Research Paper: Aspartame Sweet Nothing? Food and Drug Administration

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Food and Drug Administration found the data supplied by the European

Ramazzini Foundation sufficient to support its conclusion that aspartame is carcinogenic (FDA, 2007). The Foundation's study is entitled, "Long-Term Carcinogenicity Bioassays to Evaluate the Potential Biological Effects, in Particular, of Aspartame Administered in Feed to Sprague-Dawley Rats." The FDA immediately requested the Foundation to send its data for evaluation, but the Foundation sent only a portion of the data and refused that the study be subjected for FDA evaluation. Nonetheless, the FDA proceeded to evaluate the available data and found the pathological changes in the study animals were incidental and did not relate to treatment by aspartame. This study stands in contradiction to the findings of a large number of studies on the safety of aspartame. These studies, especially the five most important ones, negate the connection between the use of aspartame and the development of tumors. From these collective findings, it would be safe to conclude that no evidence as yet has been found to contest the safety of the use of aspartame as a general-purpose sugar substitute (FDA).

A long-term carcinogenicity study of aspartame was conducted in 1981 and is among the most widely used artificial sweeteners (FDA, 2007). In this context, it is in the public interest to review the nature and effects of aspartame through the biological, health and economic perspectives. The purpose of this paper is to gain knowledge about the uses and danger of aspartame, an artificial sugar. This paper will weigh the benefits as well as the negative effects that it has on the human body and gain insight as to view it more comprehensively and realistically.

Discipline: Biology

When metabolized, aspartame breaks down into two common amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, and methanol (FDA, 2007). These three substances are present in greater or small amounts in natural common foods (FDA). Aspartame and fructose can be substituted for sucrose or table sugar and honey (Hendrickson, 2011). But they have differences. Fructose is a natural sweetener, while aspartame is synthetic or developed in the laboratory. Aspartame was accidentally discovered when a chemical researcher was in the process of developing a drug for ulcer. He found that the sweet compound was not toxic. It was thus introduced to the public. Meanwhile, fructose is natural and combines with glucose to form sucrose, the common table sugar. The fructose molecule consists of a ring made up of carbon and oxygen. Aspartame is a modified protein, which consists of two amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. The body assimilates fructose into the bloodstream where it chemically combines with oxygen through cellular respiration. Then it releases energy and provides calories. it's is much sweeter than table sugar and thus requires only a small amount. Aspartame, on the other hand, is indigestible and does not provide calories (Hendrickson).

Discipline: Health Education

A Healthful Option

In most Western countries, sugar consumption accounts for roughly 10% or 200

calories of the total calorie intake (Lean, 2004). If a non-nutritive and non-caloric sweetener, like aspartame, replaces it, obesity will be markedly eliminated. The current consumption of aspartame is about 5 g annually. This amount is equivalent to 1 kg of sucrose. No convincing evidence has come up that aspartame prevents weight gain although children's large consumption of sweet drinks has been linked to obesity. At the same time, switching to diet pop drinks has been shown to negate weight gain. The maximum of 10% of total energy from sugars can be substantially achieved by taking artificial sweeteners like aspartame to avoid weight gain. Fat has been considered the culprit behind obesity and one way of addressing this is by replacing table sugar with an artificial sweetener like aspartame. This also reduces the risk of heart disease. Large sugar intake will also increase triglycerides because of its fructose content (Lean).

Substituting artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, may help prevent tooth decay (Lean, 2004). Tooth decay or dental caries develops from sugars as the main substrate or supporting material for mouth bacteria. But studies in regions with high incidence of dental caries showed that avoiding or reducing sugar consumption alone reduces the incidence. Deficiency in fluoride and prolonged exposure to sugar are major factors. If sugar is, however, replaced with an artificial sweetener, there may be a difference. Those who develop a sweet palate or tooth may see an artificial sweetener, like aspartame, an option (Lean).

Potential Health Benefits

Scientific investigations suggest that aspartame may relieve pain, produce some anti-inflammatory effects in human beings and reduce fever in animals (Pradhan et al., 2010). A recent study confirms the finding of a previous one on the anti-inflammatory effect of aspartame when taken alone or in combination with other opioids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines. Aspartame exerted the effect when taken in doses of 4, 8 and 16 mg per kilogram However, a second study, which used a dose of 50 kg did not demonstrate any significant anti-inflammatory effect. The conflicting results of the studies may be because of the different underlying mechanisms of inflammation in the experimental models. Nonetheless, the tentative findings of these studies hint at the potential of aspartame as a therapeutic agent (Pradhan et al.).

Linked with Migraine

Five cases of migraine among young respondents suggest aspartame may be responsible when oxidized into formaldehyde (Jacob and Stechschulte, 2008). The respondents and another, aged 16-75, were referred for recurring dermatitis. The five respondents reported migraines after ingesting aspartame while the sixth had dermatitis flares after drinking 2 liters of diet cola a day. All of them were exposed to formaldehyde in their food and drinks containing aspartame. They tested positive to allergen screening conducted by the North American Group 65. Four had additional reactions to formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. They received counseling on allergen avoidance. Symptoms cleared up during their follow-up appointments 8 to 12 weeks after. Four of them unintentionally resumed to take aspartame and then attended their additional follow-up visit. Three of the first 5 had recurring migraine and dermatitis (Jacob and Stechschulte).

Aspartame-associated migraine cases in relation to formaldehyde have not been reported except that of a non-migraine patient of Hill and Belsito (Jacob and Stechschulte, 2008). It suggested that the resulting formaldehyde from the breakdown of aspartame could trigger a systemic contact dermatitis, as in the case of the sixth patient in the present study. The conduct of a larger case study using aspartame capsules and placebos on patients with aspartame-induced migraines is called for by these inconclusive findings. It should establish the link between aspartame on the one hand and breakdown products, migraines, dermatitis and reactions to formaldehyde (Jacob and Stechschulte).

Aspartame Disease

This is the result of a combination of strong and adverse neurologic, cardiopulmonary, endocrine and allergic effects of aspartame products (Roberts, 2004). A single database reveals 1,300 victims of these illnesses and they represent 70% of the population. These victims consume diet pop drinks and thousands of other aspartame-containing products. About 3.1 of them are women. Four women who suffered from hyperthyroidism improved dramatically after getting off aspartame for 3 months. On the other hand, four other women previously with Graves' disease experienced a recurrence after 6 months of taking aspartame. The symptoms recurred within 2 days from consumption of aspartame. The number of patients with similar experience doubled since the first reports (Roberts).

The 27-year-old woman with severe dyspnea and other symptoms associated with aspartame was also found to have primary hypertension at autopsy (Roberts, 2004). Dyspenia has been a major symptom in 9% of persons with reaction to aspartame products when not a consequence of a known heart or lung problem. Most of these were women aged 20-40. They experienced improvement when consumption of aspartame was stopped. But dyspnea quickly returned when consumption was resumed. The composition of aspartame is 50% phenylalanine, consisting of highly vaso-active substances, such as dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. These substances relate with pulmonary hypertension, systemic hypertension and cardiac arrhythmia (Roberts).

Disciplinary Perspective: Economics

Less Sugar, Less Cost

Strategies at curbing obesity rates necessarily focus on reducing energy increase while increasing the use of energy (Hunty et al., 2006). One strategy is the use of substitute sweeteners for sugar in reducing the amount of sugar in the diet without losing the taste. A total of 16 studies were conducted on the effect of aspartame alone or in combination with other sweeteners. Fifteen of the 16 studies used soft drinks as the base vehicle for aspartame at 500 -- 2000 ml, the equivalent of 2-6 cans or bottles of soft drinks every day. The overall effect was an approximate 10% reduction of the energy intake. This equates into a weight loss of about 0.2 kg per week for adult men and women aged 19-50 years and a significant reduction in weight (Hunty et al.).

This review provides evidence that consumption of foods and drinks sweetened with aspartame in place of sucrose or table sugar is effective in losing and maintaining weight without sacrificing sweet taste (Hunty… [END OF PREVIEW]

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