Aspartame is bad for you, and you should stop using it. Right now.

September 13, 2007 at 8:04 am (Health Issues, My Propaganda, Rants)

I sure hope this is old news, to you.

I found this article, it’s very telling.

Again, more evidence that the FDA is snugly jammed into the Food Industry’s pocket. Sad and shocking, but true.

d.i.y naturally: Diet Soda and Cancer?

PS: Aspartame is Nutra-sweet.

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5 Comments

  1. UltraNurd said,

    Try and find links to accredited academic studies. I know they’re not always available (see FDA’s refusal to fund a more modern study), but I think the number one weakness of the modern blagosphere is a tendency to make scientific claims, and link them around, thus completely obscuring the original research that led to the conclusion.

  2. Sy said,

    I’m less interested in ferreting out a list of studies, and more interested in pointing out the FDA’s refusal to have a look at ANY studies that might endanger their overlords’ economic agendas.

  3. Khandril said,

    Eh, I think this is pretty bogus. The FDA has limited resources, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable of them to dismiss a new rat study from a questionable source that tries to overturn lots of other, better, human studies. Also, if you look at the data on this page on cancer incidences per 100,000 people, 1975-2003: (Click “Trends” in the menu at the top)

    http://progressreport.cancer.gov/doc_detail.asp?pid=1&did=2005&chid=23&coid=220&mid=#trends

    You’ll note that cancers rose from 1974-1992, and dropped from there. Since diet soda first became widely available (I think) in 1983, if it’s that dangerous, and consumption has skyrocketed, wouldn’t we expect there to be some sort of mapping between cancer rates and soda consumption?

    Anyway, in my experience, the argument “the scientific establishment is ignoring me because they’re in big bu$ine$$’$ pocket” is almost always the last refuge of people whose ideas have been disproven.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t drink Aspartame, but that’s because I A) don’t like how it tastes and B) don’t like how it crashes my blood sugar when my body goes “Hey, something sweet’s coming, I’ll burn all my reserves, now”. But, I don’t think there’s any reason to think it’s directly poisonous, and a lot of studies and obvious data (such as the cancer rates above) to think otherwise.

  4. Sy said,

    ““the scientific establishment is ignoring me because they’re in big bu$ine$$’$ pocket” is almost always the last refuge of people whose ideas have been disproven.”

    This statement, if true, would not change the reality of the FDA being unable to sufficiently protect the public, if that is the case. Just because a madman claims the sky is blue, does not make it a lie.

    I’m not sure if I’m reading your statement correctly, but you seem to be suggesting that cancer rates have been dropping since 1992. After looking at their chart, I would conclude instead that they’ve leveled off. At a very high level. I know so many people who’ve died from cancer, or who have had a close family member die.

    Why are we getting cancer? And it’s not just about cancer. So many other maladies as well.

    I’ve believed for years that since we live our lives so surrounded by carcinogens and foreign substances like plastics, cleaning chemicals, artificial fragrances, toxins like triclosan, smog, unhealthy unnatural processed foods, the list is so long, -that is what is causing cancer rates. And we as a society didn’t have this sort of environment to live in, before around 100 years ago.

    Places in the world where they live separated from these sorts of substances, and also manage to eat healthy, etc., they don’t have cancer rates to speak of.

    The cumulative effect of being surrounded by these things on a daily basis, as we are, is that we die of strange unnatural maladies. Cancer and other things. No one thing will kill you dead on the spot, but soaking in it for 50 years as we do, it eventually wears our bodies down.

    There are things you can do, however, even living in the US, that will help you to live happier and safer. I believe strongly that avoiding aspartame is one of those things.

  5. Khandril said,

    First of all, I want to make clear that I agree with you that
    Aspartame isn’t particularly good for you. I don’t drink it, myself.
    I don’t think that’s as a result of its being directly poisoness,
    though – I think it’s a side effect of all calorie-free sweetners.
    They must mess with your body’s sugar processing, because of how they
    work. As a result, they tend to be appetite enhancers, and mess with
    your body’s set points for recognizing when you’re full or hungry.
    Their use has correlated nicely with the increase in obesity in this
    country. Using data from:

    http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/index.htm

    We see obesity go from about 15,000 per 100k population in 1980 to
    about 33,000 per 100k population in 2003. Some of this may be to
    definition effects, but obesity is clearly actually rising over the
    same period that people have consumed more Aspartame. It seems
    reasonable to think there may be a causal relationship – though this
    is, of course, not enough to conclusively establish such a
    relationship. As an interesting aside, obesity is a major risk
    factor for cancer, though it’s unclear at this time if it’s because
    obesity causes cancer itself, or if it’s because people who tend to
    get obese tend to also do other things that are bad for them (such as
    smoke and not exercise).

    My point was, over the same time, cancer rates rose dramatically at
    the beginning from 430/100k diagnosed in 1983 to 505/100k in 1992.
    After that, though, it dropped back down to 488/100k in 2003. You are
    correct to note that most of that drop occured by 1994, and it’s been
    steady since, but, that’s not my point.

    We have a hypothesis, here: “Aspartame causes cancer.” One logical
    prediction from this hypothesis would be, “As Aspartame consumption
    increases, so should cancer.” I’m having a lot of trouble finding
    good data on diet soda sales (which I never figured would be hard to
    do), but Figure 1, on page 11 from the article “Liquid Candy”:

    http://www.cspinet.org/new/pdf/liquid_candy_final_w_new_supplement.pdf

    shows that diet soda manufacturing was a littler more than 100 drinks per
    person per year in 1987, and about 160 per person per year in 2004.
    From 1987, cancer rates went from 453/100k, up to 505/100k, and back
    down to 488/100k. This doesn’t seem to be what our hypothesis would
    predict – cancer rates went down slightly from 1993-2003, while diet
    soda manufacturing increased.

    Thus, the high-level trends don’t seem to line up to validate the idea
    that Aspartame causes cancer (although, as I indicated, it’s still an
    open idea that it causes obesity, and there is no argument against it
    tasting terrible – that’s objective ;).

    In something as complicated as human health, there are very rarely
    solid, definitive answers. The “gold standard” is the double-blind,
    randomized trial. In this case, what we’d do is get together
    thousands of people, split them into a “control” group (that would
    probably drink regular soda) and an “expiremental” group (that would
    drink diet soda) and track them for twenty years and see if the diet
    people get more cancer than the regular soda people.

    Unfortunately, this has a major practical problem (it’s really
    expensive) and a major ethical problem (if we’re worried enough that
    it causes cancer to do a study about it, what are we doing feeing it
    to people on purpose?). It’s therefore very unlikely to actually
    happen.

    The next best set of data is what’s known as a “longitudinal study”.
    In this, you take some large population of people (say, nurses, or
    doctors, or people who graduated from a particular university) and you
    track them over decades. You ask them questions like “How much diet
    soda do you drink every day?” And “How much exercise do you get?”
    You then crunch all the numbers, and figure out things like “If you
    drink a lot of diet soda, do you tend to get more cancer?”

    Next on the list of study quality is the retrospective interview –
    take 1,000 people who have cancer and 1,000 who don’t and ask them
    about their previous lifestyles to see if you can find a correlation.
    Unfortunately, human memories are terribly fallible, and people with
    cancer are often trying to tell themselves a story about why they got
    it (when the answer is “genes” or “because a cosmic ray randomly
    mutated something”). They can therefore introduce significant biases
    into these studies. I think this happened with recent
    cell-phone/cancer studies – people with cancer know which side of
    their brain the tumor is on, so tend to remember using the phone on
    that side. Similarly to my logic above, given the recent increase
    in mobile phone use, if there was a significant increase in brain
    cancer with mobiles, you’d expect the brain cancer rate to be
    skyrocketing, and there’s no evidence of that, right now.

    After this you get into animal studies. These are nice because you
    don’t have the ethical concerns about human studies, but they have
    specific problems because humans aren’t animals. Often there’s no way
    to “scale down” human consumption such that it makes sense in
    something much smaller than a person – and, even if there is a way to
    do this, the animals often react very differently, because they’re
    different species than we are, and haven’t spent the past 50,000 years
    evolving to live with ever-more complicated diets.

    Finally, the bottom standard is chemical or research efforts. This is
    stuff like “when we put this chemical on cells in a petri dish, they
    seem to react badly (or well) to it”. The real world is often much,
    much more complicated, and these results are often contradicted by the
    higher standards, above. For example, “antioxidants” looked really
    promising in test tubes, but haven’t played out clinically and don’t
    seem to be particularly useful in preventing disease.

    With all that background, what we have on Aspartame is a whole bunch
    of longitudinal studies that show that drinking more diet soda isn’t
    correlated with increased cancer risk. For example, we have a meta
    study (a study of other studies) from 2004, called “Artificial
    sweeteners-do they bear a carcinogenic risk?”, from the “Annals of
    Oncology”:

    http://pt.wkhealth.com/pt/re/anon/abstract.00002352-200410000-00004.htm;jsessionid=GqqQJ1Ltp2nHHy5WpL4VXMn3DBMgJJ0L3DGq6SwKvndCyZ2n68yP!29071008!181195628!8091!-1

    It concludes, “according to the current literature, the possible risk
    of artificial sweeteners to induce cancer seems to be negligible.”
    That’s based upon many studies of thousands of people over decades.
    When you drink more diet soda, it doesn’t cause a noticeable increase
    in cancer. Period, that’s the science.

    Now, we have a group come along who says, “But we did a trial in rats
    and they got more cancer with more soda.” All I’m saying is that the
    FDA is not unreasonable in thinking that all those longitudinal
    studies trump this one animal study. Anyone who is still claiming
    that there is credible evidence that Aspartame causes cancer in humans
    is one or more of:

    1) Ignorant of the way science works
    2) Ignorant of the particular longitudinal studies
    3) Convinced those making and evaluating those studies were
    honestly wrong
    4) Convinced those making and evaluating those studies were lying

    Personally speaking, I think it’s more likely that the animal study is
    wrong. I also find, in my experience, that the people who hang their
    hats on number 4 tend to be people whose ideas have been pretty
    specifically and accurately disproven.

    Also personally speaking, I know that cancer kills a lot of people.
    My mother and her mother both died of cancer – within two years of
    each other. But, I also recognize that you have to go from
    something. My grandmother was 85, and early detection probably
    would’ve let her live to 90. My Mom was only 55, but she was a
    lifelong smoker, and I suspect that had a lot to do with her early
    death. Personally, I think recent rises in cancer rates have three
    basic causes. First, we *have* increased our risks in the past
    hundred years, but I think little environmental risks are trumped by
    stuff like smoking and asbestos. Second, we’re much better at
    detecting cancer than we used to be, so we notice a lot more non-fatal
    cancers than we did in (say) 1950. Finally, we’re living longer, and
    you have to die of something. Maybe we also have lots of low-level
    cancer risk from lots of chemicals. I think they’re totally swamped
    by macro trends like how much we exercise, whether we smoke and
    whether we work in asbestos mines.

    To sum up: Do I avoid Aspartame? Yes, I do. I think it’s a very
    open question whether it contributes to obesity. There’s a compelling
    story there, and the studies are (as yet) inconclusive. I agree with
    you completely that “There are things you can do…that will help you
    to live happier and safer. I believe strongly that avoiding aspartame
    is one of those things.”

    I just don’t see any reason to think it causes cancer – much less that
    everyone knows it causes cancer and the FDA is covering it up because
    it “is snugly jammed into the Food Industry’s pocket.”

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