Artificial sweetener may not be best choice

 Summer is here and for all those long awaiting the warmer weather, patios to open up, it becomes all the more easier for us health-conscious folk to let ourselves slip.

It is almost customary to fall prey to the free refill policy that most places offer with soda pop when enjoying the warm weather.

Yes, we all know that the sugar in soda pops are bad for us, but what about diet sodas? Though they have zero calories, many doctors and health professionals still believe that they are harmful for our health.

Dr. H.J. Roberts, a three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and the director of the Palm Beach Institute for Medical Research, has spent years investigating the effects of aspartame — a common ingredient in diet soda.

Dr. Roberts believes that there is a clear link between the consumption of aspartame and diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis. As a result of his studies he coined the term “aspartame disease” to encompass reactions to the chemical sweetener aspartame, commonly known as NutraSweet and Equal.

So what exactly is aspartame?

In his article Aspartame Disease: An FDA-Approved Epidemic, Dr. Roberts explains that aspartame was initially approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as “a low-nutritive sweetener for use in solid form during 1981, and in soft drinks during 1983. It is a synthetic chemical consisting of two amino acids, phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and a methyl ester that promptly becomes free methyl alcohol. The latter is universally considered a severe poison.”

Some of the diseases Dr. Roberts claims to be associated with aspartame are the initiation or aggravation of diabetes, hypoglycemia, convulsions, headache, depression, other psychiatric states, hyperthyroidism, hypertension and arthritis; and possibly the simulation of multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease

The FDA is yet to come to terms with Dr. Roberts’s assessment of this product.

Dr. Phillip Blom, a family physician at the Huronia District Hospital in Midland, ON says that despite “some suggestion that aspartame can set off diabetes, MS and some cancers. If you look at the pull data of all these studies, there is in fact no concrete evidence of this.”

Even the National Cancer Institute of America states on their website that a study published in 2006 that compared about half a million people who drank aspartame-containing beverages with those who did not, showed that increasing levels of consumption were not associated with any risk of lymphomas, leukemia or brain cancers in men or women.

Dr. Erika Möller, a general practitioner oncologist for CancerCare Manitoba, says that although there have been a lot of studies done on aspartame that prove it to be safe to consume, she does not believe it is completely harmless.

She says that most of the studies are done by the soda industry themselves, and are therefore not properly regulated.

“I myself don’t allow my children to drink soda. I don’t even keep it in the house,” Dr. Möller. “That alone should be enough of an indication.”

Dr. Blom believes, “the issue with aspartame studies is that in most cases the research fails to consider the presence of all the other ingredients in diet soda, as well as the overall lifestyle of the individual tested.”

However, that is not to say that he completely disagrees with Dr. Roberts.

Dr. Blom admits that there are some associated symptoms found with extreme soda drinkers. But these are only found in patients that drink more than two liters a day, and are most likely the cause of the caffeine in diet soda, and not necessarily from aspartame.

For now, aspartame remains on the FDA’s list of approved substances, despite Dr. Roberts’s extensive studies and pleas for it to be removed.

So while enjoying the hot summer months ahead, instead of drinking endless amounts of aspartame loaded soda, maybe enjoy an orange juice or ice water instead. But if you absolutely cannot resist the urge to deviate from an aspartame free diet, just remember the old saying —”everything in moderation.”

artificial sweetener might not be best choice