Aspartame: Sweet Poison and its Many Complications

Aspartame, the artificial sweetener, is one of the most dangerous food additive available on the market today. Its list of adverse side effects continues to grow as more information and research comes to light. However, as that list continues to grow, so does the Canadian consumption of this harmful chemical. In this article we will discuss where Aspartame comes from, why its so popular, and its harmful side effects.

Aspartame was discovered by accident in 1965 by James Schlatter. He was a chemist for the J.D. Searle company and was testing and anti-ulcer drug when he realized how sweet the concocted chemical was. Though the product was originally approved by the American FDA for use in dry food goods in 1974, this process was stalled by objections raised from Dr. John W. Olney and John Turner – a neuroscientist and consumer attorney, respectively –  who were concerned about aspartame’s safety. Approval went ahead in 1981 for dry goods and for carbonated beverages in 1983. Not surprisingly, J.D. Searle was later bought in 1985 by Monsanto who subsequently separated Searle Pharamecuticals and the NutraSweet Company (which would officially market aspartame) within their umbrella organization. Since that time, aspartame has made its way into thousands of processed food products and is used in everything from chewing gum to diet, packaged desserts. Given the North American obsession with fad diets, it should come as no surprise that a no-calorie sweetener (no matter how detrimental to the health) would start to appear in almost everything.

It might, however, come as a surprise that over 75 percent of adverse reactions to food as reported to the American FDA are aspartame-related. With over 90 documented symptoms associated with aspartame use, it kind of makes you wonder what isn’t going to happen when you chug that diet soda or eat a “diabetic” chocolate bar laced with this sweet poison? Some of the associated symptoms include (but are not limited to):

  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Depression
  • Memory Loss
  • Anxiety Attacks
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Slurred Speech
  • Breathing Difficulties
  • Weight Gain

How can products that have no calories in them cause weight gain? According to a recent Globe and Mail article on the issue, The principal problem is that people who opt for diet drinks (and other low-calorie foods that contain aspartame such as yogurt, sweeteners, flavoured water and gum) often engage in what scientists describe as “cognitive distortion” – meaning that they compensate for calorie-free foods by splurging elsewhere. The classic example of this what researchers call the Big Mac and Diet Coke phenomenon. Sweeteners like aspartame – which is about 200 times sweeter than sugar – can also confuse the body’s responses. When you consume sweets, the body expects calories to follow; but sweeteners don’t deliver the payoff.That can actually lead to people seeking out more sweets. Many big diet-drink consumers describe themselves as having an insatiable sweet tooth and that is borne out in observational studies.

Keep an eye on your food labels too because Aspartame doesn’t always appear by that name in ingredient lists. Since it has gained a notoriously bad reputation, Aspartame can also be found on ingredient lists as “E951”. Since there are also chronic conditions that are associated with long-term aspartame use and some that may even be triggered or worsened by the ingestion of this harmful chemical so its consumption is best unilaterally avoided.


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