How Sweet It Isn’t – The Story of Splenda

I note, with interest, that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new artificial sweetener to be used as a “nonnutritive sweetener and flavor enhancer in foods and beverages.” The new guy on the block, to be called Neotame, is really just a chemical analog of aspartame, more commonly known as Nutrasweet. The same company produces both of these.

This turn of events causes me to once again ask… WHEN WILL WE EVER LEARN?

I’ll get to all of the dangers of the particular artificial sweeteners currently on the market later… but first, let’s explore what is really going on here with our apparent need to have everything taste so darned sweet.

It has become epidemic for those in western culture to add sugar to practically everything. From the first cup of coffee in the morning to the bowl of ice cream after dinner, and practically everything in between, we seem to crave sugar more and more. We have found various ways to hide the sugar, by calling it different names like corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, etc… and food manufacturers have devised labeling practices that deceive us in the amounts contained in a particular food.

Sugar, and the need for “sweet” tasting things, is an addiction… make no mistake about that. Sugar is probably one of the most addictive substances know to man, and the fact that it is a socially acceptable substance to be addicted to makes it even harder to identify as a problem. But it is an addiction!

It is part of the human condition to become addicted to things… for us to find a way to not be conscious of feelings that are uncomfortable to feel. We all carry around baggage from our past; thing in our hearts that are painful to look at and address. And so, we find various ways to “numb ourselves” to those feelings. Elicit drugs likes cocaine or marijuana help us to “not feel” those things. Sex and gambling are commonly used distractions. Conventionally sanctioned substances like prescription anti-depressants and sedatives or alcohol certainly do the trick.

Some of us become workout junkies or workaholics to avoid feeling what is in our hearts. Others become addicted to the boob tube, spending endless hours escaping from truly knowing what is in our hearts.

And then there is sugar… one of the most popular ways to make us feel better about ourselves. Those of you who are addicted to sugar know exactly what I mean.

Do you doubt it? Do you think you have that sugar monkey beat? You can quit anytime? You just enjoy the sweet taste, and there is nothing more to it than that? Okay, if that is true, then why is it that you tend to eat more sugar when things are stressful? Why is it that the candy bars come out when the kids are fighting with each other or the boss is being a jerk or when you are alone?

Believe it… sugar is an addiction.

Of course, all of the negative physical health ramifications from the consumption of sugar have been well documented. So well, in fact, that an entire cottage industry of “sugar substitutes” has developed to help us still feed our addiction without actually using sugar.

It started with saccharin… that tiny little pill (with the bitter aftertaste) that was so much sweeter than sugar, and promised to alleviate the diabetes and weight gain becoming prevalent at the time. I remember those tiny little tweezer things that my Mom used to use to plop 2 or 3 of them in her coffee in the morning.

As it turned out, apparently saccharine had another problem… it caused cancer. At least, that is what the studies showed. Interesting, though, that those studies came out at the very same time that a newer artificial sweetener was about to be approved for the U.S. market… Nutrasweet, or aspartame. It is also interesting to note that the amounts of saccharine needed to cause cancer in the test rats were astronomically high compared to what was a typical amount used by humans. I’m not advocating the use of saccharin, I’m just pointing out the facts.

Monsanto, the company that makes Nutrasweet had a significant influence in politics… and continues to do so today. So much so that despite the fact that complaints to the FDA about aspartame make up 75% of all complaints concerning food additives, it continues to be sanctioned by our government and deemed safe for human consumption.

The telling of the entire aspartame story would take volumes, but suffice it to say that numerous people in the health industry have called many of the studies cited by the FDA as “proof” that it is safe into serious question. Research analysts have gone back to the original studies and have found various inconsistencies and irregularities in study design… often times leading an impartial observer to wonder just what the FDA was actually thinking.

In the body, one of the ingredients of aspartame breaks down into formaldehyde and formic acid, both of which are toxic substances. Under optimal conditions, the body can probably handle small amounts of this. But we do not live under optimal conditions… our livers are constantly being challenged by exposure to toxic substances. And, it is rare for someone that consumes aspartame to use just a little of it. Once on the bandwagon, it seems that everything eaten contains that little red and white swirl (one of the marketing logos for aspartame).

A national soft drink association prepared a 30-page document decrying the negative health impact of aspartame for the FDA. But they withdrew the paper, and their complaint, when it became apparent that people who drank diet sodas tended to drink them all day long.

Make no mistake about it… this is big business with billions of dollars at stake.

Here is the short list of ailments and chronic conditions that aspartame has been implicated in causing or triggering… birth defects, cancer, diabetes, depression & other emotional disorders, and seizures. A 1994 Department of Health and Human Services report contained the following documented symptoms associated with aspartame… headaches/migraines, dizziness, seizures, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, weight gain, rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, tachycardia, insomnia, vision problems, hearing loss, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, loss of taste, tinnitus, vertigo, memory loss and joint pain.

And now Monsanto has gotten another sugar substitute approved. Why would they do this? It’s simple… the patent on aspartame ran out a few years ago, and they are finding it more difficult to maintain market share and make money. So now, they have a new chemical that they can own for another period of time. I promise you, now you will begin to see the negatives of aspartame begin to creep into the media more and more. And Monsanto will do little to negate that information now… they will merely point out that the new Neotame is much better for you and works even better as a sugar substitute. After all, aspartame is only 800 times sweeter than table sugar. Neotame is 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar.

And it would appear that the FDA is up to their old tricks with this endorsement too. When evaluating safety, the FDA made the approval based on 113 unpublished studies in both animals and humans. Notice the word “unpublished!” This is a huge red flag… why would they use unpublished studies? Because, when a study is published, it then has to be scrutinized by other scientists, who would have the opportunity to make comment upon the validity of the method and conclusions of a particular study. Using unpublished studies allows the FDA to draw it’s own conclusions without anyone in the scientific community looking over their shoulders.

But here is the real rub to this whole story… the idea for the use of artificial sweeteners in the first place came about because we were looking for a substitute for all of the sugar that we were consuming… and, of course, all of the negatives that went along with it. And we certainly have made use of the artificial sweeteners, to the tune of billions of dollars in profits for companies that produce them.

Can anyone explain why sugar consumption has actually increased over the same time period? In fact, there has been an increase every single year, except one, from 1983 to 1999. In 1983, the average consumption was about 123 pounds of sugar per person. That number rose to 158 pounds per person in 1999, a 30% increase!! This fact seems to defy all reason. If we are consuming sugar substitutes by record amounts, how can our sugar consumption be increasing as well?

One explanation may be that there is a mind set that says… “If I’m using a sugar substitute in my diet, like in my sodas, then I can afford to cheat a little.” Only, the cheating is more pervasive than you would think, and the net gain is actually a loss.

Another explanation may have to do with the way that the sugar substitutes like aspartame biologically affect our bodies. It has been shown that one of the negative side effects of aspartame is to actually cause carbohydrate cravings and what is known as “calorie-hunting” behavior.

Or maybe, just maybe, the problem is that we have more things in our hearts these days that we are trying to avoid. Maybe this technologically advanced society of ours gives us more cause to need to numb ourselves… and sugar is the most widely available, most socially acceptable pseudo-Novocaine that we can find!

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