Discover the hidden dangers of Aspartame being used by food manufacturers trying to save money.

Friday 30th March 2012

  • White Gold tempted the Crusaders and my Nan into bad habits
  • Discover the bad news Aspartame and more that is just around the corner
  • Cut out the sweeteners and dab on the honey

Sugar is one of nature’s delights, and one we all enjoy so why do we continually get told to use artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, and are they doing us any good?

First let’s start with a bit of history.

The story of cane sugar is one of secrecy, intrigue and war: It is also one of profit and colonial subjugation.

Way back in the sixth century Emperor Darius of Persia invaded India and found the sweet reed to his liking. He hoarded the white gold and sold it at huge profits.

The Arab nations overthrew the Persian rulers in the seventh century and quickly recognised the value of sugar cane and began to grow it across their empire, stretching into Africa and the Mediterranean countries including Spain.

By the eleventh century the Crusaders were doing their bit for Christendom and happened on sugar along the way and found it much to their liking.

Bringing it back to Europe and Britain in particular they started the trend for the famous sweet tooth that continues to the present day.

At this time there were huge prices being paid for sugar – in 1319AD London traded a pound for two shillings which equates to about £60 per kilo (or £25 per pound for those of us unreconstructed imperial users!).

Which meant it was beyond the means of all but the richest households.

Believe it or not this price point was maintained by a heavy sugar tax levied by subsequent UK government’s right up until 1874 when William Gladstone brought the commodity into reach of everyone.

That brief history explains why sugar is treated as such a delight, especially by the older generation.

I remember my Nan adding sugar to cream as she whipped it, giving me sugar water for stomach ache and even dipping her celery stick in a pile of sweet stuff as she ate it.

For this generation they had first hand experience of the decadence of sweetened food and fondants – something that they instilled in their own offspring too.

Well for those of you who like a bit of nostalgia it looks like the £25 per pound price might be back very soon; but it has nothing to do with a health tax.

More’s the pity.

When sweetness isn’t goodness

Soaring sugar prices have returned to Europe as a result of poor harvests of cane in the tropics and beet in Europe, plus the huge demand being driven by India, China and Brazil as their economies flourish.

Looking at the commodities market, which I admit is not an everyday occurrence in the Collins household, I saw prices as high as £830 per ton which equates to about 40p a pound.

Now I know this is nowhere near the 1319 price equivalent, however, it does represent a doubling in price in less than two years.

Of course, in some ways we might see this as good news if it stopped manufacturers of drinks and foods adding so much to their products, however the reality is a much more serious risk to health.

You see as the economics of adding good natural sugar to manufactured foods begins to fail they are reaching for artificial sweeteners.

And that’s really bad news.

Over the years I have made my feelings known about the perils of Aspartame.

It is a hideous invention that does no one any good even though Aspartame was once considered a miracle alternative to sugar.

It was discovered by accident in 1965 by a chemist called James M Schlatter. At the time he was trying to produce an antiulcer drug for the pharmaceutical giant, G.D Searle & Co.

When he accidentally licked his finger, he discovered that the chemical he had just concocted was very sweet.

In fact, aspartame is 180 times sweeter than sugar. But because you need such a tiny quantity to sweeten the taste of something, it has hardly any calories.

You can imagine the dollar signs rolling over the eyes of Searle's directors at the news...

A sweetener that doesn't make you fat!

After some years in development, Aspartame began to take over the world.

These days it's used in diet drinks, crisps, sweets, 'sugar free' chewing gum, processed meals, ice cream and even toothpaste.

It would be considered the best food invention since sliced bread... if it were not for one tiny drawback...

It's poisonous.

A roll call of sweet misery

While the corporations that produce sweeteners have tried to quash the evidence, Aspartame stands accused of causing 92 health problems.

They include:

Abdominal pain, anxiety attacks, arthritis, asthma, breathing difficulties, chest pains, chronic coughs, chronic fatigue, confusion, depression, headaches, heart palpitations, hypertension, impotency, insomnia, irritability, memory loss, muscle spasms, nausea, rashes, tinnitus and vision problems.

Worse still, in 1995, the US health authorities discovered that aspartame could cause symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease.

The other alternative is something called Sucralose – you may have come across it under its brand name ‘Splenda’.

Well despite the food industry claiming that it is sugar in a safer form, critics of Splenda say that it's so far removed from sugar in its natural form, that it's really just like any other chemical sweetener.

In fact it is based around chlorine which is never good news is it?

The way to avoid your health being put at risk

It's the very high levels of sweeteners consumed by diet drink lovers and sweetener addicts that are the main problem.

- Cut down on drinks that use sweeteners. Even with a diet cola, you should have only the occasional drink as a treat.

- Read the ingredients label. When it says, 'no added sugar' or 'low calorie' is means that it has aspartame or another sweetener.  Yes, even in fruit squash, “healthy” fruit drinks & even flavoured waters!

- Use honey as a sweetener... or just use sugar, but LESS of it!

Like I’ve said before, my position on these things is to take care with any kind of sweeteners, whatever the claims made by the manufacturer.

And wherever you can, go natural!

Yours, as always





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