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Author Topic: What is aspartame, and is it safe?  (Read 8654 times)

Offline JimBob

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What is aspartame, and is it safe?
« on: 26/03/2007 06:25:49 »
Aspertain is supposed to:

convert in the body at 82 to "methanol (aka wood alcohol) during the digestive process (specifically when it comes in contact with the digestive enzyme chymotrypsin), which in turn, converts to formaldehyde, which in turn, converts to formic acid, an ant-sting poison."

It is also reportedly be linked to seizures and brain tumors in rats.

The FDA and the diet food industry tell us it is OK.

What is the truth? Is it causing problems in human health or is it perfectly safe.

« Last Edit: 26/03/2007 10:32:01 by chris »


 

Offline Karen W.

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Re: What is aspartame, and is it safe?
« Reply #1 on: 26/03/2007 10:25:39 »
I hate diet sweetners they make me feel iccky and I crave the sugar even more after having replacement sweetner. So I do not use artifical sweetners and try not to buy them only based on how I feel after consuming it! I prefer the regular sugar and it is easy enough to lower usage without iliminating it all together. I do not know of it's safety or not!
 

Offline Bored chemist

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What is aspartame, and is it safe?
« Reply #2 on: 26/03/2007 21:04:45 »
Aspartame certainly gives rise to methanol in the body, but so do other things so that doesn't make it a demon.
Personally I prefer sugar but that's because I find the artificial sweeteners a bit cloying.
It's probably fair to assume that there isn't much evidence that aspartame is harmful- if there were it would have been banned. Since millions of people have been eating it for years we would have spotted any major problems by now.
 

another_someone

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What is aspartame, and is it safe?
« Reply #3 on: 26/03/2007 21:50:07 »
Personally I prefer sugar but that's because I find the artificial sweeteners a bit cloying.

I prefer sugar, not only because I do not like the taste of artificial sweeteners, but I see no benefit in trying to fool my taste buds (I don't like self delusion).

It's probably fair to assume that there isn't much evidence that aspartame is harmful- if there were it would have been banned. Since millions of people have been eating it for years we would have spotted any major problems by now.

That there is not much obvious evidence is reasonable, but that is different from saying that no harm is done.  What is reasonable is to say that there is no significant short term effect, but it would not necessarily be easy to determine longer term effects (how do you accurately determine people's past use of aspartame over their life, when most of us are not even aware of all the foods that contain aspartame - and so how do you do the epidemiology for effects apparent 15 or 20 years later).
 

paul.fr

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What is aspartame, and is it safe?
« Reply #4 on: 26/03/2007 22:39:57 »

It's probably fair to assume that there isn't much evidence that aspartame is harmful- if there were it would have been banned. Since millions of people have been eating it for years we would have spotted any major problems by now.

how does that equate to, say cigarettes? They are harmful, millions of people have smoked them for years - they are not banned!
 

Offline elegantlywasted

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What is aspartame, and is it safe?
« Reply #5 on: 26/03/2007 23:42:50 »
Anything that provides any pleasure will eventually kill you. I say if you like it, go for it.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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What is aspartame, and is it safe?
« Reply #6 on: 27/03/2007 20:47:52 »
OK, there's no way to exclude an effect that only happens after, say, 30 years, but how could such an effect happen- does the molecule keep a calendar?
There are things that seem to kill people after 30 years- asbestos is one of them, but even then it can kill much faster, say 1 year, or not at all. The 30 years is just a statistical average. If aspartame were like this then we would have seen the "1 year killers" by now unless they were so rare that the problem isn't that much of a worry.
"how does that equate to, say cigarettes? They are harmful, millions of people have smoked them for years - they are not banned! "
Here in the UK for most places the ban comes in in about 3 months. It just took a while.
 

paul.fr

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What is aspartame, and is it safe?
« Reply #7 on: 27/03/2007 20:56:33 »

"how does that equate to, say cigarettes? They are harmful, millions of people have smoked them for years - they are not banned! "
Here in the UK for most places the ban comes in in about 3 months. It just took a while.

But that is only a ban on smoking in public places/buildings. The actual cigarette is not banned.
 

another_someone

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What is aspartame, and is it safe?
« Reply #8 on: 27/03/2007 22:18:31 »
OK, there's no way to exclude an effect that only happens after, say, 30 years, but how could such an effect happen- does the molecule keep a calendar?
There are things that seem to kill people after 30 years- asbestos is one of them, but even then it can kill much faster, say 1 year, or not at all. The 30 years is just a statistical average. If aspartame were like this then we would have seen the "1 year killers" by now unless they were so rare that the problem isn't that much of a worry.

There are four possibles here (aside from the possible that it does no harm at all).

One, as you say, the probabilistic harm that it may kill you tomorrow, or it may kill you never, and each year there is some finite probability that it may kill you.  If there is a 1 in 1000 chance that it might kill you in one year, then that amounts to a 3% chance of killing you in 30 years.  Is a 3% chance something we want to worry about is open to conjecture, but at very least, we might wish to be informed of the risk (even if we then choose to accept that risk).

Secondly, there is the cumulative risk.  A little will have minimal risk, and in fact the body may even be able to purge itself of a little.  Over a given threshold, the risk then becomes cumulative, as the bodies capacity to purge itself is insufficient to remove all the toxins, creating a gradual build-up of toxins, until, after many years, it becomes a noticeable disease.

Thirdly, it may be age related damage done, maybe even fairly early in life, may not do any immediate harm, but as the body ages, and its metabolism changes, that early damage might impede the proper function of the body later in life.

Fourthly, it may initiate a cascade of events that take 30 years to come to a conclusion.

And, ofcourse, none of the above are exclusive, but may act in combination.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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What is aspartame, and is it safe?
« Reply #9 on: 28/03/2007 19:31:12 »
It's unlikely that the first possiblity exists without taking the second into account. If 1 bottle of sweetened pop raises your risk by 1 in 1000 the 10 bottles is likely to raise it by 1 in 100 (roughly).
OK so rats don't act exactly like humans but it's easy to dope rats with a thousand times more than humans would eat. Someone will have done this and if the stuff killed rats it wouldn't be on the market (unless therer was some other pressing reason). (I'm aware that a lot of animal testing, strictly speaking, makes sure that our food and drugs are safe for rats).
It is, generally possible to check for a build up of a material in the body.

There are presumably octogenarians drinking this stuff now, and there have been for years. If we haven't noticed them dying it's some evidence of a lack of toxicity- again proving a negative isn't easy outside of mathematics.
Initiating a 30 year cascade means making a difference at the start of some 40 year process; I can't think of many.
There is, btw, another potential problem that could take decades to show up. A material may produce problems in the offspring of the consumers which only become aparent later in life. This happened with diethylstilbestrol and I guess you could say it was an example of that 4th type of problem.
On the other hand, let's remember that what we are talking about here is a small protein fragment.
 

another_someone

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What is aspartame, and is it safe?
« Reply #10 on: 28/03/2007 19:56:25 »
The most common environmental damage that has long term consequences are carcinogens, and ofcourse, asbestos.  All of these can have an impact many, many years later.  BSE is another long term risk.

The problem is, with all of these, is that many people have been exposed to these risk factors (e.g. sun burn, asbestos, or eating contaminated beef), and a very few have, after many years, succumbed to the risk.

In many cases, the risk is not of a single factor (there has been speculation that BSE - which is also caused by a protein - only causes an infection if you happen to be eating beef while you have a throat infection, and that it is the other infection that allows the prion to become a risk in humans).

Aspartame is a food additive, not a drug, and as such, the requirements for animal testing are not the same.  Nonetheless, I do believe some animal tests were carried out (although I am not sure that these were mandatory), and I think the answer was that it can be harmful, but only in unrealistically extreme quantities (the same can be said for any foodstuff - everything we consume can also be harmful in excess).  This does indicate there is no acute risk, but does leave open the possibility of cumulative risk.

The question of whether we would see any increase in risk (for instance, in the elderly) would also depend significantly upon the nature of the symptoms of the disease it caused.  If, like BSE, we have a set of symptoms that are naturally very rare, and becoming more common in a segment of the population that one would not even expect those rare events to take place, then you might look for a novel cause.  If, on the other hand, the symptoms are something that could easily be confused with a fairly common disease, then you may not notice any obvious new pattern that might alert you to a novel risk factor.  This is one of the problems with assessing the real increase in risk caused by Chernobyl the background level of cancers is sufficiently high that one would not be able to likely detect a slight increment caused to exposure to radiation from Chernobyl (assuming there was any).
« Last Edit: 28/03/2007 20:39:13 by another_someone »
 

Offline mhagerla

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What is aspartame, and is it safe?
« Reply #11 on: 08/06/2011 17:54:57 »
This is a very old topic, but since there is significant disinformation in this link that I found via a GOOGLE search I think it best that I update it with evidence that asparthame should be completely avoided.

Despite the fact that it tastes like rat crap, I have never trusted ingesting ANYTHING artificial or processed.  I also avoid preservatives whenever possible.  Why would anyone want to ingest a chemical that prevents a food from rotting?  If the chemicals used are strong enough to prevent bacteria and other micro organisms from breaking it down, SURELY it poses some problems for human ingestion.  If it prevents foods from breaking down, how can it be properly ingested?  Assuming the actual organic food can be digested, what happens to the preservative chemicals?  Are they stored in my body?  How long does it take for --x amount of said chemicals to be excreted by the body?  Thank you very much, but I will wait until I actually DIE before I am pumped full of formaldehyde and other preservatives.  I could care less about studies of the effects of preservatives or how long it takes --x amount to be passed out of the human body - why should I trust them?  Finding out who funds the studies is a royal PITA and even then it is difficult to really find out the true intentions of the publishers of the studies.

Do yourselves a favor and stop blindly trusting the governmental authorities and administrations such as the FDA to have OUR best interests in mind.  Corporate capitalism = GREED/PROFIT as the primary goal, pure and simple.  Health of consumers is ALWAYS secondary to corporate profit margin.

newbielink:http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/06/08/aspartame-toxic-sweetener.aspx [nonactive]

I subscribe to Mercola's newsletters and I can honestly say this particular article and the embedded videos will put this issue to rest.  If you still feel that Asparthame is not harmful, even in moderately low amounts, then my guess is you have already ingested too much asparthame ;)

There IS a reason that several countries are STILL investigating and/or in the process of banning Asparthame from all products.  Do a google search for "Asparthame banned"...

Even before I saw this newsletter and watched the videos I knew how contested the FDA approval of Asparthame was - this should not be news to anyone, even back in 2007 when this topic was posted.

Please be healthy everyone!
 

Offline Bored chemist

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What is aspartame, and is it safe?
« Reply #12 on: 08/06/2011 20:18:16 »
"Why would anyone want to ingest a chemical that prevents a food from rotting? "
Would you like to discuss that with the families of the victims of the e coli outbreak in Germany?

"If the chemicals used are strong enough to prevent bacteria and other micro organisms from breaking it down, SURELY it poses some problems for human ingestion."
Logical fallacy (and wrong too)

"Assuming the actual organic food can be digested, what happens to the preservative chemicals? "
It depends on the preservative, some are excreted some are metabolised. Just the same as the chemicals naturally present in food. The body doesn't have some weird labelling system that treats "natural" things differently from "unnatural" ones.

"Thank you very much, but I will wait until I actually DIE before I am pumped full of formaldehyde "
Formaldehyde has been banned as a food preservative since my granny was young. Are you mentioning it as an exercise in scaremongering, or are you just uninformed?
The reason I ask is because aspartame has nothing to do with food preservatives so it seems that you are a bit muddled.

"Finding out who funds the studies is a royal PITA "
Unless it's written up in a reputable journal, in which case it's a matter of reading the article. (On a bad day you might have to email the author to check)

"Do yourselves a favor and stop blindly trusting the governmental authorities and administrations"
Trust a random person posting on a website instead.
Go on! You know it makes sense!

"Health of consumers is ALWAYS secondary to corporate profit margin."
Because dead consumers spend so much money and sick consumers never sue?

"There IS a reason that several countries are STILL investigating and/or in the process of banning Asparthame from all products."
There is indeed,
pressure from anti-scientific groups who mislead the public and so force the politicians to "act" even when there's no reason.

"Please be healthy everyone!"
Well, my scepticism is clearly healthy.



 

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What is aspartame, and is it safe?
« Reply #12 on: 08/06/2011 20:18:16 »

 

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