Aspartame

Sugar

Sometimes you see something that’s just so wrong and so full of logical fallacies, factual errors and stuff that’s just plain Bat Shit Crazy you can’t help yourself. Well, I can’t, anyway. It’s the old Aspartame Gambit again but from a website I’d not encountered before, and I can see Natural Cures Not Medicine being a rich seam to mine in the future. There are few things in life about which one can be absolutely certain. But I am convinced that in Natural Cures Not Medicine‘s office there is a very large bottle marked ‘Tincture of Total Bollocks’ of which the staff drink deeply and frequently. Let’s take a look at “Aspartame Being Re-Branded as AminoSweet: The Next Chapter in Aspartame’s Dangerous History”. I’ll redact the conspiracy theories in the article that seem to implicate everyone from Donald Rumsfeld to Donald Duck and will stick mostly to the science. Or rather to correcting the anti-science nonsense they spin. And apparently the FDA is responsible for naming commercial products. I hadn’t realised – I thought companies named the products they sell. Didn’t realise it was the gub’mint all along.

Aspartame and Cancer I

Anyway… First they claim an association between artificial sweeteners and cancer because:

“Studies in laboratory rats during the early 1970s linked saccharin with the development of bladder cancer”

It was later proved that this had no relevance to human disease but even if saccharin did cause cancer it’s still an irrelevant straw man argument: saccharin and aspartame are two very different chemicals. So even were the claim made of saccharine not Utter, Utter Bollocks (µ²B) it wouldn’t be relevant anyway. Both products are artificial sweeteners but their chemistry is very different. So this claim is (µ²B) x (µ²B) = (µ4B) by my maths. But I’m a microbiologist – I’m sure a mathematician would disagree with my notation but you get the point. It’s Utter, Utter, Utter, Utter Bollocks.

Aspartame me and Everything Else

“According to the top doctors and researchers on this issue, aspartame causes headache, memory loss, seizures, vision loss, coma and cancer. It worsens or mimics the symptoms of such diseases and conditions as fibromyalgia, MS, lupus, ADD, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue and depression.”

So many very different pathophysiologies all having the same cause. Who’d have thought it? Well, not the EU Scientific Committee on Food which ruled out any association with headaches, seizures, behaviour, cognitive ability, neurochemistry, genotoxicity, cancer – the list goes on – in their review of over 500 papers on the subject. Follow the link; it is a heavyweight review with citations, data and everyfink, innit.

“In 2005, the European Ramazzini Foundation published new findings of a long-term feeding study on aspartame conducted in rats. Scientists from ERF concluded from their study that aspartame causes cancer and the current uses and consumption of the sweetener should be re-evaluated.”

So, the Istituto Ramazzini is well known to be somewhat flaky in their technique and are renowned for finding anything and everything they test causes cancer. So the data used by the Istituto Ramazzini were exhaustively re-examined by the European Food Safety Agency who found the Istituto Ramazzini studies to be – well – Utter, Utter Bollocks (µ²B). Bad design, non-existent blinding, poor or no controls, misdiagnosed malignancies – a quite brilliant example of how to completely bollocks up a study on every conceivable level. And a few inconceivable ones too. (But – of course – it’s all a conspiracy and the hundreds of scientists who have reviewed the Ramazzini studies are all in on it as well as the scientists on the EU CSF).

Phenylketonuria

Then we have the shock of:

“The Little-Known Phenylketonuria Problem”

Little known? One of the breakdown products of aspartame is the amino acid phenylalanine. Most of us produce an enzyme called phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH) that turns it into another amino acid called tyrosine. If you have a genetic mutation that reduces or stops PAH production you get phenylketone in your wee. Untreated phenylketonuria can be a bit of a bastard. Which is why newborns are routinely screened for it. It’s not ‘little known’ at all, it was elucidated in 1934 and now is checked for in the first week of life. If you have it you need to stick to a diet low in phenylalanine – including avoiding aspartame and sufferers are well aware of this.

Metabolism

“Aspartame, and other artificial sweeteners, like Sucralose, are almost impossible for the body to break down completely because it is foreign to what the body was designed to assimilate. We are organic beings, made to use organic produce as fuel for our bodies. Because there are few natural processes that are able to pass these chemicals through the body, they are often stored, and eventually cause weight gain. On top of that, artificial sweeteners contain free methyl alcohol which is classified as a narcotic.”

Crikey! Where to start? It’s true that sucralose isn’t metabolised which is the principal reason it has no calorific value (and so wouldn’t make you gain weight anyway) but again, sucralose and aspartame are completely different molecules. Yes, they are both artificial sweeteners but biochemically they are chalk and cheese. Let’s press on.

Biochemistry Time

Aspartame is metabolised in the small intestine into aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol (methyl alcohol). The first two are amino acids and without them we’d die. We can make aspartic acid via other metabolic pathways so it’s not one of the ‘essential’ amino acids but has many dietary sources including oysters, meats – especially game – and also from asparagus and avocado. Aspartate is one of the most common amino acids we take in and any we get from aspartame will be dwarfed by other dietary sources. It’s important to understand there is no difference between aspartic acid derived from aspartame and aspartic acid derived from other dietary sources. Same molecule. The same goes for the others – phenylalanine is phenylalanine, methanol is methanol. Incidentally this also applies to other molecules: ‘natural’ vitamin C (from citrus fruits, for example) is exactly the same as vitamin C made in a factory.

Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid – we can’t make it for ourselves – and is key to the pathways that end up making stuff like dopamine and adrenaline. You’d be pretty screwed without it. Again, there’s no difference between phenylalanine derived from aspartame and phenylalanine from elsewhere. Same molecule. This notion that we are ‘organic beings, made to use organic produce as fuel for our bodies’ is just naturalistic fallacy Utter, Utter Bollocks (µ²B).

“It causes methanol poisoning which affects the dopamine system of the brain and causes addiction.”

Methanol – well, it makes you blind, innit. It’s terrible stuff. Crikey. Well, it is if you drink a bottle of meths or buy carelessly-distilled moonshine from a pink-eyed banjo player. But it’s also produced in the body naturally all the time where it’s turned into formaldehyde (an ounce or two a day in an adult) and thence to formic acid which then ends up as water and carbon dioxide. It’s a normal part of metabolism and is completely metabolised very, very quickly. Neither methanol nor its metabolites are allowed to build up. If they were, blindness and death would ensue. Which doesn’t seem to have happened to the billions of people who’ve consumed aspartame. Methanol toxicity comes in a couple of flavours but doesn’t involve the dopa pathways. It’s the phenylalanine that’s a precursor for dopamine.

WTF?

“So, now not only it is extremely difficult to break down the essential elements of the substance, it is physically addicting!”

Utter, Utter Bollocks (µ²B). See above. Wrong and wrong. In fact aspartame will be completely metabolised before it even leaves the small intestine, no matter how much you take.

“Which is why diet products eventually make you fatter than the original products!”

I have no idea how they make this leap but there may well be a correlation between diet drinks and obesity but not causation: you put on excess weight because you’re a fat bastard who thinks that having a 40-ounce ‘diet’ soda will somehow offset the triple mega grot-burger with supersize fries you are shovelling down your gob. Calories in / calories out. Simple. Every 3,500kcal you shove in your gob over and above what you burn equates to a pound of lard on your waistline.

“Raw, all-natural sweeteners, like Raw Honey, are always a better bet.”

Absolutely. Taking in excess calories is far more healthful and in addition will give you all the energy you need to keep that naturalistic fallacy Utter, Utter Bollocks (µ²B) at the forefront of your mind.

“Isn’t it funny how most drugs and chemicals are approved, no matter the danger, when a profit stands to be made? How many times do we have to recall deadly drugs like Baycol, Vioxx, Posicor, or Bextra, before we get the hint: The people of the world are being used as lab rats for big pharma’s profit-first mentality. The aim for all of these companies is never to improve the health of people; it is to increase profits for shareholders, create life-long customers, create product addiction, and to make reproduction as cheap as possible.”

Multiple straw men. I would re-draft the first sentence thus to make more accurate: “Isn’t it funny how most drugs and chemicals are only authorised for sale once they’ve gone through a rigorous testing, licensing and approval process…” And so far as “make reproduction as cheap as possible” goes, please please don’t reproduce. You have too much chlorine in your gene pool as it is and the world will be a far better place if as few copies as possible are passed on.

“If doctors and the FDA could start approving food to treat conditions there would be no overdoses and drastic reductions in new cancer cases”.

So doctors don’t give dietary advice? Utter, Utter Bollocks (µ²B). Recommending a healthful diet is not the exclusive preserve of the Alt Med nutters and how would ‘prescribing’ food prevent drug overdoses? Twats.

Aspartame and Cancer II

“Cancer is a result of separating man from nature; the more synthetic chemicals and toxins that enter our body the more chance we have of getting diseases such as cancer.”

No, cancer is a large number of complex diseases, each with many causes. If your reductio ad absurdam statement is correct, why did ‘natural’ Paleo types who were not exposed to all these ‘synthetic chemicals and toxins’ still get cancer? Admittedly they were less likely to get cancer because they had a life expectancy of sub-30, principally due to Our Microbial Overlords running riot and other factors I’ve written about before.

Awwww, Diddums…

“We get a lot of hate mail here at Natural Cures Not Medicine, telling us that we are making people sick and spreading disinformation. But the truth is, we only suggest you eat FOOD at the end of the day, not chemicals, toxins, or medications. Those are what kill people, not drinking celery juice to try to control your blood pressure; not trying to use bananas to whiten your teeth. Man has been on earth for thousands and thousands of years. Medicine has been around for 100 or so years. Who needs who?”

Who needs whom, please. How are you defining ‘hate mail’? Truly abusive communications are never justified but if you choose to publish Utter, Utter Bollocks (µ²B) don’t be surprised if people call you on your bullshit. You can’t play the victim card when you’ve written your own ticket for it. NCNM might class my calling them ill-informed, illiterate poster children for the Dunning-Kruger Effect who peddle dangerous, ignorant nonsense as ‘hate mail’. I call it fair comment.

In my fantasy world rights should carry responsibilities and the right to free speech should be balanced by some sort of responsibility for what you publish: this anti-science, anti medicine nonsense isn’t just ill-informed and pig-shit thick, it’s dangerous. Telling cancer patients desperate for a cure an “alkaline balanced body can stop cancer in its tracks” isn’t just irresponsible, it’s wicked.

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One thought on “Aspartame

  1. Have to give you credit for actually wading through all of their website to pull the examples discussed. I tripped over the banner enticing people to learn how “alkaline balanced body can stop cancer in its tracks”. If this wasn’t so egregious, I’d make a joke about a basic flaw in the first three words alone.

    Keep up the good work!

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