cola can

ASPARTAME

Is There Poison in That Can?

    Two-hundred fifty miles off the east coast of the United States, 35,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, the early afternoon weather is clear and a jetstream tailwind speeds Transglobal Airlines Flight 901* toward New York's Kennedy International Airport. In the cockpit of 901 the captain straps on his oxygen mask as per FAA regulations because the co-pilot has left the right seat to tend to a biological need. Just before the pilot straps on the mask, however, he takes a large gulp from an aluminum can, finishing off a diet soda--the only thing he has put in his stomach since breakfast.

    "Kennedy approach, TransGlobal Flight 901" says the Captain as he contacts Kennedy's Air Route Traffic Control Center.

    "TransGlobal 901, Kennedy approach, go ahead," the controller responds.

    "Kennedy, 901 inbound, flight level three-five-zero," the pilot replies, "two-five-zero miles east, request approach instructions."

    "901, Kennedy. Squawk three-two-zero-one."

    "901, roger," responds the pilot as he switches his transponder to the designated numbers.

    A few minutes pass, then, "901, Kennedy" the controller calls.

    No response.

    "901, Kennedy."

    Again, no reply.

    "TransGlobal 901, this is Kennedy approach, we have you on a descending right turn passing through flight level two-seven-zero. Climb and maintain three-five-zero, heading two-five-five degrees until further instructed."

    No response.

    "901, this is Kennedy approach. Come in."

    Nothing.

    "901, Kennedy we have you descending through flight level two-zero-zero at 4,000 feet per minute. Correct, climb and maintain three-five-zero."

    Further silence is followed by several more attempts by the controller to contact the airliner. Then:

    "Any aircraft in the vicinity of TransGlobal 901, this is Kennedy approach, we have lost 901 from transponder and ground radar. Please advise if you have radar contact or a visual on 901."


    In this fictional scenario, the pilot consumes, on an empty stomach, a diet soda containing the artificial sweetener aspartame, [a.k.a. NutraSweet, Equal, et al]. Shortly thereafter, the captain experiences a grand mal seizure, a kind of brain electrical short-circuiting, rendering him unconscious and causing the aircraft to descend into the Atlantic Ocean.

    Highly unlikely? Even ridiculous? Perhaps, but not as much so as one might think. Even calling the story "fictional" may not be entirely accurate. On September 8, 1994, US Air Flight 427, a Boeing 737-300, crashed while maneuvering to land at Pittsburgh International Airport. All 132 persons on board were killed.

    The Associated Press (AP) reported that Flight 427's cockpit voice recorder indicates "the flight was routine until the final seconds.

    "Capt. Peter Germano," the AP report continued, "sips a cranberry orange juice and Diet Sprite drink ten minutes before the crash...."

    Coincidence? Possibly.

THE FLIGHT OF CAPTAIN HAROLD WILSON

THE INCIDENT:

    At approximately 4:00 p.m. on August 13, 1987 Harold Wilson, an Australian-born pilot flying for the Alaska commuter airline Peninsula Airways, was approximately 1,000 miles out of Anchorage at 10,000 feet headed west over the Bering Sea. Captain Wilson was ferrying charter passengers to a fishing fleet en route to Atka, the most remote of inhabited islands in the Aleutian archipelago, when his life in a moment of time was changed forever.

    Capt. Wilson told The WINDS that with absolutely no warning whatever he went totally unconscious, his brain shutting off like a switch. "The first thing I recall was waking up afterwards," Capt. Wilson said, "and the passengers were wondering what in the world was going on. They thought I'd had a heart attack.

    "I was still gripping the aircraft's controls," Wilson recalled, "and had collapsed over the throttles disengaging the autopilot." The turboprop commuter plane then began a nose-down tight left turn corkscrewing toward the water two miles below.

    The first indication the passengers had that something wasn't right was when they heard the loud squeal from the autopilot's disengagement alarm. They then rushed to the cockpit, Wilson remarked, upsetting further the airplane's forward center of gravity which exacerbated and steepened their spiraling dive to the Bering Sea. By the time Capt. Wilson regained consciousness, they had plunged from 10,000 to less than 1500 feet.

    Wilson, a former flight instructor and aircraft engineer, was told that by the time one of the passengers had gained control of the plane, the airspeed indicator needle was buried off the dial well past the red line or "never exceed speed" which is likely to cause structural damage or even airframe failure.

    The passenger who took control of the plane, a non-pilot (who referred to the control wheel as "handlebars" in the FAA report) had never sat in the front seat of an aircraft before but managed to use the radio to ask for help. Wilson had preset the radio to Adak Navy Approach Control and a Navy P3 Orion patrol plane that was in the vicinity responded and was able to effectively instruct the passenger in halting the aircraft's dive.

    "By the passengers' accounts, I was out for about ten to twenty minutes. My first remembrance was kind of slowly waking up afterwards," Capt. Wilson said. "I didn't know what in the world had gone on. I just thought I'd dozed off--or hoped that's all it was. They had me propped up against the bulkhead still in the left seat."

THE PRECURSOR:

    "The first indications of a problem I had was eight to ten months before the seizure event," Capt. Wilson explained. "I was experiencing unusual smell sensations, auras. If I was around some strong chemicals, paint thinners and so forth, I would smell them for like a week afterward, and I knew that wasn't right."

    The doctors Wilson consulted at that time, prior to the aircraft incident, could not tell him what was causing the smell-aura sensation. "Then about four or five months afterward I had the in-flight seizure."

    Captain Wilson was featured, with others, on the television programs "Hard Copy" and the Australian and American "60 Minutes" productions about aspartame.

    The physicians in Alaska who examined Capt. Wilson were unable to determine the cause of his seizure and he was sent to a neurology specialist at Seattle's Virginia Mason Hospital. When the neurologist was told of the strange smell-auras, he immediately recognized them as a definite precursor to seizure activity.

THE APPARENT CAUSE:

    The former airline pilot is of the firm belief that the consumption of the artificial sweetener aspartame was the cause of his seizure. When asked what led up to his making that connection he said that he had been made aware of a "Pilot's Hotline" dealing with aspartame-related incidents and specific research into neurological problems attributed to the substance. He admitted to consuming large quantities of the sweetener in his coffee and other foods via the brand name Equal.

    Previously to this incident, Capt. Wilson had been in perfect health, which is necessary to maintain the first-class medical certificate required to fly commercial passenger aircraft. By the time he was convinced to stop his intake of aspartame, he was already on an anti-seizure medication but was still experiencing the strange smell-aura sensations. Following the aircraft incident, he experienced yet another seizure while still on his medication--and still using aspartame. After he stopped using the sweetener, the smell-auras stopped. "I stayed off the stuff for about six months," Wilson said, "and then I started using it again and the smell-auras came back immediately. That," Capt. Wilson concluded, "was proof positive for me."

    There are a multitude of other instances where aspartame sweetened beverages appear to be connected with aircraft pilot mishaps--far too many to be carelessly dismissed as merely apocryphal or anecdotal. Capt. Wilson also told The WINDS of other instances involving pilots that he says bear a potentially strong connection with the use of products containing aspartame.

    "I'm personally acquainted with a pilot who was a captain for United on a 737. He was on short final into Portland airport about one year ago and experienced a seizure. He blames it on aspartame," Wilson said. "Fortunately he had a co-pilot."

    "I also know of a pilot in Texas I have spoken with a few times. He was a captain for Continental Airlines and he had a seizure, but it was on the ground. He was in the military reserves on a training exercise and woke up in the hospital--which was, of course, the end of his flying career." That pilot was Captain Haynes Dunn.

    Captain Dunn, a former Navy pilot, told The WINDS that his ordeal began when he decided to trim a few pounds and started using diet drinks and the dieting supplement Slimfast which also contains aspartame. "About a week after I began, I started having insomnia and headaches and I went two straight weeks with an average of three hours or less of sleep a night. It all culminated," Capt. Dunn said, "in my having a grand mal seizure in front of about 200 people in the naval reserve.

    "I was faced with an FAA flight physical at the time and the questionnaires you fill out ask you about those things." When Capt. Dunn informed his flight surgeon about the incident, he was immediately grounded.

    "My whole life was changed in a heartbeat," he recalled. "And about that time I got a call from another pilot who said, 'By chance are you drinking diet sodas?'" The fellow pilot informed Capt. Dunn of information indicating that "that stuff can cause seizures." Dunn passed if off as unimportant attributing his problem to fatigue due to lack of sleep. What began to convince the pilot there might be something to the idea was when he was given a video tape entitled, "Is Aviation Safety Jeopardized by NutraSweet?" The video was produced by the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) with Pat Robertson and in it, Dunn said, there was presented "a litany of symptoms" most of which he was experiencing.

    "This was too coincidental," Capt. Dunn observed. "Here I've got seventeen years in the Navy--seventeen years of flight physicals--where I was screened specifically for epilepsy. I had no family history of epilepsy, and all these various side effects they listed--none of that happened" until the six months following the use of aspartame-containing products. Dunn eventually refused to take the anti-seizure medicine Dilantin but has still had no seizure recurrence--and no reinstatement of his medical certificate by the FAA.

    When Capt. Dunn contacted a Los Angeles physician about the possibility of flying for an Australian airline, that doctor informed him that "in his [the doctor's] opinion NutraSweet was the second leading cause of pilots losing their medical certificates." That same physician told Dunn that the then head of the FAA's Aeromedical Certification Branch, Audie Davis, said "we know it's a big problem but our hands are tied. Our sister organization, the FDA, said it's safe, therefore, we can't put out a letter to airmen telling them not to use it."

    Interestingly, Dunn told The WINDS, immediately after allowing the TV program "Hard Copy" to film him in a segment on aspartame, he was fired from his non-flight position at Continental for a minor violation of FAA regulations and was denied the customary recourse to review and appeal. The FAA subsequently cleared Capt. Dunn of any wrongdoing, but Continental has not reinstated him.

    In 1987 the U.S. Senate's Labor and Human Resources Committee conducted hearings regarding aspartame. Chaired by Ohio Senator Howard Metzenbaum, the committee heard testimony on the questionable safety of the substance.

    "One of those to testify was Air Force Major Michael Collings, 35," says a report in Aviation Medical Bulletin.[1] "He indicated that he had experienced tremors and seizures...which he had correlated with his intake of two diet sodas and three quarts per day of lemon-flavored Kool Aid sweetened with NutraSweet. An enthusiastic runner, he had experienced no medical problems when stationed at a remote Korean air base with no access to NutraSweet. However, ingestion of Crystal Lite soda, purchased at Korea's Osan air base, triggered tremors.

    "On October 4, 1985, at Las Vegas' Nellis air base, his seizure occurred approximately two hours after he flew his F-16 jet."

    Collings' father informed him of the link between the sweetener and seizures and after ceasing the intake of any aspartame, he remained free of neurological problems for a period of time before his physician finally placed him on the anti-seizure medication Dilantin.

    It was because of such pilot-related incidents like the foregoing that Major Collings approached Mary Nash Stoddard with the idea of creating a Pilot's Hotline after the two of them presented testimony at the 3rd Senate Hearing on the Safety of Aspartame in November of 1987.

    Mrs. Stoddard, a former Texas State Judge, consumer food safety advocate and member of the President's Council on Food Safety, is founder of ACSN the Aspartame Consumer Safety Network** and one of only three individuals qualified as an expert medical witness in giving court testimony on the health effects of aspartame. She has also lectured at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School's Continuing Education program.

    Since Stoddard initiated the Pilot's Hotline in 1988, it has received over a thousand pilot-related calls concerning the effects of aspartame. "Pilot-related" meaning that often it is wives or relatives placing the calls simply because the pilots themselves are afraid to do so.

    When considering the number of responses to the hotline, a pilot's extreme reticence to expose himself to FAA scrutiny must be taken into account. A commercial pilot has undergone years of training to place him in the cockpit of any passenger aircraft. The pilot's license is valid for a lifetime, but the medical certificate, in the case of passenger pilots, must be renewed yearly. That certificate can be pulled by the FAA at the least hint of seizures or potential dysfunction on the part of the pilot, and his career can thus be summarily ended--as were those of Harold Wilson, Haynes Dunn, Michael Collings and others. As a result of this hard reality, Stoddard assures them of strict confidentiality.

A PHYSICIAN / SCIENTIST'S PERSPECTIVE

    "I knew there was something wrong with aspartame, but I could not quite put my finger on it," begins the foreward by the highly respected pediatrician Dr. Lendon Smith in a 250-page book entitled "Deadly Deception - Story of Aspartame." [2] The book, written and compiled by Mary Nash Stoddard, is undisputedly the most damning single repository of evidence available that the artificial sweetener aspartame is toxic to many and even deadly to some.

    Dr. Smith, himself no lightweight hitter in the medical arena, has been the focus of a feature article in Life Magazine, has made more than 60 appearances on the old Johnny Carson Show, twenty on Phil Donahue, received an Emmy Award for excellence in programming, participated in ABC Television's "The Children's Doctor" series and other ABC specials about medicine. With a drive that would make a hummingbird appear comatose, Dr. Smith has authored 16 books dealing with medicine, primarily oriented toward children, with one occupying The New York Times best seller list for six months. His most recent and currently his most well known book is How to Raise a Healthy Child. Dr. Smith has appeared on Good Morning America, the Today Show, Oprah Winfrey, Sally Jessy Raphael, Regis and Kathy Lee, Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas and at age 77 is retired from a full professorship in pediatrics from the University of Oregon Medical School.

    Not incidentally, Dr. Smith's license to practice medicine was revoked, he asserts, because he dared to step out of the realm of allopathic medicine and prescribe natural rather than drug-based treatment. One other such incidence was chronicled in a previous WINDS article and the list of MDs who have experienced such governmental wrath is long and growing.

    In his foreward to Stoddard's book Dr. Smith noted that reports indicate aspartame is responsible for a witch's brew of maladies. Among those "five deaths and at least 92 different symptoms have resulted from its use. The list includes neurological, dermatological, cardiac, respiratory...all the symptoms I have ever seen reported for food sensitivities, low blood sugar, Alzheimer's, chronic fatigue syndrome, amalgam-filling disease and methanol poisoning. The Searle Pharmaceutical Company," Dr. Smith continues, "has actually covered up or, at the very least, failed to report adverse reactions just so the FDA would allow this product to be used by millions worldwide."

A LEGACY OF "JUNK SCIENCE" AND
FEDERAL ADMINISTRATIVE MALFEASANCE

"The thing that bugs me is that people think the Food and Drug Administration is protecting them -- it isn't. What the FDA is doing and what the public thinks it's doing are as different as night and day." --Dr. Herbert L. Ley, former Commissioner of the FDA

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it seems, has turned a blind eye to strong, perhaps overwhelming, evidence of bad and even falsified research upon which they based their approval for a potentially deadly substance added to America's food supply.

    Aspartame, a three-part molecule composed of aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol (wood alcohol), was discovered accidentally in the mid 1960s at G.D. Searle, the large Chicago pharmaceuticals company who was trying to develop it as an ulcer drug. After the discovery, Searle was bought out by the chemical giant Monsanto which then created the subsidiary NutraSweet/Kelco.

    Mrs. Stoddard claims in her book that an astounding 78 percent of all non-pharmaceutical related complaints registered with the FDA concern aspartame's adverse reactions. [3]

    When the FDA approved it for human consumption in 1974, it went against a body of evidence so enormous as to stagger the credulity of virtually any thinking person. "What most consumers don't know," says Mike Wallace of CBS's "60 Minutes," "is that aspartame's approval was one of the most contested in FDA history. Consumers have reported more than 7,000 adverse reactions to the FDA, ranging from dizziness to headaches to seizures." [4]

    Mary Nash Stoddard told The WINDS that "a representative from the Food and Drug Administration reported on CBS television in 1995 that the FDA had received only six complaints involving saccharin. Imagine! Six. And, for this, anything containing saccharin has to have the 'causes cancer' stigma attached on all its labels.

    "FDA called a 'moratorium' on breast implants," Stoddard continued, "even though Dr. Kessler said six times in his press conference, 'We don't know if silicone breast implants cause harm, but we want to err on the side of caution.'

    "Why don't they do that for aspartame," she asks, "the most complained about food additive in history. There were no deaths attributed to breast implants - no double-blind tests showing harm - no empirical data showing harm" Stoddard adds. "Yet, they chose to call the moratorium anyway. Where's the justice in that?"

WELL...WHAT ARE CONSUMERS BEING TOLD TODAY?

    Just two weeks ago in the February 8, 1999 issue of Time magazine, columnist Christine Gorman takes to task those who distribute information claiming aspartame is anything but perfectly safe. Her article, entitled "A Web of Deceit" takes the rather media-typical approach used by those who desire to discredit a particular issue without having to actually present a serious body of evidence to back it up.

    That approach is to lump a series of clearly absurd tales of what some products have been purported to do and include with them the issue upon which one wishes to cast fatal discredit. Such a story, in hyperbole, might be that Elvis was kidnapped by aliens and fed Reese's Pieces until he "transmorphed" into Monica Lewinsky--and aspartame causes health problems too. One lends its incredibility to the other by mere association.

    The Time article begins by debunking something that truly needed to be debunked; that being a widely circulated e-mail purported to have been written by a "Nancy Markle" (no one seems to know who she is). That e-mail glues together a hodge-podge of fairy tales connected to some truths about aspartame. This "guilt by association" scenario Gorman uses to discolor what appear to be strong realities about aspartame.

    Ms. Gorman draws from only a single study that claims to discredit myths about the health risks of the sweetener. But what is clearly lacking in the piece is any reference to the mountain of credible research data obtained by equally credible world renowned scientists. Data that indicate a very clear link between the artificial sweetener and numerous medical disorders. The only research cited by the Time author quotes an investigation conducted at Duke University by Dr. Susan Shiffman that looked at people who were "aspartame sensitive" and supposedly experiencing headaches triggered by the substance. Gorman says that "a little probing often revealed the real trouble. One woman," she said, "who often ate peanuts with her diet soda, was allergic to peanuts."

    What Ms. Gorman fails to note in her article is that the Duke study took place at the University's G.D. Searle Center (name sound familiar?). "The Searle Center is under the office of the University Vice-President William Anylan, a former Searle Director." Dr. Schiffman, not incidentally, is a former Searle consultant and her study was funded by--guess who--Searle. [5]

    Had Time bothered to check, they would have discovered that the Schiffman study has been shot so full of holes one could not sift trucks from a parking lot with it. Omitted from the article were results of tests conducted at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). [6] Those studies specifically addressed Dr. Shiffman's research.

    "...Consumer complaints and survey data support the role of aspartame as a dietary trigger of headaches..." one study concluded. "We believe that the study of Schiffman et al had some serious flaws and did not reflect the realities of migraine due to dietary factors," says another. "...Their experimental design was flawed in such a way that their negative results in no way support their conclusion that 'aspartame is no more likely to produce headache than placebo.'" "...It would seem reasonable to expect the authors [of the Schiffman study] to review the literature when concluding that a known neurotoxin, L-phenylalanine [a component of the aspartame molecule], has no effect on headache." [7] Apparently, the authors of the Schiffman study conducted no such review.

    One researcher published in the NEJM went so far as to strongly suggest the possibility that a serious conflict exists between good scientific investigation and self-interest in Schiffman's studies. "The NutraSweet Company, which supported this experimental design," he said, "may have had an interest in protocols that would find that their product had no untoward effects." Short form: NutraSweet quite possibly designed the tests to show that aspartame was safe.

    The medical journal Neurology, among the most distinguished of world research publications, published a study prompted by "reports of increased seizures in humans after ingestion of aspartame." The study entitled "Aspartame exacerbates EEG spike-wave discharge in children with generalized absence epilepsy: a double-blind controlled study" [8] was conducted at the IWK Children's Hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia. That research produced significant and ominous findings.

    Examining children with "newly diagnosed but untreated generalized absence seizures" they were fed sucrose (table sugar) sweetened drinks on one day and aspartame sweetened beverages the other. During the course of the study while recording the children's EEGs (brain-wave activities), it was discovered that "following aspartame compared with sucrose, the number of spike-wave discharges per hour and mean length of spike-wave discharges increased... Aspartame appears to exacerbate the amount of EEG spike-wave in children with absence seizures." In all, the scientists recorded an average increase of 40 percent of those seizure-type brain waves when the children consumed aspartame.

    Epileptic or grand mal seizures can be described as an electrical storm in the brain that totally disables the victim until it runs its course. Absence seizures, also known as petite mals, are a less violent form that manifest a brief, total loss of awareness. That electrical storm in miniature is characterized by increased "spike-wave" EEG activity, identical to that produced in the children after the ingestion of aspartame.

    The term "absence seizure" is just what it implies; the victim appears to be absent, or not present. It does not require an IQ greater than one's sleeve length to determine that an airline pilot who is suddenly absent or somewhere else than the cockpit presents a clear and present danger to his passengers.

    The Halifax researchers also warned that other credible studies have indicated aspartame "might be a proconvulsant, lowering the threshold for chemically induced convulsions." The scientists also recommended that certain children avoid the intake of aspartame.

    Time's columnist Gorman, stating the obvious by use of superlatives, declares that "just as no single chemical cures everything, none causes everything."

    It has been aspartame's best defense that it shows itself in so many varied symptoms and maladies. When seeking evidence of pathology, a multitude of expressions are usually not expected nor given much credibility. It is seldom the case, however, that a toxic substance creates only a single negative effect. Like the drinking water additive fluoride, aspartame gives strong evidence of being a systemic poison that causes an abundance of dysfunctional and pathological effects in the human central nervous system, none of which at any given time is easily attributable to it.

    Dr. Russell Blaylock, M.D., a noted neurosurgeon and associate professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center is the author of the book Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills. During his sixteen- year practice Dr. Blaylock has authored numerous scientific papers and contributed to medical text books.

    The title page of Blaylock's book Excitotoxins subtitles the work: "How Monosodium Glutamate, Aspartame (NutraSweet) and Similar Substances can Cause Harm to the Brain and Nervous System and their Relationship to Neurodegenerative Diseases such as Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) and Others."

    Dr. Blaylock cites a multitude of studies (nearly 500 footnoted references) among which are those that specifically point to the neurotoxicity of aspartame. The one study he cites that showed no connection between aspartame and seizures was funded by none other than--surprise--the NutraSweet company.

    It should be noted that with nearly all the studies showing a connection between aspartame and neurological problems the main culprit is thought to be a blood level rise of the amino acid L-phenylalanine. An ominous finding in the research is that it was found that "rats require twice the dose and mice seven times the dose of aspartame as humans require to produce the same increase in plasma phenylalanine." [9] By empirical reasoning this would seem to make humans two to seven times more sensitive to the chemical than the test animals. "In one study," Blaylock says, "the blood phenylalanine levels [in humans] rose thirty fold following a one gram dose of aspartame." The neurosurgeon/scientist, however, believes that the effect of aspartame on brain seizures is "likely...the direct excitatory effect of the aspartate itself"--aspartate or aspartic acid being one of the constituent molecules of aspartame.

    Dr. Blaylock includes in his commentary about NutraSweet:

From what we do know, it is conceivable that NutraSweet can, in commonly consumed doses, cause abnormalities of [the] delicate endocrine control system, especially in the developing infant and child. As more and more foods containing NutraSweet are added to our diets, the greater the danger to ourselves and our children grows. According to the FDA, in 1985 America consumed 3500 tons of aspartate as NutraSweet. Even more foods contains this excitotoxin sweetener today, and it continues to be promoted by a series of powerful advertising campaigns. With over a 100 million persons in the United States alone consuming NutraSweet on a regular basis, these questions demand answers. And until these answers are forthcoming NutraSweet should be banned from foods. [10]

    Dr. Lendon Smith, in his foreward to Deadly Deception says "the NutraSweet people had a commercial on TV bragging that they now have 200 million people consuming ASP in over 5,000 different products.

    "Next time you're mugged, ask the perpetrator if he is getting ASP. When you see someone sitting on the sidewalk, tired, alone and depressed, ask them if they are drinking diet soft drinks. Chances are aspartame is responsible for a lot of sickness and crime. It is not what Mother Nature wants us to eat."

60 MINUTES FROM DOWN UNDER

    Dr. John W. Olney, for 30 years a brain specialist at Washington University and one of the most respected neuroscientists in the world, conducted studies on the effects of aspartame on rats. "The first study showed a high incidence of brain tumors," Dr. Olney said on the Australian version of "60 Minutes" (earlier produced in America with Mike Wallace). "They had twelve brain tumors in 320 aspartame-fed rats. They didn't find any brain tumors in the control group of rats.

    "Our analysis in human population in the United States," Dr. Olney continued, "shows that there was a large increase in brain tumor incidence about three years after aspartame was introduced and there was also a change in the malignancy of brain tumors."

    The U.S. Congressional Record quotes Olney's findings claiming that the scientist "informed G.D. Searle that aspartic acid caused holes in the brains of mice. G.D. Searle did not inform the FDA of this study until after aspartame's approval. None of the tests submitted by G.D. Searle to the FDA contradicted these findings."[11]

    "The same types of aggressive brain tumors that showed up in the aspartame animal studies over twenty years ago," Mike Wallace quotes Dr. Olney, "are now increasing in the American human population."[12]

    "Considerable evidence that aspartame is not safe," Wallace said, "has been published in the prestigious Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology." [13]

    When the Australian "60 Minutes" team asked for an interview with Monsanto, the parent company of NutraSweet/Kelco, the commentator claimed that the company refused with the question, "'What are you doing this story with this fellow Dr. John Olney for, when you know he's into junk science?'"

    Junk science published in the Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology? In the scientific world that is somewhat akin to accusing Rolls Royce of producing cheap cars.

    An interview by Wallace of Dr. Ralph G. Walton, Professor of Psychiatry at Northeastern Ohio University's College of Medicine, produced some fascinating and sobering information. Dr. Walton, it seems, had taken a survey of the results of aspartame studies and compared them with who it was that actually conducted the research.

    "Of 164 studies on aspartame," Dr. Walton revealed, "74 were funded by the NutraSweet industry and every single one of them attested to the safety of aspartame. Of the 90 independently funded studies," Walton continues, "83 identified a problem."[emphasis supplied] Dr. Walton's stated point was to illustrate that no researcher should be involved in studies where his personal interest is directly effected.

    When CBN (the Christian Broadcasting Network) interviewed Dr. Olney, he told them that G.D. Searle's findings "among aspartame-fed rats...found that abnormal growths were 47 times what would occur naturally in the animals." This same Dr. Olney is the researcher responsible for prompting baby food manufacturers to remove monosodium glutamate (MSG) from their products. Junk scientist?

THE CASE OF THE MAGIC RAT

    The Australian commentator in their "60 Minutes" production made a significant point in indicating an extreme and perhaps even fraudulent problem in G.D. Searle's research and records keeping.

    In studies presented by Searle to the FDA for the approval of aspartame, "60 Minutes" quoted from the infamous Bressler Report. That FDA document records the results of a five-member investigation team looking into the research methods used by Searle and headed by FDA veteran inspector, Jerome Bressler. [14]

    The report, consisting of 75 pages of discrepancies found by Bressler's team, makes a fascinating claim that would be immensely humorous were the implications of falsified research not so grave. "Records indicated," the report says, "that animal A23LM was alive at week 88, dead from week 92 through week 104, alive at week 108, and dead at week 112." (Nothing fouls up a study more than an obstreperous lab rat that can't decide whether to be dead or alive).

    "There's not a company PR man anywhere in the world who could explain that," said the Australian "60 Minutes" commentator; and, yet, it is this quality of research upon which the "safety" of aspartame was based.

    Dr. Olney said of the Searle studies, "there is a prior commissioner of FDA, Alexander Schmidt, who declared these studies to be sloppy at best and in fact some of them he referred to the Justice Department for prosecution for apparent fraud." [15]

    In the face of that fact, why was aspartame approved? The reason Olney gave was that "a commissioner of FDA came into office who decided he would approve it regardless of the evidence."

    That commissioner was Arthur Hull Hays, a Reagan appointee who, a few months after leaving FDA, having approved NutraSweet, accepted a lucrative consulting position with Monsanto's public relations company. There is that slick Washington dictionary in use again. The one that does not contain a working definition for the term "conflict of interest."

    When Monsanto learned that the story about NutraSweet was to air on Australia's "60 Minutes," "their first talk was of a court injunction," then they demanded a company spokesman to appear on the program--"after a month of refusing to put up a spokesman."

    During that interview with Monsanto, representative Dr. Robert H. Moser M.D., the Vice President of Health Communications & Education for the NutraSweet Company, the program host pointedly asked Dr. Moser about lab rat A23LM. This question came immediately following Moser's claim that Searle's research was in perfect order. Moser replied equally pointedly that he would not address that issue or anything else contained in the Bressler Report.

    Dr. Moser's presentation asserting the safety of his company's product was disingenuous at best. He stated that the aspartame molecule never gets into the blood stream. It occurred to this reporter that the doctor thinks that the public must actually believe literally the image used in the old animated Bufferin commercial that depicts whole tablets flowing through veins and arteries on the way to relieving pain. Of course, aspartame never reaches the bloodstream as a complete molecule. There is a thing called digestion that gets in the way of that. Moser rightfully claimed that aspartame is broken down into its three main constituents. That is precisely the problem according to researchers. It is those main components that they claim are destroying the health of many consuming the sweetener. Laboratory research shows that aspartame does not await digestion to break down. Above 86 degrees Fahrenheit the molecule decomposes releasing methanol which is metabolized into formaldehyde (embalming fluid) which is a known strong carcinogen, proceeds on to formic acid (ant sting venom) and diketopiperazine, a suspected agent in brain tumors and uterine polyps.[16]

    It is no secret to anyone who notices that soft drink delivery trucks in hotter climates do not refrigerate their cargo which frequently exceeds that 86-degree threshold.

    In the face of an extraordinary volume of evidence concerning the health risks of aspartame, the FDA not only approved it for human consumption, but continues to endorse their actions. "The FDA stands behind its original approval decision," says a "Talk Paper" issued by FDA, "but the Agency remains ready to act if credible scientific evidence is presented to it -- as would be the case for any product approved by the FDA." [17] Huh?

    One cannot help but ask what quantity of data would be required to convince the FDA to review its "original approval decision." The question seems rhetorical.

WHOSE BUCK ARE THEY PASSING ANYWAY?

    Monsanto's director of corporate communications, Phil Angell, was quoted in The New York Times as claiming that the chemical company disavows any responsibility for product safety. Commenting on the company's bovine growth hormone Angell said, "Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food," he said. "Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety," he added, "is the FDA's job." [18]

    Monsanto claims it is not their responsibility to assure the safety of their food products? It is clear, if for no other reason than its not-so-blind acceptance of Monsanto's research, that the FDA believes the chemical giant is accountable in this matter. In this circular, musical-chairs game of whose responsibility it is to protect the consumer from their products another matter becomes clear: neither of them cares.

    By Monsanto's claim that their interest "is in selling as much of it as possible," and FDA's acceptance of their research, it is evident that expedience and profit-and-loss are the only laws driving both the corporations and the federal agencies tasked with regulating them. The collusion and conflicts of interest displayed by both sectors should be a distinct ensign, to all who can see, that humanity in their sight amounts to no more than those laboratory animals used to produce their "junk" research.

    When any nation worships in the temple of the dollar, or whatever their monetary exchange medium, their end has become assured. Visible destruction becomes little more than a formality--and a matter of time.

 

REFERENCES:

  1. Aviation Medical Bulletin, October, 1988.
  2. Deadly Deception - Story of Aspartame by Mary Nash Stoddard, Odenwald Press, Dallas, Texas. ISBN 1-884363-14-8.
  3. Ibid.
  4. "60 Minutes," CBS Television, Dec. 28, 1996.
  5. Deadly Deception: The Story of Aspartame by Mary Nash Stoddard, Odenwald Press, Dallas, Texas. ISBN 1-884363-14-8.
  6. New England Journal of Medicine, May 5, 1988.
  7. Ibid.
  8. "Aspartame exacerbates EEF spike-wave discharge in children with generalized absence epilepsy: a double-blind controlled study." Neurology, May, 1992; Vol. 42(5): p. 1000-3.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills, Russell L. Blaylock, MD, Health Press, 1997.
  11. Olney 1970, Gordon 1987, page 493 of U.S. Senate 1987.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology, Nov. 1996.
  14. "The Bressler Report", Congressional Record page S5499 of 1985a.
  15. Ibid.
  16. "Aspartame, Methanol and the Public Health", Journal of Applied Nutrition, Vol. 36, No. 1, 1984.
  17. T96-75, Food and Drug Administration, November 18, 1996.
  18. Michael Pollan, "Playing God in the Garden," The New York Times, October 25, 1998.

    *The account of "TransGlobal Flight 901" is not based on any actual incident. The airline as well as the story are fictional and no connection with any real persons or organizations, current or historical, are intended or implied.

    **For further information the Aspartame Consumer Safety Network can be contacted at 1-800-969-6050, or international 1-972-919-6100.

Written 2/18/99

 


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