Is The Artificial Sweetener Aspartame A Silent Killer?10
By Glenda Warren
Most people assume that artificial sweeteners used in sugar free foods and diet soft drinks are a safe and preferred alternative to refined sugar. However, what most consumers don’t know is that a widely used sugar substitute known as aspartame was banned, not once but twice by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to the website Live Free Live Natural.
Anytime the FDA approves a food for consumption, it is believed that it’s safe. However, medical researchers have provided evidence that aspartame should not be consumed.
Let’s look at the history of aspartame’s approval process. In the 1960s, aspartame was created in a laboratory by mistake. The chemists who created it were actually trying to develop a cure for stomach ulcers at a company called G.D. Searle. Shortly after gaining approval by the FDA, serious health issues popped up among consumers of the products and G.D. Searle came under fire for their testing processes which led to its approval by the FDA. By 1977, the company was under a criminal investigation, and aspartame was banned from consumption by 1980 following an independent study. One of the most serious findings was that aspartame caused brain tumors.
But in 1981, S.D. Searles Chairman pulled some strings to get it approved again. You may recognize the name of that company’s chairman, as Donald Rumsfield, former Secretary of Defense under the administrations of U.S. Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush. Directly after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated in 1981, the company pushed for approval of aspartame again under the name of Nutrasweet. But the group of five scientific board reviewers voted to maintain the ban by a slim margin of 3 votes to 2. As a result, new FDA Commissioner Arthur Hayes Hull, Jr. added a sixth member to the board creating a tie and permitted his own vote to break the tie and approve aspartame. Later, Hull left the FDA because of allegations of impropriety but then resurfaced as an employee of a public relations firm who had among its clients G.D. Searle, the manufacturer of aspartame, and Monsanto.
In 1982, Searle pushed for aspartame to be added to carbonated beverages as a sweetener. The next year, the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA) fought against this request stating that aspartame was unstable as a liquid. There were concerns about the liquid form being stored at temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit because it breaks down into DKP and formaldehyde. NOTE: the normal human body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Despite objections and serious concerns from scientists, aspartame became available in carbonated beverages by the fall of 1983.
Now let’s get back to Monsanto. The Monsanto name is important because the company would go on to purchase the patent for aspartame from its creator S.D. Searle in 1985. Why is this important? Two reasons. First, Monsanto and S.D. Searle had a common denominator, Arthur Hull, the former FDA Chief who was instrumental in unbanning the product and who now works at the chief public relations agency for both companies. And secondly, Monsanto is a company that is known for producing unsafe products and they have gained quite the reputation for keeping these unsafe products on the market.
Even today, aspartame remains under scrutiny as being unsafe to use. In fact, scientists claim that it is known to cause more than 90 serious health issues, among them are headaches, seizures, epilepsy, leukemia and cancer. Aspartame is consumed by more than 200 million people worldwide and can be found in more than 6,000 products according to the website aspartame.com. Not sure if it’s contained in your favorite low sugar foods and beverages? Check the label.
To read more about the timeline of how aspartame has progressively managed to maintain its approval for use, click here.
Glenda Warren is a former Medical Technologist and now an experienced marketing and communications professional that provides social commentary, self-help, tips, and reports news of events that matter to African Americans.