The Soil & Health Association is calling for open and independent research into how widespread the effects of the artificial sweetener aspartame are on the health and well-being of New Zealanders, following last week's admission by the Ministry of Health that there were links to adverse effects.
Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning attended the Parliamentary Health Select Committee where Ministry of Health team leader and senior advisor for nutrition, Elizabeth Aitken, stated that there was clearly an association between aspartame and health symptoms, however considered that it should be investigated at the level of individuals with their medical practitioners.
"This is a woefully inadequate situation that leaves individuals to determine the cause of their distressing symptoms by chance. Many medical practitioners are poorly informed about the symptoms of aspartame poisoning, with the strong possibility that some severe cases are misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis (MS) or that aspartame was even the cause of MS," said Mr Browning.
Professor Woodrow Monte, PhD RD, retired from Arizona State University, presented at the Select Committee in support of Wellingtonian Abby Cormack who experienced a dramatic reversal of distressing health symptoms by removing aspartame-containing diet Coke and Wrigley's gum from her diet.
"Ms Cormack's experience of bouncing between practitioners who did not identify the cause of her distress, and Dr Monte's presentation potentially connecting aspartame with MS, neural tube birth defect and breast cancer, shows the need for urgent Ministry of Health intervention."
"At the select committee, New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) toxicologist John Reeves also acknowledged an apparent association between aspartame and adverse health symptoms, yet NZFSA fudge the need for concern due to their not accepting a direct link."
"NZFSA also mischievously implied that the formaldehyde produced in the body by aspartame consumption was excreted ahead of causing damage. Soil & Health finds the evidence of Dr Monte more compelling."
"Robust and independent research needs to happen in New Zealand on the effects of aspartame on public health. Overseas research that NZFSA and subsequently the Ministry of Health rely on has a strong industry base. This is an industry that enjoys huge cost benefit from using artificial sweeteners, which are much cheaper than sugar."
"With increasing pressure against the unnatural and dangerous sweetener, the Coca-Cola Company is meanwhile using direct mail marketing and magazine advertising in a 'make every drop matter' campaign that includes New Zealand Food Safety Authority's support for the controversial sweetener. Diet and sugar-free products often contain the neurotoxin aspartame."
"Every drop does matter, and the sooner any drop containing aspartame is removed from New Zealand schools and diets, the better," said Mr Browning.
"Following agreement with the government, Coca-Cola no longer sells sugar sweetened fizzy drinks at primary schools, but unfortunately the government has continued to allow Coca-Cola to still sell the more dangerous aspartame-containing drinks."
"Aspartame consumption has been linked to many health symptoms, including those expressed as ADHD, anxiety, depression, irritability, confusion, memory loss, insomnia, dizziness, migraines, cramps, abdominal pain, numbness or tingling of extremities, rashes, chronic fatigue, and personality changes. These same symptoms are increasingly expressed among our young people, and removal of aspartame may assist with a marked improvement in quality of life for some, their families and teachers."
"With significant diseases such as multiple sclerosis and cancer also implicated, precaution is best exercised by removal of aspartame products, with parallel studies being undertaken to determine the severity of aspartame's effects on our community's health, starting with robust medical research including neurological specialists and their patients dietary habits, coupled with a survey of doctors experiences and understanding."
"While some doctors warn their patients away from artificial sweeteners, this is not recorded nationally and many doctors are not aware of the risks."
"Should sugar be undesirable, Soil & Health recommends natural alternatives such as stevia, rather than the neurotoxic, carcinogenic, synthetic sweeteners such as aspartame."
"Soil & Health has a motto of Healthy Soil, Healthy Food, Healthy People, and promotes a diet free from synthetic additives."
NOTE: Aspartame (951, Equal, Nutrasweet) is an artificial sweetener found in over 6000 products including diet drinks, sugar-free products, dietary supplements, sports drinks and medications.