A Natural Sweetener That’s Also Calorie-Free

This is a Tale of Two Sweeteners, full of sound and fury, signifying
that the FDA has sold you and your kids to the drug companies again, and you
are unwitting receptacles of a sweetener that has obvious toxicity. The FDA
has blocked the use of a natural sweetener that is totally safe.

If you drink diet sodas or add Equal or NutraSweet to your coffee,
listen up. These sweeteners contain aspartame, which was first approved by
the FDA in 1974. That approval was rescinded because of two studies showing
that the substance caused brain tumors in laboratory animals.

These studies were never refuted, and the additive was approved
in spite of these studies, in 1981, and for soft drinks in 1983. According
to National Cancer Institute data, there was an alarming jump in the incidence
of brain tumors in 1983 – 1987. The estimated annual percent change (EAPC)
rose from 2.1% to 8.1% in males, and from 2.1% to 11.7% in females. This could
be related to the consumption of aspartame-sweetened products.

Aspartame has both potential and real toxicities. My associate
editor, Jane Heimlich, wrote about the effects of aspartame in the January
1993 Health & Healing, and I have suggested alternative natural sweeteners
such as Sucanat and honey.

However, there is a natural, non-caloric sweetener that is totally
safe – stevia.

Try a Natural, Non-Toxic, Calorie-Free Sweetener

Stevia is an herb that has been used as a sweetener in South
America for hundreds of years. It is calorie – free, and the powdered concentrate
is 300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia is widely used all over the world.
In Japan, for example, it claims 41% of the sweetener market, including sugar,
and was used in Japanese Diet Coke until the company replaced it with aspartame
to “standardize” worldwide. There have not been any reports of toxicity with
stevia, which is consumed by millions of people daily.

The Scary Truth About Aspartame

Not so with aspartame sweeteners, such as NutraSweet and Equal.
As of February 1994, 6,888 cases of adverse reactions had been reported to
the FDA. In fact, more than 75% of all non-drug complaints to the FDA are
about aspartame. These complaints include headaches, dizziness, mood changed,
numbness, vomiting or nausea, muscle cramps and spasms, and abdominal pain
and cramps. There are also sizable numbers reporting vision changed, joint
pains, skin lesions, memory loss, and seizures. Five deaths were reported
to the FDA prior to 1987 as possibly attributed to aspartame. This is only
a small fraction of the actual adverse reactions caused by aspartame. Most
people would not associate the problem with it, and even if they did, only
a small fraction of people or doctors would take the time to report it to
the FDA. I estimate that for every reported adverse reaction, 10 to 100 go
unrecognized or unreported, which would bring the number to 70,000 to 700,000

Ralph G. Walton, M.D., Chairman of the Center of Behavioral
Medicine of the Western Reserve Care System, has published accounts of how
the excitatory characteristics of aspartame could lower the threshold for
and even cause seizures, mania, depression, or other psychological or central
nervous system disorders. In one study, he demonstrated that people with a
history of mood disorders had a significantly higher number of adverse reactions
to aspartame than those with no such history. He estimated that considering
everything that the substance could do, about 35% of the population is vulnerable
to an adverse reaction to aspartame.

Even though many of these reports are anecdotal, they are quite
credible, given the chemistry of aspartame. Brain/mood symptoms brought on
by aspartame could easily be caused by the changes in brain chemistry triggered
by elevated phenylalanine.

There have been numerous studies showing aspartame’s safety.
My complaint with these is that the studies used aspartame capsules rather
than the commonly used form of aspartame mixed and stored in food.

“Wood Alcohol” in Your Food

Even more significant, perhaps, is the role of methanol or methyl
alcohol (also called “wood alcohol”), which makes up 10% of aspartame. The
methanol is further broken down into formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), formic
acid (a poison excreted by ants) and diketopiperazine (DKP, which causes brain
tumors). Absorption of methanol is hastened if aspartame has broken down,
as it does when it is heated, used in hot drinks or decomposed during prolonged
storage. In Israel, people are warned not to consume large quantities of aspartame,
and not to store products containing it in the heat. Incredibly, the FDA recently
approved aspartame for baked goods!

Methanol is specifically toxic to the optic nerve, and caused
blindness in people who drank “bootlegged” whiskey that contained it. The
poisoning effects of taking methanol are cumulative.

A pilot, George E. Leighton, experienced such sever blurred
vision while flying that he couldn’t even read the instrument panel and barely
averted a crash landing. This occurred two hours after he inadvertently drank
two cups of aspartame-sweetened hot chocolate. He has consumed no aspartame
since, nor has he had any blurred vision. Other pilots had seizures which
they are convinced were caused by aspartame, and have lost their licenses
as a result.

How Stevia Got Stonewalled by the FDA

Stevia, on the other had, is not only non-toxic, but has several
traditional medicinal uses. The Indian tribes of South America have used it
as a digestive aid, and have also applied it topically for years to help wound-healing.
Recent clinical studies have shown it can increase glucose tolerance and decrease
blood sugar levels.

Of the two sweeteners, stevia wins hands down for safety. Yet
your children guzzle excitatory chemicals laced with methanol.

Stevia gained popularity in this country in the 1980’s as a
safe sweetener. Celestial Seasonings, one of the world’s largest herbal tea
companies, used it as a flavoring in many of the teas. In 1986, without warning,
the FDA came into their warehouse and seized their stock of stevia. No reason
was given for seizure; the company was simply told they could not use it in
the teas.

In 1991 the FDA banned stevia, claiming that it was an “unsafe
food additive,” even though it is available in many other countries. The obvious
reason for the seizure and the ban on stevia was to prevent it from competing
with aspartame.

Let’s Fight for a Safer Non-Calorie Sweetener

The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) has petitioned
the FDA to lift the ban on stevia, based on the fact that stevia is not a
food additive, but a food with a long record of safety. The FDA has yet to
act on this petition.

Write to the FDA Commissioner Fishers Lane, Rockville,
MD 20857) and ask why stevia, a food product with hundreds of years of safe
consumption, is banned in this country but nowhere else. Demand that he lift
the ban on stevia, and ban aspartame instead.

Send a copy of that letter to your local newspaper and to me
(at Healthy Directions, Customer Service – Stevia, 7811 Montrose Road, Potomac,
MD 20854) so that Kessler will not be able to say that he doesn’t get his

For more information on aspartame, or to report an adverse reaction,
send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the:

Aspartame Consumer Safety
Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 780634
Dallas, TX 75378


Frankly, I don’t let aspartame into my house – children live
there. If you do drink or eat products that contain aspartame, by all means
avoid the heated ones, and that includes adding Equal to a hot drink. And
never drink large quantities of aspartame, as you might with iced tea on a
hot day.

FDA Disclaimer:
The statements in this article have not been evaluated by the FDA. The
products mentioned herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent
any disease. For medical advice, always consult your health care professional.

from Dr. Julian Whitaker’s
Health & Healing®, December 1994, Vol. 4, No 12

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Written by Julian Whitaker MD

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