March 14th, 2011
By: Megan Heimer
Recently, every major media outlet reported on the “Northern Manhattan Study” which linked diet soda to strokes and vascular disorders. This study consisted of 2,564 individuals over the age of 40 who were followed for ten years. The results of the study showed that those who drank diet soda daily increased their risk of stroke by 48% and vascular disorders by 61% compared to those who did not drink diet soda. These media reports were also quick to point out that the study was preliminary, largely unsupported and lacked biological evidence; they explained how diet soda could possibly cause strokes, but it was not cause to change nutrition or dietary advice. However, it’s not hard to see how one famous ingredient in diet soda could be to blame.
Aspartame is just one of the many harmful ingredients found in diet soda. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than sugar. This sweetener is dangerous because it is not stable in a liquid solution, and it consists of methanol which breaks down into formaldehyde and diketopiperazine – two neurotoxins known to wreak havoc on the nervous system. In addition, isolated aspartic acid and phenylalanine, two other components of aspartame, react with the breakdown of methanol, become toxic, and dangerously increase phenylalanine levels in the brain. The approval of Aspartame by the FDA in 1981 was controversial and highly opposed even by those on the panel because studies showed that aspartame produced seizures and brain tumors in lab animals. In one report, six out of seven monkeys fed aspartame-laced milk for a year developed seizures after every feeding, and the seventh one died.
In 1994, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report which showed that 75% of all adverse reactions reported through the FDA’s Adverse Reaction Monitoring System were due to aspartame. Per the FDA, only about 1% of the population reports a problem with something they consume. Thus, in 1994 alone, it is estimated that there were actually one million adverse reactions due to aspartame products with 39% of the complaints coming from diet soda. Prior to 1994, the Center for Disease Control reviewed many aspartame complaints consisting of neurological, gastrointestinal, and allergic reactions.
In addition, the 1994 “Official FDA Document” listed 92 symptoms associated with aspartame consumption, including 290 people who reported seizures and convulsions after consuming a product containing aspartame. Because this number is estimated to reflect only 1% of the actual number, the true number of seizures in 1994 could have been as high as 28,710. Today, adverse effects continue to rise as people increase their consumption of diet soda.
A vast amount of scholarly research has been conducted since the 1980′s linking aspartame in diet soda to various conditions including: aspartame poisoning, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, birth defects, tooth decay, dehydration, obesity, seizures, strokes, cardiovascular disease, eczema, sleeping problems, hair loss, muscle tremors, heart palpitations, memory loss, high blood pressure (another leading cause of stroke), chronic fatigue, menstrual problems, loss of libido, and joint pain.
These questions remain: Why are the studies, physician and consumer complaints, and research regarding the toxicity of this diet soda ingredient being overlooked, covered up, and brushed aside? Could it be because the truth about aspartame could discourage consumers from drinking diet soda, resulting in billion dollar losses? Or, could it be that aspartame research is funded largely by those with a stake in this money-making industry? Regardless of the answers, there is 30 years of extensive research linking aspartame to strokes and vascular disorders. Is diet soda worth the risks?