The truth about aspartame

This Week In The HSI Healthier Talk Community

If you read Wednesday’s e-Alert about aspartame (“16,000 Tons and What Do You Get?” 7/27/05; see below), and you want to find out more about this controversial artificial sweetener, a good place to start is in the HSI Healthier Talk community.

One of the General Health Topics forum threads takes its title from a March 2005 Associated Press (AP) report, and the news is daunting: “NutraSweet to Boost Aspartame Capacity.” A member named Tony posted the AP item in full. According to Craig Petray (identified in the article as “NutraSweet Chief Executive”), the demand for aspartame is rising by about 5 percent annually. In response, NutraSweet plans to increase aspartame production by 30 percent.

Mr. Petray says the increase in aspartame consumption is due to a recent jump in diet soda sales. This makes perfect sense in a flawed sort of way. For the past couple of years we’ve been hearing all about the “obesity epidemic” in the U.S. and other countries. Many have responded by starting weight-loss diets. And I’m sure a large number of them have switched to diet beverages.

The problem is, those dieters who are drinking large amounts of diet soda may be trading one health problem for another.

A member named Pinky has this to say in response to the AP article: “I guess the best defense against the many faux sweetners is by word of mouth. I tell everyone I know, that anything other than Stevia, is an unsafe, worthless, harmful product.”

And JonB adds this alternative sweetener note: “Xylitol is even better for you than stevia.”

But Vi wants to know: “What about Sorbitol? Good or bad? I’m diabetic and don’t really want to take sugar.”

Good idea to avoid sugar, Vi, but sorbitol may not be the best choice. Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that’s metabolized slowly. So far so good. But according to one study, when too much sorbitol is consumed, some diabetics may increase their risk of retinopathy; a vision disorder.

A member named MannaPro offers this observation: “I have discovered that all faux sugars have adverse effects on my MS. They are considered neuro-toxins.”

In another thread titled “Splenda” (which is not aspartame), a member named Mari writes: “I have a friend, Deb, who was over-weight and drank diet sodas. She developed severe arthritis and for two years took the max of medications – until she got the flu. She couldn’t keep anything down for five days and in those five days, her arthritis went away completely. Investigation from that point showed that it was the aspertame that had caused the problem. Even a stick of sugar-free gum now can make her hurt. Arthritis isn’t usually mentioned as one of the possible problems caused by aspertame.”

But in Wednesday’s e-Alert arthritis IS mentioned as just one of the many conditions that aspartame has been shown to sometimes mimic or worsen. Others include Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, fibromyalgia, and depression.

We’ll let a member named Naturalway have the last word on this topic: “A few years ago I was walking down the aisles of the supermarket and I suddenly got a twilight-zone feeling. I was surrounded by non-food. This ‘food’ I thought to myself, is NOT REALLY FOOD!! Everywhere I looked were things being sold for consumption but it wasn’t food!!!! I was trying to eat healthy and it’s like a veil was lifted. I felt like Keanu Reeves character in The Matrix”

Other topics being discussed this week in the Healthier Talk community forums include:

  • Food Questions: Titanium cookware
  • Vision: Extremely dry eyes
  • Stomach Problems: Acid reflux
  • Fibromyalgia: Mind-body connection
  • General Health Topics: Cataracts
  • Vitamin Questions: Liquid multi-vitamins and minerals

You can easily reach the HSI Healthier Talk community forums on our web site at Just choose “Forum,” and join in with any of the dozens of discussions about nutrition and natural health care.