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Alarming Side Effects Of Artificial Sweeteners

1121 words - 4 pages

Alarming Side Effects of Artificial Sweeteners

NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure are all brand names for aspartame, a low calorie sugar substitute used in more than 90 countries to sweeten foods and beverages. Aspartame is a synthetic chemical that is created through the combination of the amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid, and a small amount of methanol. Aspartame can be found in several products, such as soft drinks, over-the counter drugs, vitamin and herb supplements, instant breakfasts, candy, breath mints, cereals, sugar-free chewing gum, coffee, juice, and tea beverages, tabletop sweeteners, and gelatin desserts. This product may have seemed like a dream come true when it was first invented in 1981 because its use can substantially lower the number of calories in food and beverage products by substituting the place of sugar. Despite its desirable qualities, the use of aspartame has been controversial since its creation due to its negative side effects that have been linked to the use of the chemically produced sugar.

Due to the ever increasing use of aspartame, researchers have discovered that aspartame has been closely associated with the function of the brain. In the human brain, there is a blood-brain barrier that acts as a system of specialized capillary structures that are designed to prevent toxic substances from entering the brain. Prior to birth and during the first 12 months of life, the blood-brain barrier is incomplete. The protective enzymes in a baby’s brain are still immature, and therefore are unable to effectively detoxify the excitotoxins, toxins that bind to certain receptors and may cause neuronal cell death when they enter the brain. This would mean that in the case of pregnant woman eating meals high in excitotoxins, such as MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and aspartame, will cause the fetus to be exposed to high glutamate levels for many hours. Since aspartame consists of phenylalanine and aspartic acid, it could be easily exposed to the brain. Fetal phenylalanine has the potential to reach levels that kills cells in tissue culture. Experimentally, it has been determined that infants are four times more sensitive to excitotoxins than adults. Plasticity of the brain is important in the learning process. Even when the baby is in the womb, the brain of the infant is being stimulated by sounds, touch, and even light causing changes in the brain's structure in important ways. All of this stimulation causes the pathways in the brain to change and develop. This process of molding the brain continues throughout life, but the majority of growth takes place within the first seven years of life. During these critical years, if unborn and young children are fed drinks or food containing aspartame, over-stimulation can occur. The overall consumption of aspartame by pregnant women and young children can be harmful to the function of the brain.

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