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Derrick Spies
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The not so sweet taste of a diet Summer: Part 1

03 December 2012, 11:46
Summer is officially here, and just like every summer that has come before, people around the country are 'getting into shape' for the holiday season.

Bombarded with images of well toned models in skimpy outfits, men and women alike head to the bathroom, reach for the scale and stare disbelievingly at the readout.  Is it really possible that one could have picked up  so much weight in just six months?

It's all the sugar, you say. All those glasses of coke you've drank sitting in front of the TV; the chocolates and biscuits; and let's not forget the extra spoonful of sugar you've been having with your coffee lately, to give yourself that little extra energy kick in the morning. Getting out of bed is near impossible these days without it.

The only solution to become beach ready by Christmas is to go on diet, like now!

So, starting today you're switching to artificial sweeteners!

Sure they have a bit of a bitter aftertaste, but how else are you going to get through the day? Coffee is way to bitter on its own, and diet coke is really not so bad once you get used to it.

Of course in switching, you're going to have to go through a bit of a detox but you're ready for that. The headaches, the nausea, the dry mouth. It's expected, it's good. It's your body getting rid of all the horrible toxins from consuming so much sugar!

But what if it's not? What if the headaches, dry mouth, nausea is not a symptom of detoxing, but is actually being caused by the artificial sweetener?

And worse, what happens when you climb on the scale in a month's time and find out that not only have you not lost any weight, you've actually picked up a few extra kilos?

Of course you immediately start blaming yourself, after all you lacked the willpower to stick to your diet. You were just so hungry you couldn't help yourself. What did you expect, after all you cut out the readily available energy boost that sugar gave you, so it's natural to have cravings.

But what if it wasn't your lack of will power? What if the key ingredient in your diet was triggering a chemical imbalance that actually prevents your brain from determining it's calorie intake?

What if the artificial sweeteners are worse for your health that the sugar you were consuming?

Let's take a closer look at exactly what you're switching to.


The most common artificial sweetener used today is Aspartame. It's used in Equal, NutraSweet, EquiSweet and Canderel, as well as many popular "diet" foods and beverages.

Among the 90 different documented symptoms caused by aspartame include:  Headaches/migraines, dizziness, seizures, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, weight gain, rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, tachycardia, insomnia, vision problems, hearing loss, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, loss of taste, tinnitus, vertigo, memory loss, and joint pain.

So just what is Aspartame made up of?

Aspartame is made up of three main chemical compounds, namely:

Aspartic Acid (40 percent of Aspartame)

Aspartic Acid is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain, by facilitating the transfer of information from one neuron to another. Too much Aspartic Acid in the brain effectively kills neurons. This is done by allowing the influx of too much calcium into the cells, which triggers excessive amounts of free radicals, which then kill the cell.

Aspartic Acid is known as an excitotoxin, in that it excites/ stimulates neural cells to death. In fact studies have shown that up to 75% of neurons in specific areas of the brain can be destroyed by this toxin before clinical symptoms of a chronic illness can be recognised.

Among the diseases linked to prolonged exposure to excitotoxins are:

·         Multiple sclerosis (MS)

·         ALS

·         Epilepsy

·         Parkinson's disease

·         Dementia

·         Brain lesions

·         Neuroendocrine disorders

·         Alzheimer's disease

Worse, the blood brain barrier, which partially protects the brain from the influx of Aspartic Acid and other excitotoxins is not fully formed in childhood, so children are at higher risk.

Aspartic Acid can be linked to symptoms including

·         Headaches/migraines

·         Nausea

·         Abdominal pains

·         Fatigue (blocks sufficient glucose entry into brain)

·         Sleep problems

·         Vision problems

·         Anxiety attacks

·         Depression

·         Asthma/chest tightness

Phenylalanine (50 percent of aspartame)

Phenylalanine is also an amino acid normally found in the brain. Excessive levels of phenylalanine in the brain can cause the levels of serotonin in the brain to decrease, leading to emotional disorders such as depression.

Phenylalanine build up in the hypothalamus, medulla oblongata, and corpus striatum areas of the brain of phenylalanine in the brain can cause schizophrenia or make one more susceptible to seizures.

Studies have revealed that even a single use of aspartame raised the blood phenylalanine levels. In testimony before the U.S. Congress, Dr. Louis J. Elsas showed that high blood phenylalanine can be concentrated in parts of the brain and is especially dangerous for infants and fetuses.

Methanol (aka wood alcohol/poison) (10 percent of aspartame)

Methanol/wood alcohol is a deadly poison. Methanol is gradually released in the small intestine when the methyl group of aspartame encounters the enzyme chymotrypsin. Once released the Methanol then breaks down, creating formic acid and formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is a deadly neurotoxin, is a known carcinogen, causes retinal damage, interferes with DNA replication and causes birth defects.

The absorption of methanol into the body is sped up considerably when free methanol is ingested. Free methanol is created from aspartame when it is heated to above 30°C, something which has to occur when using aspartame as a substitute in baking or making jellies.

In America, the Environmental Protection Agency recommend a limit of consumption of 7.8 mg/day of Methanol, yet a one-litre aspartame-sweetened beverage contains about 56 mg of methanol. Heavy users of aspartame-containing products consume as much as 250mg of methanol daily or 32 times the EPA limit.

Symptoms from methanol poisoning include:

·         headaches

·         ear buzzing

·         dizziness

·         nausea

·         gastrointestinal disturbances

·         weakness

·         vertigo

·         chills

·         memory lapses

·         numbness and shooting pains in the extremities

·         behavioural disturbances.

Some will argue that Methanol is present in other consumables such as fruit juice and alcoholic beverages, but what is often not mentioned, is that in these instances the Methanol is accompanied by Ethanol, which acts as an antidote for Methanol toxicity in humans.

Diketopiperazine (DKP)

DKP is a by-product of aspartame metabolism and has been linked to the formation of brain tumours. DKP has also been detected in liquid aspartame-containing products during prolonged storage.

But surely if it's really this bad, no-one would use it?

Well that's what you would think, but unfortunately it is being used across the world. Sure manufacturers have to include it as an ingredient on their packaging, and in some countries they even have to include a warning of some kind.

This is usually done through adding a small asterisk next to Aspartame on the ingredients list and then putting a warning that it contains Phenylalanine somewhere else on the label.

This is primarily because some people suffer from a disorder that inhibits the uptake of Phenylalanine, and people who have this disorder could literally drop dead if they consume too much of it. In such a case there is a direct cause and effect between the death and consumption of the product, which warrants the labelling to prevent a lawsuit.

The more long term negative health effects could, should the manufacturer ever be dragged before a court of law, be blamed on any number of external environmental factors and as such, from a manufacturer's point of view, require no additional labelling requirements.

Besides, can you imagine how small the font would have to be to put the above information on a single artificial sweetener sachet?

But what about other sweeteners?

As the public become aware of what Aspartame actually does, they are switching to other sweeteners, like swapping out the blue EquiSweet packets for the green ones. But are they any safer?

Find out in: The not so sweet taste of a diet Summer, part two... coming soon.

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