Saturday, February 27, 2010


History lesson: in a lab years ago, some guy sought to create a drug for treating ulcers. While he worked, some of the substance must have stuck to his fingers because later -- rumor has it while he flipped through the pages of a book -- he licked a finger and discovered that what he hoped would become an ulcer drug tasted really sweet.

Today, we know it as aspartame.

Aspartame is the ingredient in NutraSweet and Equal that inspires so many people to pour it into coffee without reservation. It's also in a newer artificial sweetener called AminoSweet. I did a little digging this morning and on AminoSweet's website, I found a press release posted by its maker, Ajinomoto, about its defense of aspartame. In part, it read as follows:

"Products sweetened with aspartame help people to control their weight. At a time when the health profession and the government are seeking ways to combat overweight and obesity, it is unconscionable that ASDA should try to villify a safe and beneficial food ingredient."

To ASDA (a European grocery store), villify on! There has been lots of controversy over aspartame for years, and lots of people who speak out against it: like DORway, and a documentary called Sweet Misery and a list of 92 side effects reported to the FDA by the countless who swear the sweetener has hurt them. Personally, I'm a believer. But beyond the complaints about the synthetic sweetener causing health problems, the real reason I encourage ASDA (and the rest of the world) to put up a fight against aspartame is Ajimoto's defense of it.

It basically says products sweetened with aspartame help people control their weight, and at a time when ways are sought to combat obesity, how dare the world trash talk aspartame.

Bull. How dare aspartame (and the people behind it) sleep at night? Yeah, there may be some truth to its ability to help a person control his or her weight, but that means squat to me. Aspartame is an enabler. It's another excuse humans can use to live one way and look like they live another. It's nutritional narcissism. It's another step away from behavior modification and another step toward a weak and helpless human race. And that, friends, is what is unconscionable.

I find it funny that when somebody has diabetes (it runs in my family) or wants to lose weight, so many are quick to cut out sugar and even quicker to replace it with artificial sweeteners. They give up soda, but drink diet soda daily. They don't put sugar in their coffee anymore -- instead, they use Equal.

It's typically American that we'd convince ourselves we need soda so much that to give it up altogether is absurd, and to replace it with drinks that are laced with what should have been an ulcer drug makes sense.

If you want to control your weight, you have to control yourself. And aspartame doesn't promote that ability.


  1. Sheesh. If aspartame could treat ulcers, I'd have a better digestive system. But it doesn't. Thus, diet sodas have been removed from my diet because my digestive system doesn't like the carbonation. Viva la water!