BY PAM ROTELLA

 Aspartame (often called Nutrasweet) is a controversial food additive used to sweeten "diet" products artificially. The product has a long history of causing severe health problems. Along with MSG (monosodium glutamate) and MSG-like food additives, aspartame is in a class of compounds known as "excitotoxins". These excitotoxins basically excite brain cells until they die. In other words, each serving of MSG or aspartame has the potential to cause a little bit of brain damage, which becomes cumulative and could eventually lead to Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's, or other neurological diseases.



Aspartame is especially controversial, as laboratory tests BEFORE it was approved showed that it caused brain lesions, cancer, death, and a number of other serious health problems. The substance was originally rejected by the FDA, but later Donald Rumsfeld (the current Secretary of Defense) went to work for Searle with the goal of having aspartame approved. Since its approval, brain cancer rates have risen, although a portion of those cases may be due to the explosion of cell phone usage at around the same time. Aspartame is the substance the FDA receives most complaints about, with a range of known side effects including birth defects, cancer, and death. I was appalled one day while listening to an NPR radio talk show host, an MD, tell a pregnant woman that it was OK to drink aspartame. This was after her family doctor had told her to avoid aspartame/Nutrasweet while pregnant. He mentioned that a lot of internet web sites claimed aspartame was bad, but that he didn't "think" there were any problems.

For those who think that aspartame, MSG, and other excitotoxins are only exposed on the internet by conspiracy theorists, I recommend a book by a respected neurosurgeon: Excitotoxins; The Taste that Kills by Russell Blaylock, MD. Blaylock's book is excellent, not only explaining basic brain physiology and how excitotoxins destroy brain cells, but also how one can protect oneself from some of the damage by excitotoxins. He also informs the reader of "code words" manufacturers use on food labels that really mean MSG or MSG-like compounds.

For those just wanting a free internet site, a good start is dorway.com -- a site with numerous documents and referrals to other sites. Dorway also covers safer alternatives like the Peruvian herb stevia.

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