Aspartame has always been a topic of great debate. It is found in highest concentrations in diet sodas, and proliferates markets and restaurants across more than 90 nations. Now, a study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology determined that sugar sweetened soda increases the odds for kidney function decline. 3,318 women participated in the study for a number of years as they consumed diet soda that contained artificial sweeteners, most notably aspartame. Two or more diet drinks per day led to a double risk in fast-paced kidney decline. The study was conducted by scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that aspartame is linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia.
There are positives to using artificial sweetners; according to Mayo Clinic, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners do not contribute to tooth decay and cavities, and they help to control blood sugar in diabetes patients. But so does stevia, without the health risks. The dangers of aspartame, like many other substances, have been documented since its inception. It’s not uncommon to come to the conclusion that, at the very least, aspartame provides us with minimal health benefits and has great risks attached to it.
Why is aspartame still so widespread despite the supposed health risks?
In the mid 60′s a chemist named James M. Schlatter accidentally created aspartame while trying to create a cure for stomach ulcers. He worked for a comapany called G.D. Searle. With the patent for aspartame in hand, Searle tested aspartame and had it approved by the FDA. Health effects began to arise that were potentially associated with aspartame and G.D. Searle came under suspicion for faulty testing practices.
By 1980 the FDA banned aspartame from use after having independent scientists study the sweetener’s relationship with brain tumors. Although they were unable to find a connection, they did cite a lack of unanswered questions regarding cancer in laboratory rats. On the official FDA board questionnaire, 12 out of 69 scientists expressed serious concerns regarding the safety of aspartame.
In 1981 former Secretary of Defense and then Searle Chairman, Donald Rumsfeld, pushed to get aspartame approved. Ronald Reagan, who had just taken his throne of power, told his new FDA commissioner Arthur Hayes Hull, Jr. to appoint a 5-person Scientific Commission to review the FDA’s ban. 3 of the 5 scientists believed aspartame was safe, while the other 2 had serious doubts. Under Hull, aspartame was approved for use in dry goods.
It is clear that despite what the board cliams, the safety of aspartame is not ‘clear-cut’. It has already been through a process of being banned and unbanned multiple times, and were it not for the decision of a single scientists, it would not be used today.
You don’t need the diet soda anyway. Reach for the tea instead!
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