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Aspartame: One teabag, one spoonful of neurotoxins and a splash of milk

July 30, 2008

Khadija Sharife

My father has finally decided not to include carcinogenic neurotoxins in his tea. The decision to cease this morbid habit may have been stimulated by the fact that aspartame was formerly classified as an agent of bio-warfare by the Pentagon in inventories sent to Congress. But it’s far more likely that Donald Rumsfeld — the man behind the success of aspartame, turned him off. Anything connected to Rumsfeld, the Godfather of War, cannot be good for digestion.

According to SA manufacturers Merisant — producers of Canderel and Equal — aspartame is absolutely safe. It’s safe enough that they actively advocate it for diabetics, pregnant women and children.

Aspartame is reputed to have been originally discovered in 1965 by student-chemist James M Schlatter while in the process of developing an anti-ulcer drug for his potential employer, Searle Pharmaceuticals.

The story goes that Schlatter accidentally licked his finger in a moment of deep thought (or maybe he sucks his thumb in times of need, as I do). After realizing that the substance was 200 times sweeter than sugar in due proportion, he contacted Searle and eureka — in the midst of the Cold War, when cyclamate was soon to be pulled off the market and the explosive 1948 “saccharin files” were being discussed at length by a panicked industry — aspartame was discovered!

Searle began to commercially manufacture the product in the hopes of replacing saccharin as a food additive, specifically within the context of the soft drinks market. The company applied for approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the US’s primary certifying body concerning the safety of additives and pharmaceutical products.

In 1967, tests conducted by Dr Weisman, a biochemist with the University of Wisconsin, financed by Searle, resulted in 80% of the test subjects afflicted with grand mal seizures, and a 5% death rate.

The FDA, on receiving this and multiple other dismal test studies, refused to approve the additive — for 16 years. Then in 1970, cyclamate was pulled off the market and the saccharin files were made public. The government had to find an artificial sweetener as a replacement to prevent the growing diet (and soft drink) industry from collapsing.

In 1971, Dr John Olney, the neuroscientist who was instrumental in having MSG removed from baby food due to adverse effects, documented that aspartic acid (one of the two genetically engineered amino acids) caused holes in the brains of test subjects; but the pressure was on and government could not allow the key-chain plan to fall through (car keys, myriad house keys, yacht keys, plane keys).

In 1974, aspartame was approved for table-top cold/dry use with the condition that the company was expressly forbidden from using the product in heated food, confectioneries and soft drinks. James Turner, consumer lawyer and author of the Chemical Feast, along with Dr Olney, lodged a complaint against the approval of what was then a known neurotoxin.

In 1977, Donald Rumsfeld became the CEO of Searle and it is strongly suggested that Searle proceeded to finance Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign in exchange for speedy deregulation restricting the sale, proliferation and safety requirements of biotech products such as the artificial growth hormone rBST, GMO organisms, seeds and products and especially aspartame.

In January 1981, Reagan was inaugurated and the following day (January 22) he proceeded to approve aspartame by executive order, dismissing the finds of the Public Board of Inquiry (PBOI) in 1980, impaneled to evaluate the safety of aspartame.

Also dismissed were independent researchers, FDA scientists and toxicologists who had declared aspartame to be a carcinogenic excitotoxin.

The PBOI says of aspartame: “The chemical caused an unacceptable level of brain tumors in animal testing. Based on this fact, the PBOI ruled that aspartame should not be added to the food supply.”

The “deregulation” anthem of the Reagan years, which saw social programs dismantled in favor of reducing corporate taxes, coincided with the rise and development of industry funded scientific analysis.

In her book, The Truth about the Drug Companies, Marcia Angell details the timeline related to the rise of “commercialized scientific research” that coincided with Reagan’s presidency.

“The Reagan years and Bayh-Dole also transformed the ethos of medical schools and teaching hospitals. These nonprofit institutions started to see themselves as ‘partners’ of industry, and they became just as enthusiastic as any entrepreneur about the opportunities to parlay their discoveries in-to financial gain.”

“The Bayh-Dole (Act) gave a tremendous boost to the nascent biotechnology industry, as well as to big pharma,” she writes, “The FDA is not allowed to reveal the results it has.”

But Rumsfeld — the architect behind blueprints such as the Rumsfeld doctrine: Iraq and Afghanistan, the Gulf War and founder of Project for a New American Century, was determined to make aspartame available to the public.

According to Searle official Patty Woodallott, Rumsfeld said that he would “call in his markers.” One such Pinocchio was Dr Arthur Hayes, a chemicals specialist with the US Army. On January 22 1981, Hayes was appointed head of the FDA.

On May 19 1981, aspartame was officially approved by the FDA for use in solid and heated foods. In 1983, with the generous assistance of another Rumsfeld marker — FDA commissioner Mark Novitch — aspartame was approved for use in soft drinks, against the wishes of the National Soft Drinks Association (NSDA), who claimed to be concerned about the safety of the product.

Former FDA epidemiology chief, Thomas Wilcox, said that between 1981 (the year aspartame was approved) and 1995, 75% of all food allergies and reactions reported by consumers to the FDA fingered aspartame as the culprit.

But in truth, the NSDA stuck to saccharin to avoid Searle’s monopoly over the GE additive.

The Congressional Record, May 7, l985, states: “Hayes’ decisions to approve aspartame for use in dry foods such as cereals in l981 and soft drinks in l983 does not square with the role of the FDA is supposed to play. The FDA is the government agency that reviews and approves all tests submitted by companies before allowing food additives on the market.”

Hayes maintained that studies concluded, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the safety of the product. He cited “clean” studies by Ajinomoto, a chemicals corporation licensed by Searle to manufacture aspartame; the company active in over 23 countries globally, raking in an annual revenue of $9,84-billion.

Dr Ralph G. Walton, chairperson of the Centre for Behavioural Medicine, analyzed 166 industry and non-industry sponsored studies.

In his survey, Walton writes, “74 [of the studies] had aspartame industry related funding and 92 were independently funded.”

“One hundred percent of the industry funded research attested to aspartame’s safety, whereas 92% of the independently funded research identified a problem. Questions are raised both about aspartame’s safety and the broader issue of the appropriateness of industry sponsorship of medical research.”

The remaining 8% of non-industry sponsored studies were conducted by the FDA using material provided by aspartame manufacturer Searle and NutraSweet.

Dr James Maryanski, formerly the head of the FDA’s biotechnology section said, “The determination whether a new protein is ‘generally recognized as safe’ (Gras) can be made by the company.”

NutraSweet was the name designated by Robert Shapiro to counteract the ill press aspartame was receiving. Shapiro would later become the CEO of biotech giant Monsanto, who produced Agent Orange and other glorious cocktails for the Department of Defense and the Pentagon. Gerald Ford, under whom Rumsfeld served as Secretary of Defense, was a commander during the Vietnam war.

Hayes was finally “fired” in 1983 and he subsequently moved to Searle’s PR company Marsteller where he represented the NutraSweet Company. Hayes would later get a job with Cornell developing the dairy program — and legitimizing the use of the rBST. The dairy program was sponsored by Monsanto.

In 1985, prior to Rumsfeld leaving Searle, he negotiated a $2,7-billion acquisition for Monsanto. In turn, he received a $12-million commission.

“The ingredients of aspartame stimulates the neurons of the brain to death, causing brain damage of varying degrees,” writes Dr Russell Blaylock, neurosurgeon and author of Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills.

In his essay Excitotoxins, Neurodegeneration and Neurodevelopment, “It is known that the aspartate moiety undergoes spontaneous racemisation in hot liquids to form D-aspartate, which has been associated with proteins in Alzheimer’s disease.”

Recent studies testing the safety of aspartame have yielded shocking results: Dr Soffritti and myriad colleagues at the Scientific Director of the European Foundation for Oncology conducted extensive studies over a period of seven years, using 1 800 rodents.

“The mega-experiment performed in our laboratory on APM (administered with feed to Sprague-Dawley rats from eight weeks of age until natural death) has shown for the first time the multipotential carcinogenic effects of this compound.”

“Our study shows that APM is multipotential carcinogenic compound whose carcinogenic effects are evident even at a daily dose of 20 mg/kg, much less than the current ADI for humans in Europe and the US,” said Soffritti.

“The increase in lymphomas and leukemia’s could be related to its metabolite methanol, which is in turn metabolised to formaldehyde in both humans and rats.”

In his book The Aspartame Disease, Dr Roberts, a renowned diabetologist [who graduated from medical school at the age of 21] details how aspartame precipitates Alzheimers, MS and Parkinson’s disease.

Roberts also discusses how aspartame has assisted in creating a diabetic epidemic by forcing the body to secrete too much insulin in healthy people while drastically debilitating the health of many diabetics. He was stripped of his license for attempting to wean a teenage girl off of aspartame (but was later recertified by the board.)

In his statement, Dr Roberts says: “many patients in my practice, and others seen in consultation, developed serious metabolic, neurologic and other complications that could be specifically attributed to using aspartame products. This was evidenced by: “The loss of diabetic control, the intensification of hypoglycemia, the occurrence of presumed insulin reactions (including convulsions) that proved to be aspartame reactions, and the precipitation, aggravation or simulation of diabetic complications (especially impaired vision and neuropathy) while using these products.”

In an excerpt from an article written by Betty Martini of Mission Possible, Dr Roberts said: “I have documented other severe neuropsychiatric reactions to aspartame products — most notably headache, seizures, confusion and depression, and the probable acceleration of Alzheimer’s disease by aspartame products. I believe that our society faces a preventable medical disaster if aspartame products are not promptly removed from public use.”

In the US, the acceptable daily intake (ADI) is 50mg/kg, whilst in Europe it is 40mg/kg.

Former FDA toxicologist Dr Adrian Gross said: “I would view the acceptable daily intake (ADI) set by the FDA for aspartame (5mg/kg body weight/day) as totally unwarranted and extremely high in that it can be associated with completely unacceptable risks as far as the induction of such tumors are concerned.”

Former chief counsel Richard Merrill wrote a 30 page letter to FDA attorney Sam Skinner in charge of aspartame investigations, in January 1977, requesting that the grand jury indict Searle for falsely portraying, “findings, concealing material facts and making false statements” in aspartame safety tests.”

Searle’s law firm Sidley and Austin immediately offered Skinner a job in February 1977. Skinner was free to accept as president Carter dismissed him from his position. Skinner’s replacement, US Attorney W Conlon, effectively quashed the case and was rewarded with a job at Searle’s law firm in 1979.

An article by Dr Mercola quotes the Washington Post in 1986 as saying that Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas refused to hear the case and dismissed the charges — Thomas was a former Monsanto lawyer. Monsanto purchased NutraSweet in 1985.

In August 1977, the year that Rumsfeld became CEO of Searle, the damning Bressler Report written by Jerome Bressler, was issued by the FDA; in that same month, the US Justice Department investigation was dropped. And aspartame is still being consumed by the public.

Fast forward to the year 2007: Paul Hammann of South Africa lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standard Authority on the charge that aspartame “didn’t taste like sugar”.

The ASA agreed and gave Merisant five months to rid the product of misleading claims; ironically, the nexus of Merisant’s “misleading claims” is the actual safety of the product.

On their website, Merisant state: “The sweetening ingredient (aspartame) is used by millions of consumers every day for over 25 years, and has been proven safe by over 200 independent studies.”

Aspartame is consumed by over 250-million people in 100 countries worldwide; the Aspartame Resource Center says that the genetically engineered additive is present in over 6 000 products worldwide, as well as sold separately; the product constitutes the acme and glue of the $46-billion per annum diet industry.

The website quotes credible institutions such as the American Dietetics Association (ADA) incidentally funded by Monsanto, as is the American Pharmaceuticals Association.

The ADA also financed by food, pharmaceutical and agri-transnational corporations who depend on aspartame approval for their bottom line: Nabisco, Procter & Gamble, Wyeth, BASF, Bristol Myers/Squibb, ConAgra Foods, Galaxy Nutritional Foods, Gerber Products Company, Kellogg, Knoll Pharmaceuticals, Lipton, Mars, Inc, Mead Johnson Nutritionals, McNeil Consumer Products Company.

Other credible entities that have and are promoting aspartame include the American Society for Clinical Nutrition and the Calorie Council Control (CCC); as with the Aspartame Resource Centre, the CCC is financed by Ajinomoto, the NutraSweet Company and Sweet ‘n Low.

The American Society for Nutrition is sponsored by Cadbury-Schweppes, Wrigleys, Procter & Gamble, and Kraft.

Perhaps our Department of Health will take an interest in assessing the toxicity reports by SA Professors — Dr Humphries and Dr Pretorius published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The finds were analyzed by Dr Briffa in the Epoch Times.

An excerpt: “Mitochondria [the miniature ‘engines’ that generate energy in the body’s cells] are damaged, which could lead to apoptosis of cells and infertility in men and also a lowered rate of oxidative metabolism are present…”

“The cellular walls are destroyed; thus, the cells [endothelium of the capillaries] are more permeable, leading to a compromised BBB [the ‘blood brain barrier’-a structure which, in health, keeps certain substances from making their way from the blood stream into the brain]. Thus, overall oxidative stress and neuro-degeneration are present.”

Is the illusion of sugar, coupled with the perception of being able to “have your cake and eat it” actually worth the ramifications? And has the corporate funded media perpetuated the fallacy that consumption of junk food and crap like aspartame is a fundamental right for citizens of the modern world — as if we deserve to eat chocolate five times a day without getting fat? Or have the taste of Coke in our mouth without consuming the sugar?

Are they fooling us or are we desperate to buy into the lie and fool ourselves?

Perhaps it goes back to the parable of Adam and Eve, that of accountability: We can take Merisant’s claims (and by implication, all such corporations) on good faith or we can begin to question what it is that we are consuming.

Stevia, the natural low cal sugar-free alternative has consistently been barred from approval by the FDA and other such bodies for fear that it would undercut the diet market. But it is available in health stores in SA and Europe.

No matter how much they try to tell you otherwise, there are always alternatives. Interestingly enough, the logo for Merisant’s Equal is “In taste we trust.”

For more information on aspartame click here>>>

Khadija Sharife is a 22-year-old freelance journalist, musician and the Deputy Director of the Phoenix Environmental Institute. She writes in her own capacity.

Copyright 2008 Khadija Sharife

To read more blog entries from Khadija Sharife at GUERNICA click HERE .

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