Some aspartame reactors with convulsions purposefully rechallenged themselves on one or several occasions ‘to be absolutely certain.’ This was unique among six pilots who had lost their licenses for unexplained seizures while consuming aspartame products. (All had been in otherwise excellent health.) They sought to have their licenses reinstated by such objective confirmation on rechallenge.”
If you still have doubts about the relationship between aspartame and numerous health problems (including several deadly ones), what can anyone do to help?
Image Credit 1: unknown domain via flickr under a Creative Commons license
Image Credit 2: veeliam via flickr under a Creative Commons license
Image Credit 3: merfam via flickr under a Creative Commons license
Image Credit 4: Dave Makes via flickr under a Creative Commons license
Image Credit 5: matthewbradley via flickr under a Creative Commons license
Image Credit 6: Arty Smokes via flickr under a Creative Commons license
Image Credit 7: illuminating9_11 via flickr under a Creative Commons license