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Question:

From Virginia, USA:

Whose side are you on? Obviously not the children's. Aspartame has not only caused seizures, major depression (women "addicted" to Diet Coke breaking out in tears for NO REASON), memory loss, and even death, but Stevia is a PERFECTLY HEALTHFUL leaf used for centuries with absolutely NO NEGATIVE SIDE EFFECTS. I can only assume that you and the FDA are holding hands and I, for one, am sad to be living in a country where people like you and those who run the FDA, charading in our favor, are allowed to control what the general public sees and hears. It is appalling that the FDA has even condoned the thought of BURNING STEVIA COOKBOOKS to placate Searle/Monsanto. I am SO SORRY that you are turning your back on something so harmless and actually beneficial as Stevia. If you truly had the children's best interest at heart, you'd wake up and smell the flowers. I dare you to respond intelligently to this e-mail. I know for sure you won't allow it onto your website.

Answer:

I suppose that I will have to satisfy myself with the thought that the intelligence, or otherwise, of my reply will be judged by a questioner who is clearly of a paranoid disposition.

I confess to having no personal experience of stevia but certainly no bias against. On the other hand, and unlike many of my colleagues, I have read a great deal of the pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo published (largely on the Internet) about the 'evils of aspartame'. This labour of love was occasioned when a worried parent of one of my patients stumbled across a website which frightened the life out of him. The result was that I received an envelope containing a printout of several hundred pages. Rather than dismiss the issue out of hand, I read most of it quite carefully. It was a piece of writing analogous to a collage prepared in a primary school classroom - a rather pleasing whole but which the slightest scrutiny revealed as constructed from unrelated and juxtaposed pieces of discarded debris.

Let me just share one of the so called arguments that sticks in my memory: Phenylalanine is an amino acid and a breakdown product of aspartame. It is toxic to individuals who have a genetic inability to handle it [PKU - sufferers know who they are and take a special diet]. Glutamic acid is another amino acid [implying it must be toxic too]. Glutamic Acid Decarboxylase antibodies are often found in newly diagnosed diabetics. [So far so good but then the alchemy!] Therefore, [because of these two links with 'toxicity'], aspartame is causal in diabetes. This hocus-pocus completely ignores that fact that the antibodies are not to the amino acid but to an enzyme that takes it to bits. And the notion that amino acids are generally toxic is nonsense - they are the building blocks of protein and several are essential for health.

Of course there were other bits of evidence about aspartame causing various ailments in rats but the quantities required were awesome when considered on a weight per kilogram basis.

This material troubled me a great deal for several reasons:

  1. It was written cleverly and certainly well enough to pass muster for the non-scientist.
  2. Its appearance on the Internet lent it unjustified credibility and such availability inevitably led to a great deal of correspondence.

Not satisfied with my own analysis of the material, I sent it all to a respected paediatric diabetes dietitian who also systematically destroyed it.

Finally, comments such as yours are unhelpful, hurtful and entirely counterproductive. If you truly believe in alternatives such as stevia then such an aggressive, unjustified and probably libelous onslaught on a highly respected website which endeavours to give honest and unbiased answers is unlikely to further your cause.

KJR

[Editor's comment: As the parent of a child with diabetes, there is only one side I can be on: that of kids with diabetes. Children with Diabetes is not associated or involved with the FDA, Monsanto, or anyone involved in sugar substitutes. I am frankly shocked that you would make such accusations.

I am not "turning my back on stevia." I have a page about Stevia with lists of sources of stevia products. Clearly you didn't bother to search Children with Diabetes for information about stevia, or you would not have made such a statement.

In spite of your statements, the scientific research does not support your condemnation of Nutrasweet. And I will be more than happy to post your question and our response on the web site. JSH]

Original posting 30 Aug 1998
Posted to Alternative Therapies and Explanations

  
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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:09:00
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