(NOTE: This is the actual text I sent to INVESTIGATE magazine in New Zealand in August 2007. The final panel item referring to the interest of the NZ Security Intelligence Service in Betty Martini was omitted from the INVESTIGATE story. In my 50 years of experience, few publications ever permit a story of this length to be used, which of course makes it rather difficult to give proper coverage in one hit to a story as convoluted as aspartames. So Ian Wishart deserves to be complimented for his courage in airing the issue.)
Dying for a Diet Coke? (Part One)
By Chris Wheeler
" ... I am a Pediatrician, a Professor of Pediatrics at Emory, and have spent 25 years in the biomedical science, trying to prevent mental retardation and birth defects caused by excess phenylalanine.. . . . . .I have considerable concern for the increased dissemination and consumption of the sweetener, aspartame, (1-methylN-L-a-aspartyl-L- phenylalanine) in our world food supply. This artificial dipeptide is hydrolyzed by the intestinal tract to produce L-phenylalanine which in excess is a known neurotoxin. Normal humans do not metabolize phenylalanine as efficiently as do lower species
such as rodents and thus most of the previous studies in Aspartame effects on rats are irrelevant to the question, 'Does phenylalanine excess occur with Aspartame ingestion?'" - Statement by Louis J. Elsas, II, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics, before the USA Senate Committee of Labor and Human Resources on the subject "Nutrasweet: Health and safety concerns", November 3, 1987.
Professor Elsas blew the warning whistle on that popular diet sweetener, aspartame or Additive 951, some 20 years ago now. As he stressed at the time, the rat studies which were used to prove aspartames safety are inappropriate because human beings are not rats, a point which New Zealand and Australian food safety regulators, toxicologists, doctors and politicians still refuse to recognise. We, in possession of a bit more elementary commonsense, may choose to differ on the point of whether we are all being treated as the real laboratory rats by the time the sad but also absurd - tale of aspartame is finally spelled out in these pages.
Rats are, of course, the basis of food safety science. We can't afford to kill human beings in the course of supporting food industry profiteering. We use the poor rats and dogs, cats, rabbits and monkeys as part of our sad experiments that have seen some 80,000 toxic chemicals introduced for our convenience over the past 60 years by industry with often the barest attention paid to long-term health outcomes for actual human beings. Rats are in a sense - our surrogate consumer advocates: they die on the Cross of science for our sins and bad science makes sinners of us all.
In the meantime it has often become difficult to find anyone in our immediate circle of friends who is really well, while a familiar pattern has developed of alarming new diseases and disorders developing at earlier and earlier ages alongside endemic infertility, an increased rate of birth defects and children and even babies falling sick with cancer something previously unknown to our forefathers. But so familiar are we with the sea of synthetic
chemicals washing around us we never attribute blame to them, in fact we even add them to our food to enhance flavour, mouth feel, smell, colour and, of course, sweetness the thing we use aspartame for instead of ordinary old sugar or honey.
But what about our children?
Consider for a moment how many cities around New Zealand and Australia are opening new hospitals and setting up increased facilities especially for treating children who in ever-increasing numbers are going down with what used to be relatively rare adult diseases like diabetes, leukaemia, brain tumours and weird new diseases like autism and hyper-activity that turn tiny kids into monsters. Generations who had children before the 1950s would wonder why we so nonchalantly accept the huge toll of chronic disease in
children that now exists, with so little comment and such apparent acceptance of the inevitable.
Meanwhile we carry on feeding ourselves and our children with the thousands of new convenience foods laden with a witchs cauldron of chemical preservatives and additives, convinced by TV advertising and our faith in a vague common social mythology that neither our politicians, our health regulatory bureaucrats nor our complaisant food and beverage industries would deliberately poison us.
Worst of all, many of us are now feeding a new generation of human beings - our babies, our children and our pregnant selves - with a popular synthetic sweetener poison, aspartame/Additive 951 (also known as Nutrasweet, Equal, Spoonful, Benevia, Equal Measure, Canderel, etc), which has been reported in a long series of scientific, peer-reviewed studies as carrying the ability to maim, distort and disable intellectual and physical development from the foetal stage to adolescence. In fact over the 26 years that have passed since aspartame's introduction into the world food chain we are now moving into generations of human beings whose parents and
parent's parents have been continuously exposed from breakfast to dinner-time to aspartame, monosodium glutamate and a baneful assemblage of human nervous system toxins that American neurosurgeon Dr Russell Blaylock has termed excitotoxins, chemical poisons that can over-excite the neural pathways to the point of nerve death. (1)
What is more, while we have finally accepted in our law courts and at a Government level that substances like Agent Orange, lead, and blue asbestos can medically disable particularly where long-term exposures are involved, we seem quite unable to extend that logic to the artificial dietary chemicals that we consume every day, year after year.
Little wonder then, that ill health and classrooms full of medicated children are part of normal, daily life and lunatic murders, road-rage, air-rage, depression and a steady media reportage of odd and irrational behaviour in people of all ages is just put down to modern living.
Unknown to most of us, and apparently ignored by the authorities we trust, aspartame use has been associated in the scientific literature with a huge list of medical and psychological disorders including irrational rage, headaches, numbness, fatigue, blurred vision and blindness, heart palpitations, brain lesions and tumours, memory loss, dizziness, muscle spasms, choking spasms, miscarriages, sexual dysfunction, irritability, anxiety attacks, vertigo, epileptic seizures, rashes, tachycardia, tinnitus, joint pain, nausea, mood alterations and depression, hearing loss, slurred speech, loss of taste, and insomnia, as well as eroding intelligence and short-term memory. It also helps trigger multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, Epstein Barr, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, diabetes,
mental retardation, lymphoma, and birth defects.
Warning to schools
Since current Labour Party policy is recommending the use of diet products containing aspartame in our schools in order to counteract the growing obesity problem in our increasingly sedentary child population, we should pay attention to this recent warning from Professor Ralph G. Walton, M.D., Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, at the USAs Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine:
To whom it may concern:
Although undoubtedly well intentioned, any attempt to replace sugared beverages with aspartame containing diet products will, in my opinion, have a devastating impact on the health of our children and adolescents. The alarming increase in obesity, type II diabetes, and a wide variety of behavioural difficulties in our children is obviously attributable to multiple factors, but I am convinced that one powerful force in accentuating these problems is the ever increasing use of aspartame.
Aspartame is a multipotential toxin and carcinogen. The dipeptide component of the molecule can alter brain chemistry, significantly changing the ratio of catecholamines to indolamines, with resultant lowering of seizure threshold, production of carbohydrate craving and in vulnerable individuals leading to panic, depressive and cognitive symptoms.
The methyl ester component of aspartame is metabolized to methanol,
which in turn is broken down into formic acid and formaldehyde. Methanol can lead to serious eye problems, formic acid and formaldehyde are potent carcinogens.
The diet food industry and the F.D.A. (plus, also, our own NZFSA and FSANZ - ED) are fond of saying that aspartame is "the most studied product in history" with an outstanding safety record. In fact however virtually all of the studies in the medical literature attesting to its safety were funded by the industry, whereas independently funded studies, now numbering close to 100, identify one or more problems.
It would be especially tragic if an attempt to improve the health of our children led to even greater exposure to this highly toxic product.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent public health issue.
Ralph G. Walton, M.D.
Medical Director, Safe Harbor Behavioral Health
Professor of Clinical Psychiatry,
Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine
Adjunct Professor Of Psychiatry
Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
NOTE: Dr. Walton's study on aspartame: "Adverse Reactions to Aspartame: Double-Blind Challenge in Patients from a Vulnerable Population, is viewable on the website
Junk food addicts in Rotorua put a baby through a spin drier. Apart from P, was Diet Coke involved? Aspartame reacts with methamphetamine to produce totally lunatic behaviour. The 2002 Lundy murders down in Palmerston North were committed by a husband and father, Mark Lundy, who slugged back over a litre of aspartame-containing beverages every day before finally murdering his wife and daughter. How many of the truckies and car drivers who regularly lose control of their vehicles on straight New Zealand roads or drive onto level crossings in front of approaching trains were consuming one or more of the aspartame products readily available on petrol stop counters? Airline pilots, using aspartame products to keep down their weight in a sedentary job, report suddenly experiencing dizziness and loss of spatial perception at critical points in landing planes filled with hundreds of the trusting public. Henri Paul, Princess Diana's driver in that
fatal Alma Tunnel car smash in Paris, was a heavy Diet Coke consumer and the medical drugs he was taking not only interact negatively with aspartame, but were prescribed in the first place to deal with symptoms probably caused by aspartame use. Tony Blair, George Bush and Bill Clinton all steadily consume Diet Coke according to the evidence of TV news clips. One could say Monica Lewinsky and the whole Iraqi bloodbath is the result of the Clinton/Bush/Blair addiction to aspartame, a chemical closely connected to irrational behaviour.
Aspartame products like Diet Coke, Wrigleys gum, Lemsip, and Roches
fizzy Vitamin B tabs are so constantly advertised on TV and present in our brainwashed lives that we take them for granted and never for a moment examine the hidden implications behind an additive our experts assure us is completely without blame.
And lets not forget little Abby Cormack down in Wellington at this point. Her addiction to sugar-less Wrigleys chewing gum with its direful health consequences occupied our medias fleeting attention span for a few seconds in recent times. Of course the arrival of American anti-aspartame activist Betty Martini in support of Abby's growing campaign wasn't something our newspapers , particularly the NZ Herald, wanted to know about. The media, of course, cant afford to rile Coca Colas or Wrigleys New Zealand representatives and their law hacks their aspartame products bring in a huge advertising dollar. In fact the one distinguishing feature of the short-lived anti-aspartame campaign last August/July (2007) was just how the New Zealand media steered clear of giving ANY space to the issue of what Kiwis could be doing to their health by making logo diet products containing a junk poison actually extracted from virtual raw sewage (genetically engineered E. coli bacteria are used to produce aspartame ) part of their daily life.
The NZ Womans Weekly, which might be considered supportive of Kiwi women, even thought a story about aspartame hazards directed at women, who are the largest group consuming aspartame products, was somehow inappropriate given that their pages are usually devoted to much more serious issues like Paris Hilton's stint in jail
One shouldn't expect the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) to take much interest in the issue. They refused to let Betty Martini speak (July 19) to their oddly-named Consumer Forum, which is stacked with people happy to act as a rubber stamp for Authority policy - policy which could be summed up under the rubric Anything good for industry is good enough for the NZFSA. Acting CEO Sandra Daly has herself confessed to using aspartame-containing products in firm belief in their virtue and the NZFSA vigorously defend the sweetener, convinced by all the shonky science from food industry junk experts and an American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) loaded down with ex-chemistry industry flakes that aspartame is the best thing since sliced bread. Regulatory authorities worldwide even at the level of United Nations and European Union involvement are hardly any better and seem to have a revolving door relationship with the chemical and food industries. Who else, after all, is going to give chemists and toxicologists the sort of salaries their university educations lead them to expect? Food is just chemicals and People are just chemicals is the popular mythology inherent in a science and medical education these days, so why doubt aspartame, which, when all is said and done, never kills you straight away and is just another chemical?
Since I first became aware of problems being caused by aspartame back in 1990, I've been taken aback by the relaxed attitude of the science and medical community towards the whole chemical food additive and pesticide chemical residue issue as it relates to the human food chain. More alarming still is the manner in which ordinary people can put up with huge physical and mental damage from addiction to aspartame products like Diet Coke without ever questioning the most obvious item(s) in their diet that could be causing the problem.
When I finally got to cross-examine Abby Cormack I was astounded to discover that Wrigleys No Sugar gums were only the tip of the iceberg. Shed been consuming aspartame products for a total of nine years and Wrigleys gum was just the last straw to break the camels back and cause her total collapse into massive depression, muscular dysfunction, skin problems and other chronic symptoms that half a dozen medical specialists and numerous hospital visits could provide no answer to. Simply stopping her daily use of Wrigleys gum produced an immediate initial cure. Now that she has been more than forty days free of ALL aspartame products practically all her medical symptoms have disappeared and Abby has become a leading New Zealand participant in a campaign by the Soil & Health Association, the Safe
Food Campaign and the ADHD Association for a total ban on aspartame.
The whole aspartame issue becomes, in fact, a clear indication of the huge blind-spot we all collectively have towards the things we do every day and somehow it exposes a defect in our nature that even rats and other lower order species dont appear to suffer from.
For unlike us, laboratory rats avoid aspartame wherever possible. In fact when US corporate additive producer G. D. Searle (later Monsanto/Nutrasweet) and Food & Drug Administration (FDA) food additive regulators tried to force-feed the stuff to rats as part of the Mickey Mouse pseudo-science used to validate such additions to our diet worldwide, the rats - being much cleverer than us - carefully isolated the chemical grains of aspartame from the food it was mixed with and left the puzzled "scientists" and "experts" with neat little piles of the poison in the corner of their cages. Rats apparently dont need experts to tell them what is safe. They rely on
We are the laboratory rats!
Without a question of doubt, we are the real rats in the laboratory for a large number of food additive poisons in the food chain, but we are unlikely to be exposed to anything much more virulent and disabling than the scientifically established neurotoxin aspartame, (2) officially known as Additive E951 or 951 and technically defined as L-Aspartyl-l-phenylalanine methyl ester, 98%, aspartame CAS #22839-47-0, C14H18N2O5, which is now present as a sweetener in literally thousands of supermarket food and beverage products, as well as medicines and popular supplements. Patrol the shelves of your local supermarket, health shop and pharmacy and see for yourself. Look at the ingredient lists of your favourite foods and beverages and establish your own personal damage control.
Dont expect much sympathy for your sudden interest in what goes into your food, least of all from our doctors, health authorities and politicians. The only doctor in the whole of Oceania to stick her head over the parapets and condemn aspartame in public is Australian Sandra Cabot, in her Liver Diet book series. And while Sue Dengates Australian food allergy activist group, the Food Intolerance Network (Website: www.fedupwithfoodadditives.info) covers a huge range of food additives and the problems they cause, aspartame only gets a mention among the huge list of other problem-causing chemical additives Sue has to deal with. Jenny Scott of the Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Association in Auckland and our long- standing health and organics campaign association, Soil & Health (publishers of Organic NZ) are similarly stretched. Voluntary organisations simply lack the essential resources to carry out a job we actually employ the NZ Food Safety Authority and Food Standards Australia New Zealand to carry out using our tax dollars.
In a society with citizens more concerned and knowledgeable about food safety, NZFSA and FSANZ wouldnt last longer than the time it took to close down both offices and turn their collective staffs out onto the street. But we all currently seem to accept a vague social mythology that says both organisations are doing their job. Truth is, they are not. They rely solely on suspect data from the food industry and from official regulatory bodies like the FDA and European Union and United Nations food safety quangoes, who defer to experts reliant on industry for employment and funding.
The simple fact is, paid employment defending the publics interest in genuine, ethical food safety does not exist outside the odd Green-type political party as in Europe or New Zealand, where isolated politicians like our own Sue Kedgley are prepared to devote a large slice of their life to coming up to speed with the essential scientific and political background knowledge essential to understanding the nature of a chemical additive like aspartame.
The media, watchful for their industry advertisers, completely ignore the toxin and treat yours truly and the handful of food safety consumer activists like Jenny Scott, Meriel Watts, Alison White, Patricia Holborow and Sue Kedgley (the whole food safety issue is women-led), as obsessives with too much free time on our hands. Its only the small band of phenylketonurics among us who pay attention to the only toxicity warning appearing on aspartame products - "PHENYLKETONURICS: Contains phenylalanine" or simply the term phenylalanine", which means nothing to the rest of us.
Phenylketonurics suffer from an inherited genetic disease known as phenylketonuria (PKU), a severe allergy to phenylalanine. They must be particularly careful about what they eat and normally follow a carefully tailored diet which excludes high protein foods. Their motivation comes from the fact that they can suffer permanent brain damage if exposed to the raw synthetic phenylalanine which comes as part of the complex aspartame molecule. For the rest of us its just another additive and the Government wouldn't allow that sort of thing if it was bad for us.
Well, Governments regularly do some pretty stupid things, and remaining willfully ignorant about something you may be consuming every day which has a long history of fraud, shonky science, corrupt politics and health hazard is certainly not bliss aspartame can kill and death is one of the outcomes underlined in court documents filed as part of major class action litigation against the aspartame-using food industry currently in progress in the USA. (3) About this course of events, however, the Australasian media has so far been completely silent. Its a can of worms no one wants to open in this country where aspartame is in thousands of products and approved by Government edict.
The silence is also very much a phenomenon of our south Pacific isolation. Particularly since release of recent Italian data (4) on aspartame's firm connection with cancer there has been growing involvement of Northern Hemisphere media in discussing the issue. In fact ever since Professor Olney pointed to an increase in brain cancers in November 1996, drawing attention to a rising curve in brain tumours in the USA starting within a year of the introduction of aspartame/additive 951 in 1981, there has been growing concern in the science community over the continued presence of aspartame in popular diet beverages like Diet Coke and in Wrigleys chewing gum and a host of Weightwatchers, fitness, health and diet products (read
food and beverage labels for 951, artificial sweetener and/or Phenylalanine warnings).
This concern reached critical mass recently with the publication in peer- reviewed medical journals of two intensive studies by the Italian Ramazzini Foundation, in 2005 and 2007 (4), that demonstrated a clear connection between aspartame consumption and a variety of cancers including brain tumours something that the very first research on aspartame in the 1970s indicated before aspartame approval became a political issue pushed through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by the Ronald Reagan White House administration in payment for election campaign funding and support from the chemical industry (G.D.Searle and Monsanto in particular).
Of course in the normal, commonsense world where we, the ordinary public live, we should be able to say Well, if theres a problem over aspartames level of toxicity and other issues of potential hazard, we don't want it in the food chain! This is the sensible response. What nearly everyone in New Zealand and certainly in NZFSAs ironically-named Consumer Forum - doesn't know, however, is how heavily politicised the whole issue of the original approval process for aspartame was under FDA governance by that intellectual giant, US President Ronnie Reagan.
The politics behind aspartames approval
Of course the main reason aspartame is approved in New Zealand is because aspartame is approved in the United States. Aspartame is a heavily politicised issue because it is a major American corporate profit base worth billions of dollars and, as every New Zealand adult should know by now, we usually bend over backwards to please Uncle Sam. We may pretend to be anti-nuclear, but even George Bush knows that's a snow job kept in circulation to fox the natives. The USA maintains a major US National Security Agency spy base down at Black Birch Stream near Blenheim and US Central Intelligence Agency planes involved in renditioning suspected terrorists to torture chambers in North Africa and Afghanistan have been spotted flying in and out of the US Deep Freeze programmes Harewood, Christchurch air base. Sucking up to the USA is good politics. Monsanto and the corporate chemical industry have helped put every American president in power since the 2nd World War and good relations with the USA means keeping American corporates happy and ensuring their products pass through our regulatory process virtually automatically providing they have
the FDA stamp of approval. In that respect NZFSAs present acting CEO, Sandra Daly is kept completely in the dark. Shes in business to do what shes told. FSANZ is in the same position.
The immediate former US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, is a central player in the aspartame approval drama, funnily enough, and the full story of what happened is like an episode out of The Sopranos, but Ill try to keep it brief.
The scene opens on January 10, l977. FDA Chief legal Counsel Richard Merrill has been considering the huge list of violations of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, committed by G. D. Searle under the administration of former Ford White House Chief of Staff, Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld has been trying to get his pet project, the super-sweet chemical aspartame, through the FDA's approval process for a new food product. Approval of the product is worth billions of dollars to Searle and a huge bonus for Rumsfeld. The problem is, the FDA's scientific team consider the sweetener is a dangerous poison with the potential to kill. Not only this, but they have amassed a pile of evidence that Searle, with Rumsfeld's obvious approval, have gone through vital laboratory test reports on aspartame safety, eliminating evidence that the product maimed, disabled and killed test animals.
All the evidence for Searle malpractice has been assembled by the FDA's Jerome Bressler into an important document now known as the Bressler Report - that anyone can read (its on the official Federal record and available on
the safety of (aspartame)." The legal machinery creaks into action, but the whole process is hampered by the fact that the corporate chemical industry pretty effectively controls Washington.
In the meantime its suddenly January 21, 1981, the day after Ronald Reagan, a former B-grade Hollywood actor takes office as U.S. President. Hes sailed into the White House on a huge raft of election funding from corporate America and G. D. Searle in particular and the word is out that he will not forget his friends. Donald Rumsfeld is still G.D. Searle's president and a firm Reagan favourite. Rumsfeld has been greasing Republican palms all round Washington for the past few years and telling the Searle sales force "he would call in all his markers and that no matter what, he would see to it that aspartame would be approved that year." (5)
That same day G.D.Searle reapply to the FDA for the approval of aspartame despite the fact that up-to-date this approval has been denied pending the prosecution of the company. No problem. Reagan and Rumsfeld already have a staunch Republican hack ready for the job as new FDA Commissioner - Arthur Hayes, who in short order overrules the FDAs own board of inquiry who have refused to approve aspartame and gives the product the FDAs stamp of approval.
Its well-known in Washington circles, however, that aspartame is not just any old political FDA approval, but is, in fact, a general signal to corporate America that Reagan means business and Big Business at that. The signal in particular, tells Big Business that from now on all the brakes are off, tricky regulations about silly things like public health and safety are gone for good and Lets get together and make money, boys!
Arthur Hayes is quickly bored by his job at the FDA, at any rate, and before too long goes off to work for notorious PR flack firm Burson-Marsteller, who just coincidentally, you understand, happen to be retained by G.D. Searle! At about the same time, Federal attorney Sam Skinner remember, he's the one who's been assigned to prosecute Searle for fraudulent tests in their original aspartame application? - gets an offer he cant refuse from Guess who! - Searle's lawyers! - and goes off to work for them for a reputed $US1,000 per day, effectively sabotaging the whole Federal case and, of course, effectively ending any litigation threat against Searle for its deliberately falsified aspartame data.
The whole debauched exercise is the start of a long-standing criticism of US federal authorities and the FDA in particular - that they have a "revolving door" relationship with G.D. Searle, Monsanto and the chemical industry in general. And, of course, as far as NZFSA and FSANZ is concerned this whole shoddy exercise just never happened. But it did, and its recorded in US Senate records. (5)
FSANZ denies toxicity
Aspartame, as we have seen, is fully approved as part of our food chain by the combined regulatory agency, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and our own NZFSA. FSANZ was formerly known under the rubric of ANZFA (Australia New Zealand Food Authority), but changed its name, according to popular Internet myth, because when you do a spell-check the suggested correction for ANZFA is always "unsafe"!
Unsafe is certainly the least of the criticisms one might make about Additive 951/aspartame. The synthetic sweetener rapidly breaks down in the human body into three chemicals hazardous to human health: - (1.) Aspartic acid, (around 40%); (2.) Phenylalanine, (around 50%); and (3.) Methanol (10%).
This breakdown process takes place spontaneously at a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius and happens immediately a diet product enters the human body (we operate normally at a temperature of 37 degrees). Hence a can of Diet Coke exposed in those bins outside a service station on a hot day a common sight anywhere in New Zealand and Australia will already be laced with a cocktail of dangerous toxins as will any diabetic bakery and Weight Watchers product containing aspartame which has been heated in its processing. Any analytic laboratory can prove this point for you for a cost of less than $100.
The science behind methanol or wood alcohol toxicity is beyond debate. Its something you learn about early in a chemistry training because its in every laboratory and is similar in some of its effects to ethanol, the ordinary drinking alcohol in all booze of whatever description. Easy access to methanol is a standing temptation at medical school and chemistry class parties, but it can blind you. Too much ethanol will normally only cause vomiting and loss of consciousness. Methanol is another story its quickly absorbed through the stomach and small intestine mucosa and converted into formaldehyde, a severe poison and carcinogen. Then, via a process called aldehyde hydrogenase, it is converted to formic acid. These two metabolites of methanol are toxic and cumulative. They can make you go blind and they can quickly kill you which they do, often.
END PART ONE