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The Aspartame Controversy: Why are Europeans So Sceptic?

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Aspartame? Why Europeans Love to Hate Aspartame

The whispers are now loud screams around certain parts of Europe. Aspartame, an artificial sweetener, formally sold as NutraSweet or marketed now as AminoSweet /Candarel is dangerous for our health.

Perhaps you are also questioning whether it is safe to consume this artificial sweetener, even in small quantities? Aspartame is widely used in Europe in food, drink and medicinal products (as it is in other countries) and with all its controversy, Aspartame is still widely available on the market. My friends here avoid it, I don’t consume it either. But if you are a diabetic person who needs to avoid sugar or someone trying to lose weight or for other reasons, artificial sweeteners are a potential substitute for real sugar in both food and drinks.

Unfortunately, Aspartame is ‘hidden’ in many food and drinks that are available for the consumer to buy. Some who want to avoid these artificial sweeteners do not even realize they are consuming them. The labeling on foods and medicines in Europe isn’t as regulated as you see in other countries, in particular in the United States.

What is the aspartame controversy?

Aspartame is linked to a variety of symptoms:

almost two-thirds of them fall into the neurological and behavioral category consisting mostly of headaches, mood alterations, and hallucinations. The remaining third is mostly gastrointestinal symptoms. (Dr. Joseph Mercola-see full article here)

Despite the numerous reported complaints about aspartame, this food addictive continues to be produced and added to foods and medicines world-wide. This is because aspartame is big food additive business.

Aspartame is now so widely dispersed in different foods that some people develop aspartame toxicity, which is difficult to diagnosis and mimics symptoms of other diseases. (Dr. Mercola, article here)

Aspartame is code E951 on European food labels

If you read your food and drink labels you can find Aspartame.  It is known as code E951 on European food labels or marketed as Canderel sweetener where I live, in France.  If the food or drink label has E951, this means it is Aspartame. And although you might see Aspartame as Candarel or AminoSweet in other forms (as an artificial sweetener), the chemical composition remains the same.

But what is the controversy with aspartame? Is it safe to consume?

Investigations by the FDA, EFSA and AFSSA have all shown that Aspartame is safe

Previous investigations by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the United States, the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) in Europe and the ANSES (French National Agency for Food, Environment and Work Safety) have all concluded that Aspartame is same for human consumption. This despite public pressure to withdraw Aspartame from the food shelves.

Recently two studies published in 2010 have brought the Aspartame issue back into the spotlight and has put the safety of this synthetic sweetener in question.  The conclusion of these two European studies showed links between 1. Aspartame and premature births 2. Aspartame and liver/lung tumors. It was these two studies that pushed the French to move some pressure on the EFSA to investigate further whether Aspartame is really safe and what the recommended daily levels of Aspartame are acceptable.

The results of these two studies fueled the French to take action

The results of the two studies enticed French Professor Narbonne to refuel the debate on Aspartame.  Professor Narbonne has pushed for Aspartame to be banned in Europe. His views are widely supported in France and in other European countries.  With pressure from Professor Narbonne and the public, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) took earlier action than planned to investigate Aspartame’s health safety.

The EFSA issued a scientific call for data on aspartame through September 30, 2011.  On January 8, 2013, the EFSA “launched a public consultation on its draft scientific opinion on the safety of the artificial sweetener aspartame.”  This means that the EFSA has published, as a draft opinion, their results from a formal review on the safety of Aspartame and have opened these results to the public. “Interested parties and stakeholders” will have the right to comment on this draft opinion. Finally a last opinion will be published after comments from outsiders are made available.

The draft opinion from the EFSA states that current recommended levels of Aspartame are safe

The draft opinion is from a large study review from the expert scientific team at the EFSA. The scientific members of the EFSA “have concluded in this draft opinion that they pose no toxicity concern for consumers at current levels of exposure. The current Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) is considered to be safe for the general population and consumer exposure to aspartame is below this ADI.” There is a set of FAQ’s to read over on Aspartame from the EFSA’s website, which you can read here. 

Note Updated News: On December 10, 2013, EFSA has published its final report on Aspartame and has determined that consumption of this product below recommended levels is considered safe. See press release here.

To read between the lines: EFSA states that Aspartame is safe at current recommended levels to the average consumer.

The key words are average consumer. What about pregnant women, infants, kids and those with fragile health?

If you do a google search, you will find several webpages and websites that discuss the negative health controversy of Aspartame. You must have also heard echos to this effect too.

Aspartame is unique because it gets metabolized in the body. It is excreted as a different chemical than it is ingested. Aspartame changes form and interacts with other metabolic interactions in the human body. It acts almost like a medicine. But as with all medicines, there are side effects, some which are naked to the eye.

My advice, as with any synthetic (unnatural) food, drink or powdered product: Avoid aspartame if possible, or take in moderation.

The best way not to worry about Aspartame?  Do not consume this product.

As with any artificial product, sweetener, additive, color, my policy is to avoid it from your diet. I am convinced that this policy is even more important if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or are a child.  Studies may conclude that this product is safe for human consumption, but Aspartame is not natural. Aspartame is everywhere, in over 6,000 food products in the world.  It is hidden in medicines, drinks, cakes and candies. If you are committed to avoiding artificial sweeteners, colors, and additives then you must become an expert on reading labels. By using the philosophy on eating  as close to the earth as possible we all make great strides in our health and the environment.  Do you think your health is worth it?  Of course.

Just a side note about Wikipedia in English and French concerning aspartame.  If you read Wikipedia’s article on aspartame in English there is no information on the studies published in 2010 on the possible dangers of aspartame.  If you read Wikipedia in French, the studies are there.  There is a website called DORway that claims they tried to add a comment or update Wikipedia’s page in English to reflect the new information about Aspartame’s controversy and they were not allowed by Wikipedia to put this information in. Interesting….

What are your thoughts on Aspartame and the other sweeteners available, such as Stevia?

If you have a story to tell about aspartame, please share it with us. Or if you have reached the end and would like to see more of these types of articles, please subscribe to our monthly newsletter. You will receive updates on new articles can download your free E-report on “How to Eat Like the French without a Food Snob Attitude.”

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