There is a lot of conjecture surrounding the use of artificial sweeteners.
Many people use them without giving them a second thought. They are in a huge
number of products; all those that are labelled ‘diet’ or ‘slimmers’ and many,
However the use of these products is worrying. The list of symptoms that it
has been suggested that their use can cause is amazingly long. Many symptoms are
subtle so you can often not be sure. However I have seen definite symptoms of
muscle spasm and joint pain, severe stomach pain and cramping, nausea and a feeling of ‘unwellness’, depression and anxiety attacks dramatically improve once the use of these products was stopped.
Other reported symptoms are blurred vision, vertigo, tinnitus, headache, insomnia, tiredness, slurred speech, hyperactivity and mood changes.
It has also been suggested that its use can be related to the formation of brain
tumors, birth defects and diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimers, but these
reports are difficult to verify.
Artificial sweeteners are marketed under various brand names some of which
are Aspartame, Nutrasweet, Equal, Saccharin and Cyclamate. (Other sweeteners
that you may see listed on various products are sorbitol and mannitol which are
naturally occurring sweeteners, although they can also be manufactured
Aspartame is a synthetic compound made of two amino acids
(aspartate and phenylalanine) held in a chemical bond by methanol. It is a very
small molecule which is absorbed into the blood stream extremely quickly. Once
in the blood stream, the chemicals break down and become methyl alcohol, phenyl,
and aspartic acid. There have been many studies done that have reported it safe
to use, but as many people are more susceptible to chemical sensitivity than
others there is room for doubt especially as Aspartame reactions may be caused
by the compound itself or any of its three components.
The signs of methanol poisoning are headaches, numbness of the extremities,
vertigo, depression, blurred vision, confusion, nausea and abdominal pain. These
symptoms are uncomfortably close to those reported to be experienced by those
who are known to be affected by artificial sweeteners. Aspartame can also break
down into free standing methyl alcohol (which is poisonous) before you ingest it
if it is heated over 30°C. This can happen in a delivery truck or at home.
Another point is that some individuals are unable to metabolise
phenylalanine one of the original components of Aspartame. This is known as
‘phenylketonuria’ or PKU. Phenylalanine is a component of all proteins; but
brain levels are higher when it is taken as aspartame rather than in proteins.
Phenylketonuria can be the cause of retardation if the use of phenylalanine by
sensitive people is not restricted and it should never be used by pregnant
women. Other reported side effects from the ingestion of phenylalanine are high
blood pressure, memory loss, seizures, skin rash or itching, liver abnormalities
and loss of skin pigment. Aspartic acid has been reported as the possible cause
of some headaches.
Another point made by researchers is that when Aspartame is used in
combination with carbohydrates, the aspartame causes the brain to cease
producing Serotonin in the brain. This can cause the brain to send out the
message that you have not yet satisfied your desire for eating and actually
cause you to eat more rather than less and therefore not achieve the weight loss
you are expecting to gain by using the products in the first place!
If questioning whether you are being affected by Aspartame, the easiest
method of determining this is to simply abstain from ingesting any aspartame at
all for several days. The product code for aspartame is E951.