It pains me to write this blog. I love Diet Coke. And it contains Aspartame. Aspartame, a food additive which makes things taste sweeter, is in everything from diet drinks to ice cream. Used in more than 6,000 products throughout the world, when consumed by humans, it breaks down chemically into aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol. The Coca-Cola Company and other food and beverage manufacturers and processors using Aspartame in their products would like consumers to believe that the methanol component in Aspartame is not a reason for concern – because methanol also “occurs naturally” in vegetables and fruit. And that methanol does not pose a problem because it is chemically attached (or bonded) to the pectin contained in the fruit or vegetable, and passes through the human digestive tract without doing harm. So, what's the big deal?
The big deal is that the methyl ester in Aspartame attaches itself to phenylalanine forming methanol which leaches into what Dr. Joseph Mercola calls “susceptible tissues” in the body, including the brain and bone marrow. (Huffington Post, 3/14/2013) Unfortunately, the problem is the human body converts this methanol (unlike that methanol found in fruit) into formaldehyde. Formaldehyde, for those who may require a refresher course in chemistry, is a preservative and the major component, along with methanol, in embalming fluid. Interestingly, in animals, this conversion to formaldehyde does not occur—making the habit of experimentation and testing of the effects of Aspartame in animals, a faulty model. (Huffington Post, 3/14/2013)
The effects of Aspartame have been the subject of review for years by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), following the public outcry over the possible oncogenecity of other sweeteners, including Saccharin and Sodium Cyclamates. The FDA has received over 10,000 complaints about the 91 symptoms experienced due to Aspartame consumption. (Huffington Post, 3/14/2013) People who consume Aspartame should be aware of its side-effects and the symptoms of methanol poisoning. Side effects include headaches, ear buzzing, dizziness, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, weakness, vertigo, chills, memory lapses, numbness and shooting pains in the extremities, behavioral disturbances, and neuritis. (Huffington Post, 3/14/2013)
The journal, Lancet, has published the fact that multinational food companies frequently aggressively market health-harming foods, yet Aspartame is still used in many products that people consume at an exponential rate. The result? Aspartame toxicity is becoming an all-too common phenomenon, although most physicians are not aware of it. Dr Mercola suggests some tips if you think you may be having a reaction to artificial sweeteners:
- Remove all artificial sweeteners from your diet for two weeks;
- After the two weeks of no artificial sweeteners, reintroduce a single artificial sweetener (at about 3 servings/day) for about 3 days to see if you experience any reaction;
- If there is no reaction, then you can probably tolerate the artificial sweetener; if there is a difference and you have a reaction, please report it to the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator (phone number listed on the following web page): www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators/default.htm
So now, it appears, I am faced with a decision about my love of Diet Coke.