Nutra Sweet

Aspartame, a manufactured chemical that is neither nutritious nor sweet. But it is toxic. See for summaries.

Of course, everything is toxic so that's not much of an indictment. The issue is, is it toxic in doses likely to be taken?

CecilAdams deals with this one at Seems like some people do have severe reactions to the stuff, while others tolerate it fine. I never gave it a thought until trying a large amount of it as a sweetener on top of pancakes back when I first tried a LowCarb? diet. Horrible headache resulted, of a kind I've never experienced before or since. So I decided this stuff wasn't for me. Then I tried stevia, but soon realized that makes me feel dull. Then I spent a few years off LowCarb? and used raw sugar, which I adore but which packs on the pounds. Now I'm doing the a cyclic ketogenic diet [see CyclicalKetogenicDiets?] and using sucralose, which seems to agree fine with me. But my wife still swills down the aspartame pop drinks, and although she suffers regular migraines she observes no correlation. Decide for yourself, I guess. -- PeterMerel

I used to suffer from migraines that had a period of 2 weeks. I did not consume artificial sweeteners at all at that time (cyclamates were the only option then, and they were in only a few specialized foods). Your wife may just plain suffer from migraines, independently of her diet. -- PeteHardie

Of course, the referenced site also claims that sugar causes cancer. Hmm. Does that mean that software developers have higher cancer rates than "regular people"?

''Sugar and Fat are two things that make you think something tastes good, check the labels - if it is Low Fat, it is likely that the sugar content is higher than the regular version, and vice-versa when applied to low-sugar. It is impossible (without living on drugs) to lose weight without exercise - but then the ads saying "want to lose 12lbs and drop your dress size, get off your ass and get to the gym, hell why not walk to the shop on the corner of your block rather than drive" wouldn't be popular, or money-spinning.
You should instead try the Anti-Diet and stop eating anything that is not directly produced by the earth. Cooking is ok if you are ill, otherwise do not overcook, since overcooking reduces the nutritional effects of food.

Depends. Do software developers really consume more sugar than "regular people"? I doubt it.

My favourite piece of advice from the referenced site is: "don't turn on any lights if you get up in the night to take a leak". Best scrub the bathroom floor in the morning, too, then!

I have a recollection of an FDA study announced towards the end of 2000 that showed that Aspartame _was_ toxic, but only in huge quantities compared to the actual intake people have. Something like people consuming microlitres in a typical can of soft-drink, but requiring daily intakes in the order of decilitres in order to have a statistical carcinogenic effect. In particular, it attacked a bunch of studies done in the early 90s for effectively overdosing their rats. Anyone have a reference to this?

Does anyone have a study showing eating foods labelled "diet" or "low fat" actually helps one lose weight? At the very least, they probably make one crave (and store) real carbos as a survival reflex.

Well, personally, my major intake of NutraSweet is in Diet Coke. The craving I'm attempting (with varying success) is for caffeine. Drinking Diet Coke doesn't help me lose weight, but I know from previous experience that it stops me putting it on. -- RobertWatkins

Caffeine. I wonder if these people who report all of these symptoms from NutraSweet aren't just getting caffeine buzzes. I mean, heart palpitations and headaches - two symptoms listed by Cecil above - are pretty common symptoms of high caffeine doses, aren't they?

Yes & no. Heart palpitations are a likely side-effect of caffeine, but caffeine is actually good for headaches - Excedrin contains caffeine, for example. On the other hand, when the caffeine wears off, your headache comes back.

Sure, but headache is also a withdrawal symptom of caffeine addiction. If you've got a headache because you haven't had your morning coffee, or your late morning tea, or your afternoon cola, or your evening hot chocolate, a bit of Excedrin will be just the thing to set you right again. -- rc

I consider this one of the greatest consumer frauds of the TwentiethCentury?, right after "StaticCling". People don't exercise, then eat foods packed with artificial chemicals, and they get fat. Then the media (including "news") tells them to eat "fat free" foods containing less nutrition and more manufactured crap. Who's the lab rat now? -- PhlIp

In Good Omens by TerryPratchett and NeilGaiman, the four horsemen of the apocalypse are all on earth. Famine is working as a diet consultant for a major women's lifestyle mag. He is also marketing a type of food which has no calories and no nutritional value. A follow-up product consists of the same thing with added sugar and fat.

Sorry to sound like a health freak, but how much fruit would we consume if there were no sugar or sweeteners? And would we ever lack trace elements if we didn't fool our bodies with refined salt, containing nothing but sodium chloride, a substance naturally associated with manganese, potassium and a host of other trace elements. The vast majority of nutritional deficiencies have been caused by experts mucking around with food - white bread and rice, the "scientific diets" of farm animals that largely created the problem of saturated fat etc. Could the problem be that we consume lots of things that taste nutritious but aren't? Is the answer really synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements, reduced fat/sugar/carbohydrate fast food and "nutraceuticals"? Just a personal opinion. -- Pignut

I can't stand the taste of wholemeal bread. I compensate by having sandwiches with nutritious fillings, or single slices with nutritious spreads. Oh, and one of the breakfast cereals I often eat is made from whole wheat. (Does that mean wholemeal bread would taste okay soaked in milk? I won't try it, due to the sogginess...) [Try "softgrain" bread if you can get it - it tastes and lasts better than other commercially-produced white bread.]

Oh, and table salt doesn't contain nothing but sodium chloride. It often contains sodium iodide too, to combat iodine deficiency.

Incidentally, if you don't have a cholesterol problem then butter is better for you than margarine. I actually prefer the taste of margarine...

Two-bit quacks get busted. International gigabuck corporate quacks get coddled & subsidized.
This NutraSweet thing worries me. I have been drinking lots of Diet Cokes with this junk in it with the misplaced belief that if I am going to drink it anyhow with my low carb diet, I should have as little sugar and calories as possible. That, of course, is not how the Atkins Diet works. NutraSweet is not allowed and there are natural substitutes. Actually, caffeine is not allowed either, but I cheat too much! But the constant health concerns of NutraSweet have always worried me and worry me again after reading this. It's better to have the natural sugar instead of some man-made chemical that who knows what it is really doing, I think.

-- sg

one night i ate quite a few 'diet'/sugar free lollies which contained artificial sweetener, and then had nightmares all night. I'm convinced there's a connection which is rather disturbing. -- cp

Why is NutraSweet not allowed? It's pretty much just protein, which is the main component of the Atkins Diet.

I'd Rx SaintJohnsWort? & GinkgoBiloba?, but they aren't patented or covered by your insurance, so I can't clean up on them. -- PhlIp

Thanks. I already have used both but currently can't use SaintJohnsWort? because it conflicts with something else I take. -- sg

NutraSweet is tasty!

Only once you're acclimated to it. It always tasted nasty to me. I'd rather be fat.
Aspartame? She hardly even knows me!

FascinatingFact?: NutraSweet is passed straight through by your kidneys into your urine. This means if you drink a lot of Diet Coke, your pee probably tastes quite sweet. =)

---===***===--- Phenylalanine is the active element in all of these sweeteners. It is a "hidden" psychoactive amino acid - it tricks your mind into thinking that it has received a blood sugar boost, effectively a hunger suppressant drug. How many other food products do you know that contain the caveat "CONTAINS A SOURCE OF "XXX-POISON-XXX"? Sounds like a legal disclaimer to me. Turns out that the phenylalanine molecules contained in the body are all left-handed. The artificially produced stuff is what is called a "racaemic mixture" that is 50% left-handed & 50% right-handed. Remember Thalidomide? It was the right-handed mirror image molecules that hung around & caused the problems. These inverted molecules cannot be metabolized by the body and cause particular problems for children, a startling number of whom now suffer from a disease called phenylketonuria, which makes them psychotic. Thing that annoys me though is that non-diet drinks contain loads of the stuff & it is impossible to buy lemonade in the UK without it in, only recently can you buy premium tonic water for your gin, without the stuff in. It tastes well crap.

[I think lemonade without it (albeit with sugar) can be bought, or one can just add carbonated water to fruit juice.]

The warning about phenylalanine is to phenylketoneurics, people with a genetic inability to metabolize this amino acid. It is exactly analogous to the warnings that some products "may contain peanuts" to give a head's up to people with severe peanut allergies. If you're worried you might be a phenylketoneuric, don't eat things with phenylalanine. If you're old enough to be worried that you might be a phenylketoneuric, you aren't; it's a genetic disorder that is manageable, but causes serious mental retardation and seriously affects physical development starting shortly after birth if left unmanaged. You'd know.

The most ridiculous objection to NutraSweet that I have personally heard has to do with decomposition into methanol. Even if this were true, the resulting dosage has got to be ridiculously small. IIRC from high school chemistry, LD/50 for methanol is about 30 mL (with 15mL likely to cause blindness). So this is an amount on the order of tens of grams. A can of 'normal' (not diet) cola contains about 40g of sugar, and aspartame+phenylalanine is alleged to be on the order of hundreds of times sweeter (the same way that saccharine is). So the amount of that in a diet cola has got to be on the order of hundreds of milligrams. The amount of methanol that comes out of that is probably on the order of tens of milligrams, i.e. microlitres (I assume methanol is reasonably close to 1.0 in specific gravity).

If diet cola directly contained on average a full millilitre or even ten mL of *ethanol*, no-one would be complaining about the health risks (though in the latter case we wouldn't sell it to minors). In fact, I've seen "rum and coke" pre-packaged in cans. But LD/50 for ethanol is only about ten times higher than the figure I cited above for methanol (so 300 mL; i.e. the amount in a 750mL bottle of hard liquor).

-- KarlKnechtel

Those are among the reasons why rats given doses just a little higher than the equivalent to sweeten a human's food would die of seizures and brain damage...

Oh, big deal. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs. Aspirin is much more toxic to cats than to humans. Ginger ale kills rats. Conversely, sheep can eat large amounts of arsenic with no apparent effect.

I've always found it odd that ClinicalTrialsHaveBeenFoundToCauseCancerInRats. -- JasonNocks

See DihydrogenMonoxide

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