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As public awareness about the dangers of sugar has increased, many people now use artificial sweeteners to satisfy their sweet tooth. By far the most popular artificial sweetener found in restaurants, groceries, supermarkets and in our own kitchens and on our dining tables is aspartame. It is marketed under trade names like NutraSweet, Equal or AminoSweet.
In fact, you can hardly buy a stick of gum or a box of candy without being offered a dose of aspartame. Even worse, without carefully reading the label, you would not even suspect that a product contains aspartame. On most restaurant tables right alongside the packets of white sugar (unhealthy in their own right) are pretty pink and blue packets of the chemical aspartame, a well-known poison technically called an excitotoxin.
Have you had your excitotoxins today? Advertisements for aspartame portray it as a healthy alternative to sugar. This makes aspartame even more dangerous to consumers who are ignorant of the artificial sweetener's dangerous side effects. Sadly, because of this deception, many health-conscious people regularly use aspartame-sweetened products.
Aspartame is a synthetic chemical composed of two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid bonded with methyl alcohol. Methyl alcohol breaks down in the body to formic acid (the poison in ants sting) and formaldehyde (embalming fluid). Each time you drink a diet soft drink or chew sugarless gum containing aspartame, you are feeding your body with unhealthy doses of these substances.
The amino acids can go directly to the brain and alter the function of your nervous system. Your brain naturally uses phenylalanine, but aspartame consumption exposes your brain to excessively high phenylalanine concentrations. Research has shown that elevated brain phenylalanine levels increase the risk of seizures. The other chemicals - methyl alcohol, formic acid and formaldehyde - are also extremely toxic substances. By the way MSG, another excitotoxin, acts in synergy with aspartame to worsen the damage they both cause.
Reactions and Side Effects of Aspartame
As far back as the 1980s, the US Department of Health and Human Services received over 10,000 complaints regarding adverse reactions to aspartame. However, the enormous power of vested economic interests contrived to 'prove' that aspartame was perfectly safe. One expert, Dr Janet Starr Hull, listed the following as only some of the common side effects of aspartame use:
Nervous system: epileptic seizures, headaches, migraine, severe dizziness, unsteadiness, memory loss, drowsiness and sleepiness, numbness of the limbs, slurring of speech, hyperactivity, restless legs, facial pain, tremors, attention-deficit disorder and brain tumours.
Eyes/Ears: blindness, blurring or decreased vision, bright flashes, and decreased night vision, pain in the eyes, bulges in eyes, ringing or buzzing sounds, hearing loss.
Psychological/Psychiatric: depression, irritability, aggression, anxiety, personality changes, insomnia, phobias.
Chest: palpitations, shortness of breath, high blood pressure.
Intestinal: nausea, diarrhoea, abdominal pain.
Allergies: wheezing, asthma, itching, skin rash.
Aspartame and diabetes: Aspartame is particularly dangerous to diabetics who unfortunately have been encouraged to use this sweetener. Aspartame can precipitate diabetes, worsens blood sugar control, may cause diabetics to have seizures and interact badly with insulin. Aspartame aggregates diabetic retinopathy, damages the optic nerve and promotes blindness. The free methyl alcohol it produces causes neuropathy and increases the risk of diabetics losing limbs.
Aspartame for weight loss: Instead of a healthy dietary programme and exercise, people concerned with weight loss may resort to sugar-free foods sweetened with aspartame to reduce their calorie consumption. Unfortunately, aspartame is often associated with increased sugar cravings, overeating and weight gain!
Items that contain Aspartame
Aspartame is everywhere. Monsanto, its major manufacturer, has made a huge fortune from this chemical. Here is a short list of common foods that often contain it:
Diet soft drinks, instant breakfasts, breath freshener mints, cereals, sugar-free chewing gum and candy, cocoa, instant teas and coffees, frozen desserts, gelatin desserts, diet juice beverages, vegetable drinks, jams and jellies, sugar-free ketchup, sugar-free cookies and cakes, laxatives, milk drinks, pharmaceutical drugs and supplements and children's vitamins, sugar-free shake mixes, tabletop sweeteners, topping mixes, wine coolers, yoghurt.
WHAT IF YOU HAVE USED ASPARTAME?
The most important thing is to stop exposure to the toxin. Avoiding even small amounts, since once sensitised to aspartame even minute amounts can produce toxicity. Develop the habit to read carefully the ingredients list of everything you put in your mouth. Be particularly wary of 'sugar-free' or 'sugarless' foods and drinks.
I recommend the herb stevia as a sweetener. Known in South America as the 'sweet herb', stevia has been used for over four hundred years without ill effect. It's twenty times sweeter than sugar, so a small portion goes a long way, and it is available in groceries and health-food stores.
Once you clean up your diet, your body's detoxification system, particularly the liver, goes into action. You can greatly enhance the body's ability to detoxify by the use of specific supplements.
Herbs: Indole-3 carbinol, a natural detoxifying substance found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels' sprouts and cauliflower. Milk Thistle (silymarin), a herb shown to substantially enhance liver detoxification. Curcumin - an extract taken from turmeric and found in curry - is another extremely powerful antioxidant that enhances detoxification.
Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamins C, B complex, E, magnesium and selenium all support the detoxification process.
Remember, "You are what you eat. Don't dig your grave with your teeth".
You may email Dr Tony Vendryes at firstname.lastname@example.org or listen to 'An Ounce of Prevention' on POWER 106FM on Fridays at 8 p.m. His new book 'An Ounce of Prevention, Especially for Women' is available locally and on the Internet.