The US Government Fails to Protect Its Citizens from the Artificial Sweetener Aspartame
by Shane Shirley-Smith
The other day someone said to me, "Well, those folks just think you are a person who has M.S. and just won't accept it." Even though two different neurologists, after reviewing all of my records and thoroughly examining me, told me they do not believe I have M.S., some people (how many of you are out there?) along with our government still find it easier to think that I am avoiding the inevitable truth of my "MS diagnosis" by blaming it on the artificial sweetener aspartame. I wonder how they would feel if they watched a member of their family who, though not allergic to phenylalanine (like Phenylketonurics), suffered debilitating effects from consuming too much aspartame?
Not only has my life been changed by aspartame in ways that are apparently never going to be reversed (my eyesight and my memory) but recently I had a very hard time acquiring health insurance. The insurance underwriter actually told my insurance agent that he ran across 6,000 cases like mine (people claiming aspartame made them sick) a month. Now I do not know how many people his location underwrites in a month, whether he meant 6,000 people a year, whether he was exaggerating or even whether my agent was being honest with me. It is just one more piece of my aspartame story and one more way it has left its ugly mark on my life. Now I know this is America and I am ultimately in charge of where I end up in life, but why, when we have a system in place to protect people, does that very system seem so hell bent on writing off aspartame victims as unreliable at the possible cost of more injuries?
I do understand that many people go about their lives ingesting aspartame without any resulting negative symptoms. So they believe. I wonder if they ever have moments of mental confusion ("Oh I am just so busy that I can't concentrate."), numbness and tingling ("Goodness my foot's asleep again.") or have weight they just can't seem to drop, ("Hand me another Diet Coke."), or other symptoms. How many people are suffering and have no idea it could be from the artificial sweetener aspartame? I found it almost comical when my first neurologist said to me after my completely normal exam (after about a week off of aspartame), "I get people in here all of the time complaining of symptoms like yours and their CT scans are normal too."
Still, none of this is scientific evidence of people suffering harm from aspartame and the studies that have been done have been discredited or ignored. Which leads me to more laughter as the studies the FDA used for approval have been shown by some in the scientific community to have serious flaws. You see it depends on which side of the fence you sit on as to whether or not you believe one study over another. Check out these two examples:the European Ramazzini Foundation’s research at http://www.ramazzini.it/fondazione/pdfUpload/Environ%20Health%20Perspect%20114%20379-385_2006.pdf. and from the FDA website in reference to the Ramazzini study http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/fpaspar2.html. I know what aspartame did to me and I do not need to prove it. I only want to protect others from possible harm and want to be heard by my government.
My neurologist mentioned to me that the only way to give any "scientific credibility" to my claim that I was harmed by aspartame(through drinking about 8 Crystal Light Lemonade's per day plus chewing gum and ingesting other sugar free foods) would be to put me back on it and see what happens. I would never ever do that. I don't need to. I have always felt bad from drinking Diet Coke. In college I used to grab a Big Gulp at 7am and by 7:30am I would have a head ache and my whole body would feel fuzzy and sluggish. I realized I could not drink Diet Coke and switched to Splenda as soon as it was available. I no longer knowingly ingest any artificial sweeteners.
I talk to people frequently who have stopped drinking diet sodas and tell me how much better they feel. It took me about three days without aspartame (I was too sick to drive myself to the store to buy the Crystal Light I had recently become enamored with) to begin to feel better. Still, I believe one of the main reason the government gets away with not revisiting the approval of aspartame is because it does not affect everyone in the same, measurable ways. I believe it may not affect some at all. Yet apparently aspartame is not a good thing for pregnant women to ingest per the FDA. Has anyone told them? Are there warnings listed anywhere?
" During pregnancy, high maternal levels of blood phenylalanine can be transferred to the fetus and produce serious adverse effects on brain development." FDA website.
Scientists are studying the impact that genetic and nutritional predisposition have in relation to disease and toxins in our lives . New research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is just beginning.
Early indicators of the impact of environmental pollution on conditions such as autism, asthma, cerebral palsy, diabetes, and attention deficit disorder could begin to be available in three to five years.
I think this research will lead to more understanding as to why some people react badly to things such as aspartame while others do not, just as some smokers get lung cancer and some do not. New research may show us that it is things such as undiscovered mitochondrial disease or too little folic acid in some people that leaves them susceptible to aspartame and other toxins. Sadly, I do not think we have time to wait for the results before we act as a government to remove aspartame from our food and drink supply or to place warning labels on foods containing aspartame.
According to the Aspartame Information Center (which according to Source Watch is a non-profit group "representing the low-calorie and reduced-fat food and beverage industry), aspartame is "found in more than 6,000 products including carbonated soft drinks, powdered soft drinks, chewing gum, confections, gelatins, dessert mixes, puddings and fillings, frozen desserts, yogurt, tabletop sweeteners, and some pharmaceuticals such as vitamins and sugar-free cough drops." As you can see, the industry loves to tout that it is in everything. I see children being given products containing aspartame and it makes cringe. How do we know that, although they are not allergic to phenylalanine, they could have a sensitivity to it which leaves them open to various reactions. Especially at the high levels of today's consumption.
"An average aspartame-sweetened beverage would have a conservative aspartame content of about 555 mg/liter48,and therefore, a methanol equivalent of 56 mg/liter (56 ppm). For example, if a 25 kg child consumed on a warm day, after exercising, two-thirds of a two-liter bottle of soft drink sweetened with aspartame, that child would be consuming over 732 mg of aspartame (29 mg/kg). This alone exceeds what the Food and Drug Administration considers the 99+ percentile daily consumption level of aspartame. The child would also absorb over 70 mg of methanol from that soft drink. This is almost ten times the Environmental Protection Agency's recommended daily limit of consumption for methanol." - Published in Journal of Applied Nutrition, Volume 36, Number 1, 1984
There are those of us who can tell you that the evidence exists, based upon our experiences, that health can be adversely affected by aspartame even if you are not a Phenylketonuric. Why is it so hard for the FDA to simply listen with an ear open to safety, yet so easy for them to classify aspartame victims as those "aspartame opponents who are just into internet junk science"? Could so many of our citizens be so wrong about their own experiences with aspartame? How our negative experiences with aspartame be considered invalid by the one organization that we ourselves have put in place to protect us? Have I given up my rights to be heard and to be able to call to action senators and others to protect a segment of our population which is sensitive to aspartame simply because what I claim, I claim on the Internet?
"Websites with screaming headlines and well-written text attempt to link aspartame consumption to systemic lupus, multiple sclerosis, vision problems, headaches, fatigue, and even Alzheimer's disease." FDA website.
I do not ATTEMPT to link aspartame consumption to vision problems, fatigue (that's putting it mildly),misdiagnosed MS and other frightening symptoms. In my life, a link exists. I had to figure that out on my own through a very frightening and still troublesome incident. Why was there absolutely no consumer protection in place for me and others who have suffered from aspartame? Where were the warnings from the FDA? Who is going to protect the citizens of the US from harmful food additives if our own government won't? It is time for the US Government to wake up, get informed and start protecting its citizens from the harmful and very real effects of aspartame.
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