The Unnatural Sweetener

Artificial Sweetener Packet Tablecloth

A disturbing aspect of childhood obesity is that, in an attempt to avoid it, children are ingesting large amounts of aspartame (marketed as Equal, NutraSweet, Canderel, Equal-Measure, Spoonful, Benevia, etc.) and other sweeteners that have really bad health consequences. One of the most vocal critics of aspartame, Dr. Joseph Mercola, certainly has a way of grabbing a reader’s attention right from the get-go. Check this out:

Aspartame is the most controversial food additive in history, and its approval for use in food was the most contested in FDA history. In the end, the artificial sweetener was approved, not on scientific grounds, but rather because of strong political and financial pressure. After all, aspartame was previously listed by the Pentagon as a biochemical warfare agent!

Following up on Mercola’s assertion that more than 6,000 food products contain aspartame, we found a comprehensive yet partial list of some of them, any one of which might be in your kitchen cabinet or your child’s tummy at this very moment. A bit more Google action reveals that other things contain aspartame too, including pediatric pharmaceuticals (in other words, medicine made specifically for children) and, oh, by the way, drinking water.

We learn from this article that more reports have been made to the Food and Drug Administration regarding aspartame than for all other food additives combined. That’s impressive! But it gets worse. As the author explains, the FDA estimates that only 1% of the humans who have a bad reaction to a product ever report it to them. So, multiply the known number of complaints by 100, and you get a million Americans who have already suffered in some way from adding aspartame to their diet.

What kind of complaints do the affected people make? They speak of migraine headaches, gastrointestinal (digestion) problems, mood swings, depression, hallucinations, and convulsions. Most of the documented side effects of aspartame are neurological in nature. There’s some pretty good research indicating that the stuff causes brain cell death, brain tumors, and other kinds of cancer. (The brilliant comic Gilda Radner died regretting that she had touched artificial sweeteners.)

In the body, aspartame messes up amino acid metabolism, nucleic acids integrity, the metabolism and structure of protein, and the function of neurons. Plus, it breaks down into formaldehyde and methanol. Yum!

Another separate category of damage is done because aspartame toxicity cleverly mimics the symptoms of very serious conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, arthritis, lupus and lymphoma — to name just a few — but Dr. Mercola lists a whole slew of them. So patients, doctors, and insurance companies can burn through an obscene amount of time, money, and anxiety, trying to figure out exactly what’s going on with the patient’s health.

Dr. Mercola goes on to explain exactly how “diet” foods and beverages do not really help with weight loss but actually can cause weight gain and obesity. Aspartame is neither natural nor harmless, he says, and he characterizes its marketing as deceptive. It’s been “wreaking silent havoc with people’s health for the past 30 years,” according to Dr. Mercola, and selling it never should have been permitted in the first place.

Not surprisingly, aspartame is manufactured by the same outfit, Ajinomoto, that makes monosodium glutamate (MSG), which has been rebranded as “umami,” and now we’re supposed to feel better about it. In the same spirit of misdirection, Ajinomoto is now calling aspartame AminoSweet. When you have a spare afternoon, Google the terms “Ajinomoto + evil” for some surprising results.

Dr. Mercola writes,

I am absolutely convinced that fructose ingestion is at the core of our obesity epidemic.

After dissing aspartame, he goes even farther and warns against all fructose, no matter whether it’s natural or not. He says stuff we think of as “safe,” such as honey, fruit juice, and agave contains an even a higher percentage of fructose than HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) does, and that is indeed frightening. No matter how organic, fresh, or raw the source of the fructose may be, this doctor insists that fructose intake must be kept below 25 grams a day. Period.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “America’s Deadliest Sweetener Betrays Millions, Then Hoodwinks You With Name Change,” The HuffingtonPost, 07/06/10
Source: “Surprising Foods Containing Aspartame,”, 09/08/09
Image by Bekathwia (Becky Stern), used under its Creative Commons license.

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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