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Does Diet Coke Kill

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Essay title: Does Diet Coke Kill

have used aspartame for years. I've also wholeheartedly recommended products containing NutraSweet to my clients, as well as promoting its use in recipes. So, when I was recently contacted by a sports nutrition company to do some consulting work on the health risks associated with aspartame ingestion, was understandably reluctant to accept the assignment. I questioned their marketing director, What if I don't think there are any significant health risks associated with aspartame?" His response was to send me a couple of scientific publications. "Just read the articles. If, in your medical opinion, aspartame poses no health risks, then we won't pursue it further."

The next day I sat down with a pile of literature two inches thick. After making it through the first 10 pages, I stormed into my kitchen and fed every item of food containing aspartame to the garbage. Since that time, I have not had so much as a stick of aspartame sweetened gum.

Sweet Beginnings

Scientifically known as 1-aspartyl 1-phenylalanine methyl ester, consumers recognize aspartame in the forms of Equal, NutraSweet and Spoonful. Aspartame has three components: phenylalanine (50 percent), aspartic acid (40 percent) and methanol, also termed wood alcohol (10 percent). Those in support of this popular artificial sweetener, state that the two primary amino acids, which comprise 90 percent of aspartame by weight, are a harmless and natural part of our diet. They insist that aspartic acid is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter, which is present in the human central nervous system. This is only a partial truth.

Phenylalanine and aspartic acid are amino acids that are normally supplied by the foods we eat; however, they can only be considered natural and harmless when consumed in combination with other amino acids. On their own, they enter the central nervous system in abnormally high concentrations, causing aberrant neuronal firing and potential cell death. The neurotoxic

effects of these amino acids, when consumed as isolates, can be linked to headaches, mental confusion, balance problems and possibly seizures.

The damage caused by excitotoxin food additives is not usually dramatic. In most instances, the effects are subtle, cumulative and develop over a prolonged period of time.

Excitotoxins have also been shown to stimulate the generation of free radicals (charged oxygen molecules with an unpaired electron). These can have a negative impact on tissues and organs outside the central nervous system. Evidence indicates that free radical production accelerates many degenerative illnesses such as atherosclerosis, cancer, coronary artery disease and arthritis. It comes as no surprise that joint pain is a major complaint among aspartame reactors (individuals who have reported adverse reactions).

Potentially more worrisome is the 10 percent of aspartame that is absorbed into the bloodstream as methanol (wood alcohol). The Environmental Protection Agency defines safe consumption as no more than 7.8 milligrams per day of this dangerous substance. A one-liter beverage, sweetened with aspartame, contains about 56 milligrams of wood alcohol, or eight times the

EPA limit!

Aspartame's breakdown products, or metabolites, are even scarier than its components. Phenylalanine decomposes into diketopiperazine (DKP) a known carcinogen, when exposed to warm temperatures or prolonged storage. Even if products are consistently kept at cooler temperatures we are not safe. At cold temperatures, methanol will spontaneously give rise to a colorless toxin known as formaldehyde. Independent studies have shown formaldehyde formation, resulting from aspartame ingestion, to be extremely common. It accumulates within the cells, and reacts with cellular proteins such as enzymes and DNA. This cumulative reaction could spell grave consequences for those who consume aspartame-laden diet drinks and foods on a daily basis.

Are We All at Risk?

The blood-brain barrier is a system of specialized capillary structures that are designed to prevent toxic substances from entering the brain. There are a number of medical conditions from diabetes, hypertension and smoking, to simple aging which can render the blood-brain barrier incompetent. Therefore, aspartame reactions have a tendency to be magnified

among individuals who fit these profiles.

Prior to birth and during the first 12 months of life, the blood-brain barrier is incomplete; thereby allowing dangerous excitotoxins, such as aspartic acid and phenylalanine, free access to the nervous system. Additionally, the concentrating effects of the placenta

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