- uploaded: Sep 8, 2008
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An artificial sweetener, 180 times as sweet as sugar, aspartame was discovered by a G.D. Searle chemist in 1965. Marketed under such names as NutraSweet and Equal, it's used in some 6,000 foods and beverages around the world. The product has been the subject of controversy regarding its safety, and the way it was approved.
In a special on the dangers of the artificial sweetener aspartame, Dr. Betty Martini was joined by a panel of experts throughout the evening. Aspartame, which she described as addictive, can cause a number of problems that people might not realize stem from its consumption, including headaches, dizziness, mood change, and joint pain. Its effects can be slow and subtle, but quite serious-- sometimes leading to miscarriages and seizures, she said.
Consumer representative James Turner spoke about the history of aspartame and its pathway to approval. A public inquiry held in 1980 ruled it shouldn't be marketed because of its association with brain tumors, but Donald Rumsfeld (who served as head of the pharmaceutical company G. D. Searle at the time) managed to engineer its approval, he recounted.
Stephen Fox, a consumer advocate, discussed efforts to get aspartame rescinded from the market, and suggested a new FDA commissioner was needed to carry this through. He recommended the documentary, Sweet Misery: A Poison World (available on Google Video).
Psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Walton noted that aspartame is paradoxically associated with obesity, as it increases appetite and cravings for carbohydrates. When interviewed for a 60 Minutes story in 1996 (view here) he pointed out studies which touted its safety were all funded by the industry and independent studies all found problems.
Dr. H.J. Roberts, the author of Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic said the negative effects of the sweetener can be cumulative, especially when combined with other toxins such as fluoride. Martini recommended natural sugar alternatives such as Just Like Sugar and stevia (in its pure form).
Interview Aired: 9/02/08
Host: George Noory