Aspartame: A History of Injustice

 I’m sure all of you have had a diet beverage at some point in your life. Whether the reasons were personal preference, diet, or lack of other options, most people misunderstand this “miracle, no-calorie drink”. The secret? Aspartame, an artificial sweetener (which, if you didn’t know, is a Monsanto product) and is as of now, the #1 most consumed artificial sweetener in the United States. Companies that sell products containing aspartame are incredibly cunning, using vague advertising with words and images associated with weight loss to entice the consumer and indirectly make them believe that these products are a “healthier alternative”.

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Much research done on aspartame has found that it is not actually as “healthy” as it is advertised to be. Aspartame life on the market has been incredibly shaky. According to an article on the history of aspartame, the product was originally designed to be a treatment for stomach ulcers, and not long after its approval in 1997, it was taken off the market for its adverse side effects (a few of which mentioned later on in this post), and after further investigation, found that the testing process for the drug was extremely inadequate. Consequently, the product was taken off the market. Shortly later in 1981 the Searle Company (who conducted the initial research on aspartame) Chairman Donald Rumsfeld attempted to re-approve aspartame and bring it back to the market. The FDA commissioner at the time, Arthur Hayes Hull, appointed a 5 person scientific commission who voted 3-2, in favor of keeping the ban on aspartame. However, Hull decided to bring in a 6th member to the commission, one who was in favor of aspartame’s legality to create a 3-3 tie, which Hull then broke in favor of aspartame, allowing the product to return to the market.

From the recent research that has been conducted on the safety of aspartame, correlations were found between aspartame and migraines, primarily, but also lymphomas and leukemia, irritable bowel syndrome, and epilepsy. All of these side effects were significantly worsened by the long term intake of aspartame products. However, results are constantly conflicting and to this day the safety of the product is very questionable.

How is it okay to put a product with unsure safety on the market? Our government would rather put the product on the market until it is determined unsafe, rather than safe. This uncertainty is being advertised to us with confidence, leaving the majority of us in the dark about what’s going into our bodies, and ultimately affecting our health.

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3 thoughts on “Aspartame: A History of Injustice

  1. I have heard a lot about products with artificial sweeteners by many. Pretty much half of the people I have met say that those products are better for you because there are no calories and no sugar is added, but I have also been told by many that they are terrible for you. So, I can too support that people are very uninformed about what they are putting into their bodies. I appreciated that you provided the history of the product on the market and its relation to the FDA/Government. Evaluating the history makes the safety of the product even more questionable, and it becomes alarming that the government has not investigated it further. I agree; the product should remain off the market until its safety is unquestionable. Is government research being done? If so, is the safety of the consumer public expediting the research process, or is it not being handled like the pressing matter that it is?

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    1. A problem that I think only exacerbates the lack of knowledge and care when it comes to aspartame is that since people don’t see it immediately affecting them, they assume that it’s not harmful toward them. It’s only after the long term that someone will probably realize how bad it was that they consumed diet products every day. So unfortunately, I don’t think the majority of the public is super interested in expediting this research process. I assume government research is being done, however due to the nature of empirical research, a solid conclusion on the safety of aspartame may take a while to obtain. I’ve always thought that knowing the history behind something is one of the most effective ways to gain a full perspective of the issue. I’m glad you liked it!

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