Monday, 12 December 2011

Aspartame and Sucralose – You’re on trial for murder! Or is that really the case?

No it is not the case at all!  *waits for the shit-storm to start*…

I’m going to do this a little differently and I’m going to say my part now as an overview and then break down all the sweeteners with the scientific studies and the conclusions/findings.

With that said, some things are just jumped on more than others and the subject of sweeteners is one the bandwagon jumpers love.

I look at it like this.  Nearly everything that is promoted either by mainstream media/nutrition is typically based on the absolute EXTREME of the situation at hand and rarely actually applies to the majority of the population.  Also there is always a bias behind why something is promoted - government and industry based.  Funding of studies and advertising campaigns are rarely done out of the kindness of one’s heart.  I will probably make that cross-reference many more times in future articles!

Take the sweetener Aspartame for example which is derived from the amino acid Phenylalanine (and Aspartic Acid).  For individuals who suffer from Phenylketonuria it can and does cause massive problems.  It is very toxic to those individuals and can cause problems with brain development, leading to progressive mental retardation, brain damage, and seizures (1).

Phenylketonuria is a disease that is associated with a particular enzyme that metabolizes Phenylalanine into Tyrosine in the brain.  It is a genetic disorder, meaning you can’t acquire it later in life, you are born with it.  
Now with that in mind, for healthy individuals there is no need to worry or avoid consumption of Aspartame (or others for that matter).  The researchers know that and have explained that time and time again.  It has been approved for consumption etc, yet due to the fact is affects a certain population, mainstream media and misguided nutritional ‘experts’ (I use that term extremely loosely) pigeonhole it as bad, dangerous and unhealthy blah blah blah.

What really amuses me is that while Aspartame is ‘bad’ (for people with Phenylketonuria) and everyone must avoid it, bananas have MORE Phenylalanine than what is found in Aspartame!  Yet you do not hear ANYONE say bananas are ‘bad’ and should be avoided.  Also if you drink protein shakes or eat protein from whole food you are consuming more Phenylalanine than what is in a diet soft drink.

Just off topic for a moment, the same can be applied to people with nut allergies.  It can be deadly for those individuals yet you never hear nuts being promoted as bad.

I do realize there are other sweeteners on the market (i.e. Stevia) and to be completely honest, the actual available scientific data with human subjects is limited at best.  Most studies, and the subsequent intake recommendations, are based on tests on animal subjects.   (I’ll touch on that in a second).  So with that in mind, I’d suggest that safe ranges for consumption should be as per the suggested amount in the RDI tables (credible or not as they are).

Take it for what it is.  If you do not have a health issue that is directly linked to a certain nutrient or the like, there is no need to avoid it just because it affects a particular population that YOU are not a part of.
I must make mention that there are a number of studies on headaches and the consumption of sweeteners with most showing mixed results (2,3).  So as mentioned, if that is the trigger for YOU, limiting your consumption may be required.  If it is not you, continue as normal.

Also if you do find a study done on rats or mice that shows a negative effect, that is fine because we are not rats, we are not mice and we should only be concerned with human studies and the data from them.

Here is a breakdown of your typical sweeteners and the actual facts:

Aspartame   –

Aspartame: review of safety.
The safety testing of Aspartame has gone well beyond that required to evaluate the safety of a food additive.  When all the research on Aspartame is examined as a whole, including evaluations in both the pre-marketing and post-marketing periods, it is clear that Aspartame is safe and there are no unresolved questions regarding its safety under conditions of intended use.

Aspartame: a safety evaluation based on current use levels, regulations, and toxicological and epidemiological studies.

Epidemiological studies on Aspartame include several case-control studies and one well-conducted prospective epidemiological study with a large cohort, in which the consumption of Aspartame was measured.  The studies provide no evidence to support an association between Aspartame and cancer in any tissue.  The weight of existing evidence is that Aspartame is safe at current levels of consumption as a non-nutritive sweetener.

Aspartame: neuropsychologic and neurophysiologic evaluation of acute and chronic effects.

Plasma Phenylalanine concentrations increased significantly during Aspartame treatment. Neuropsychologic results; adverse experiences; amino acid, insulin, and glucose values; and electroencephalograms were compared by sex and by treatment. No significant differences were found for any dependent measure.
CONCLUSION: Large daily doses of Aspartame had no effect on neuropsychologic, neurophysiologic, or behavioral functioning in healthy young adults.

Effect of Aspartame and sucrose loading in glutamate-susceptible subjects.
Plasma Phenylalanine and Aspartate levels were similar to those noted in normal subjects administered identical doses of Aspartame.  The data indicates no effect of Aspartame loading in glutamate-susceptible subjects.

Sucralose  -

An overview of the safety of sucralose.

The collective evidence supports the conclusion that the ingredient, sucralose, is safe for use in food and that the sucralose-mixture product, Granulated SPLENDA No Calorie Sweetener, is also safe for its intended use.

Repeated dose study of sucralose tolerance in human subjects.

Based on these studies and the extensive animal safety database, there is no indication that adverse effects on human health would occur from frequent or long-term exposure to sucralose at the maximum anticipated levels of intake.

Effects of oral ingestion of sucralose on gut hormone response and appetite in healthy normal-weight subjects.

Oral ingestion of sucralose does not increase plasma GLP-1 or PYY concentrations and hence, does not reduce appetite in healthy subjects. Oral stimulation with sucralose had no effect on GLP-1, insulin or appetite.

Sucralose metabolism and pharmacokinetics in man.

The radiolabelled material present in faeces was essentially unchanged sucralose.

For a great informal discussion and loads of information I’d suggest checking out this link -

References -

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