Aspartame, Cancer, and Diet Soda

Each and every can of diet soda—if it contains aspartame—produces an excessive amount of the carcinogen formaldehyde in your body. Aspartame is the chemical in Equal® and NutraSweet®. Formaldehyde isn’t listed in the ingredients; your body produces it as you digest the soda.

Each molecule of aspartame is broken down in the body into aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol, one molecule of each.

aspartic acid is harmless; it’s broken down into alanine, an amino acid, and oxaloacetate, an organic compound.

phenylalanine, an allergen to some people, is broken down into mostly tyrosine, an amino acid, and to a lesser extent into phenylethylamine, an alkaloid, and phenylpyruvate.

methanol (wood alcohol) is broken down into formic acid (the toxin in ant bites) and formaldehyde which is a carcinogen.

Drinking one diet soda with aspartame gives about 20 mg of methanol. While this isn’t enough methanol to give you a bad hangover, it produces 6 mg of formaldehyde which is three times the daily EPA limit. It’s 30 times the limit in New Jersey, 100 times the limit in California, and 300 times the limit in Maryland.

Formaldehyde causes cancer and each can of diet soda contains chemicals that produce more than the legal limit of this dangerous chemical.

According to Dr. Devra Davis, the Director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, all scientific evidence about aspartame has been negative for human health, and it wasn’t until Donald Rumsfeld left government and became the CEO of G.D. Searle, the manufacturer, that the government approved aspartame for use in human food and drinks.

In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, when asked about Donald Rumsfeld’s connection to the aspartame approval, Dr. Davis stated:

“I don’t know what his precise role was. I only know that prior to his becoming CEO of Searle, aspartame had been turned down by every scientific group reviewing its safety and that the General Counsel of the FDA asked the U.S. Attorney’s office to convene a grand jury to decide whether to indict the producer for knowingly misrepresenting findings… The grand jury never acted. Those working on this for the government went to work for Searle. The day after Reagan’s inauguration, the company resubmitted a request for approval. Within five months of Reagan’s presidency, aspartame was approved.”

In Dr. Davis’ new book, The Secret History of the War on Cancer, she describes the manipulation of the US government by the chemical industry—not only with respect to aspartame but many other chemicals that touch the daily lives of the citizens.

For more information on preventing cancer, see The Center for Environmental Oncology or the Environmental Working Group.

Just one last tip—don’t drink your diet soda if it has been warmed by the sun for a while. According to a 2006 article in the Albuquerque Journal, the heat and light cause the ascorbic acid and the benzoate preservatives in soda to form benzene, another carcinogen that produces leukemia and other blood diseases.

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