Artificial sweeteners are non-calorie, man-made chemicals that are used to replace sugar in food products, beverages and medicine. The market for sugar replacement is one of the largest businesses in the world and has tremendously increased with the diabetes and obesity epidemics. The chemical sweetener, aspartame has created so much controversy that some have formed websites and organizations dedicated to taking it off the market. It has been the topic of many books and films as well.
Think of the term, artificial; it means it’s not natural. You can’t fool Mother Nature. Anytime you put anything into the body that is not natural, normal and recognizable, your body is going to attack it and will have a reaction to it. AF’s have been on the market for over 30 yrs. but there have been clouds of doubt ever since it was approved (back in 1980). Does it cause cancer, is the main question? On one side you have the manufacturers who claim it is FDA approved and safe for everyone to consume. After all, aspartame is the most widely tested food additive in history. On the other side, we have scientists, doctors and consumer groups who say it is a deadly exotoxin that causes neurological disorders with side effects ranging from headaches to blindness to brain tumors. They say that although aspartame is FDA approved, it was the most contested additive approval in the agency’s history. Always stay away from any item where man has taken a chemical and manipulated it. In the case of aspartame, it is made of proteins and when they put these proteins together, one of the byproducts is methyl alcohol which eventually becomes formaldehyde (substance used in embalming dead bodies).
A biggest source of aspartame consumption by far, is diet sodas. There is so much data from the both sides; who should you believe? As a consumer, you need to aim toward not having AF’s regularly in your diet due to the amount of uncertainties and safety questions that still exist. Keep this in mind when making a decision about aspartame. The artificial sweetener business is a multi-billion dollar market and with any billion dollar industry, the people in charge are concerned about the profit, right or wrong; period. Consider these historical facts: Trans-fats were used 100 years before they were proven to be toxic, tobacco companies said cigarettes were not harmful, chemical companies told us we could bathe in DDT, and we lined our houses with asbestos and lead paint for years. Aspartame is corporate science and they’ve been proven to have a wait and see attitude, time and time again. Their strategy has always been the same; to collect as much money as possible and pay the lawyers and lobbyists for protection.
Be sure to read Susan Arruda's recent article on kicking the sweetener habit. - Susan's Small Steps from Sugar Substitutes