Category Archives: Chemicals in food


I had to take notice when the third person in three days mentioned MS type symptoms that had disappeared on giving up diet drinks.

I knew that diet drinks could have weird effects on appetite and weight, but MS? Surely not!

So, I decided to do a bit of research about aspartame, and it caused my bottles of tonic water (not slimline but they still contain aspartame) to go straight into the bin.

Firstly, the story of the approval of aspartame is a shocker.

The compound was discovered in the late 1960s by a company called G.D. Searle. Searle carried out various tests to check its toxicity. Unfortunately, it was found out later by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that Searle had faked many of the results. They had done some quite shocking things like removing tumours from live animals to conceal toxic effects.

As another example, there was a 46-week toxicity study of hamsters where G.D. Searle had taken blood from healthy animals at the 26th week and claimed that the tests had actually been performed at the 38th week. Many of the animals from which G.D. Searle claimed had blood drawn from were actually dead at the 38th week.

In 1980 The Public Board Of Inquiry voted unanimously to reject the use of aspartame until additional studies on aspartame’s potential to cause brain tumors could be done. The PBOI was particularly concerned about an experiment where rats received aspartame and a much higher percentage of animals in the aspartame group developed tumors than in the control group.

However, Searle weren’t going to accept this. In 1977, they had appointed Donald Rumsfeld as their president. According to a former G.D. Searle salesperson, Patty Wood- Allott, in 1981 Donald Rumsfeld told his salesforce that, if necessary, “he would call in all his markers and that no matter what, he would see to it that aspartame would be approved that year.”

On July 18, 1981 aspartame was approved for use in dry foods by FDA Commissioner Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr. overruling the Public Board of Inquiry. Intially it was still regarded as dangerous in drinks, but it eventually got approval despite the fact that independent tests linked it with brain tumours, mood disorders, siezures, “paradoxical effects on appetite” and about 80 other symptoms from the mild to the deadly.

The United Press reported on October 12, 1987 that more than 10 federal officials involved in the NutraSweet decision took jobs in the private sector linked to the aspartame industry. Basically people in public office who supported aspartame were rewarded with high paying jobs in the industry once they left public office.

Having read this, I was no longer very surprised about the MS symptoms. I also found out that the incidence of MS in young women is rising rapidly and that it now affects four times as many women as men (whereas it used to affect twice as many women). We know who drinks the most Diet Coke, don’t we?

Aspartame is also reported to be particularly dangerous for children.

I have found out quite a lot more that is really too detailed to go into here but please do comment or get in touch if you have any questions or personal experiences.

Bear in mind that aspartame may be called Nutrasweet, Equal, Candarel or E951.

This post has been moved from another blog, so the comments below have just been copied over.

Showing 9 comments


I have two brief and interesting stories about Nutrasweet , both involving my sister who was an avid fan of aspartame.
She used to date a chemical engineer who worked with the company who produced Nutrasweet and he wouldn’t touch anything containing aspartame with a ten foot pole! But that didn’t raise any alarm bells for her, and she continued to drink a minimum of three diet Cokes a day, and add sweeteners to her breakfast cereal and hot beverages.
She began to notice “tingling” sensations in her legs and feet, and weakness on one side of her body. An MRI was done which showed some “white spots ” on the brain, which her physician stated could be very early signs of MS,but not to worry as the MRI was very sensitive and detected things much earlier than symptoms would appear!
These sensations in her lower limbs would come and go, and over the course of a few years did progress to the point of intermittent weakness on one side of her body which was worse on arising (in the morning).
By chance, an office email was sent to her which described symptoms that she had experienced , which had been linked to asparame. After a few days without Diet Coke she noticed a huge difference , the weakness and strange sensations were no longer a problem!
I personally can’t bear the taste of artificial sweetners, and am so sensitive to the taste. It’s as if my body can detect it, and reject it.

02/24/2010 08:46 PM

This is interesting – we gave up aspartame about 8 years ago – my husband had been ill and someone mentioned ms type symptoms. A friend mentioned aspartame and on researching found info about it mimicing symptons of lots of illnesses including ms let alone the implications for dieters! Haven’t knowingly had it since.

02/23/2010 08:41 PM


I refuse to buy reduced sugar drinks for my children because of this research Roz. Interestingly my food shop recently contained a bottle of “no added sugar” squash, I’ve been drinking it and have found that I have a permanent sweet “taste” in my mouth and I am convinced that it is the sweetner in this bottle. I had a drink last night and have had my normal tea all day, but I can still taste it.

02/22/2010 12:25 PM

Antoine Clarke

I’m not a fan of restricting sugar for children, unless they have a metabolism disorder. It seems to be fashionable to attribute bad behaviour to “too much sugar,” but I suspect a combination of parents not setting boundaries, bribing children with too many sweets, and children not playing in the street enough.

I might be accused of being flippant, but concerning child obesity, with due notice given of metabolic disorders, I blame the government. Too much crime outside means children are locked indoors (government’s fault for not having more effective police and courts and too lenient with criminals). Too much taxes means parents have to work too long hours (so less energy to play with children, set boundaries, cook healthier meals, not bribe with sweets, etc). Too much trust in “let the government deal with education/health/social security” etc means people don’t look after themselves.

I note that in my neighbourhood, excessive local taxes mean that only cafes and convenience food outlets can operate, so I blame local government for the proliferation of junk food availability!

02/23/2010 06:12 PM

This would mean more if you cited your sources. There is a lot of information out on the internet about aspartame; likewise, there is also a lot of misinformation as well.

Vague statements such as:
“We know who drinks the most Diet Coke, don’t we?” and
“Aspartame is also reported to be particularly dangerous for children.”
are particularly unhelpful.

As a parent of two young children, I obviously don’t want to put them at any risk (although perhaps just being born and living isn’t actually that good for you, when you start looking at the world today). However, as a scientist, I want more than just heresay and supposition to back up the changes I make.

02/22/2010 07:04 AM
Roz Watkins

I am a scientist too and I agree that there is a lot of information and misinformation out there. I know there have been hoax letters about the effects of aspartame. However when three people I trust mentioned MS-like symptoms that had disappeared on stopping it, I thought this was worth a mention, although I know it’s anecdotal and I know it could be the placebo effect.

I didn’t want to go into too much detail and include lots of evidence on the blog because it is intended to be short and readable. It is aimed primarily at those who didn’t realise there were any questions about aspartame’s safety. It flags this up as a possible concern and they can then get in touch for more information or do their own research.

I have endeavoured to look at peer reviewed research and multiple sources of information, and if you would like a list of these, do let me know (the list is quite long!)

But I agree it is very hard to determine the truth because everyone has an agenda. There seems to be a strong correlation between funding source and the outcome of research. Basically there is no definitive view and mine certainly isn’t definitive. I hope readers who are interested will do their own research and make up their own minds.

02/22/2010 08:53 AM


Thanks for the article. Aspartame has had rumours milling around about it’s vicious make up for years and it’s about time the truth came out. Money covers up so many things in this world and if only we knew the half of what we were putting into our bodies… my partner has MS and I have been trying to get her to change to raw sugar as a substitute but she is forever reluctant as she believes it to be heresay. Personally, I think a partially raw product such as brown sugar is always going to be better than a chemical substitute… we wonder why cancers are slowly eating away our loved ones… chemicals are the new fresh food and it should never have gone that way… but we as humans are very lazy and want quick fixes at any cost.

02/21/2010 07:47 PM


Scary isn’t the word for this. We are not walking but racing into human disaster. Difficult to know where to avoid all these money spinning schemes which mess up our health. You may as well forget any responsible action from our supposed democratic system of government. For a start it isn’t democratic and has more interest in “expanding the economy” and covering up on MPs’ expenses than applying itself to a sane approach in the interests of its citizens. Sorry, not citizens as we don’t have that right, I should have said subjects.

02/21/2010 06:41 PM

GM foods and mutant hamsters

Until recently, I hadn’t come down strongly on one side or the other in the GM foods debate. I thought there could be benefits given the number of people we have to feed in the world, although better access to contraception and less food waste would seem a preferable (albeit less profitable) alternative.

However, having seen Monsanto’s antics in the film “Food Inc” I had a very uncomfortable taste in my mouth. They mercilessly misused the patent system to bankrupt farmers who stood in their way. I used to be a patent attorney and I know how possible this would be. (It’s one of the reasons I’m not a patent attorney any more!)

There are also some serious question marks over health risks. A study published by the International Journal of Biological Sciences found that rats ingesting GM corn for just 90 days were subject to statistically significant organ damage and raised triglycerides (associated with heart disease and diabetes.) The researchers stated:

“Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two
major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM
type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood
cells were also frequently noted. As there normally exists sex
differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically
significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between
male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant
as has been proposed by others. We therefore conclude that our data
strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of
hepatorenal toxicity.[…] These substances have never before been an
integral part of the human or animal diet and therefore their health
consequences for those who consume them, especially over long time
periods are currently unknown.”

Monsanto dispute the findings and to be fair to Monsanto, there do seem to be some question marks over the study. However, it suggests that more research is needed, especially on the longer term effects, and this is something Monsanto are not rushing to encourage. After all, if you can see any effect at all in just 90 days, something pretty alarming is going on.

Here’s the paper:

In one of the few studies that did look at longer term effects, Russian biologist Alexey V. Surov fed GM soy to hamsters for 2 years over three generations of hamsters. By the third generation, the GM-fed hamsters were suffering from sterility and infant mortality. Some of the unfortunate hamsters even had hair growing inside their mouths.

There is more detail in this Huffington Post article:… And it includes a link to a website which shows pictures of the hair in the hamsters’ mouths, if you can stomach it.

These results can always be regarded as “inconclusive” but I will be avoiding GM foods where possible. I pity the poor US consumers who are not even given the courtesy of a label to tell them their products contain GM ingredients.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Researchers at Princeton University have found that rats fed high fructose corn syrup gain significantly more weight than rats fed table sugar. They also gain weight around the middle and develop the known risk factors for high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, cancer and diabetes.

Often in this kind of research the poor rats are stuffed with vast quantities of the product under investigation. However in this case, the concentration of HFCS was HALF that in typical fizzy drinks.


Manufacturers have long said that HFCS is basically the same as table sugar. However, it does have some differences. Both are made up of glucose and fructose, but in HFCS there is a slightly higher proportion of fructose, and the fructose is more readily available to the body.

Which brings us to the next question – is fructose the problem? Fructose often gets a good press compared to glucose because it has a relatively low GI and less effect on insulin response. Plus, it’s found in fruit so surely must be healthy?

Recent research suggests that fructose (originating mainly from table sugar and HFCS) can cause insulin resistance and obesity. This book explains the research:

Link to “Fat Chance” by Robert Lustig

Although fuctose occurs naturally in fruit, we would only have consumed small quantities of this in the past and it would have made sense to fatten up for the long winter period when little food was available. However, now we consume fructose in huge quantities all year round and I haven’t noticed any winter famines recently round here.

HFCS is in virtually all processed foods, including many “diet” and “low fat” products. You may know my opinion about these. I suspect future generations will be absolutely horrified at the way the food companies have got away with pushing “low fat” products as “healthy” – when in reality they are often full of sugar, HFCS and artificial sweeteners and are causing huge problems. I wonder how many deaths have been caused by the government’s wrong advice to cut down fat, when they should have been advising us to cut down sugar and HFCS? Cartoon - low fat diet gave you heart disease

The good news is that if fructose is the cuplrit, starches are not – because they break down to glucose rather then fructose. So, bread, pasta, rice, etc would be OK.

And natural fats are fine of course! So, why not go and enjoy a nice piece of butttered toast? (Check your bread for HFCS though! I bought a bread maker…)

(By the way, if you’re still not convinced about fats, have a look at this article which appeared in Scientific American recently: Article on carbs

Showing 1-10 of 13 comments

Lynda Robson

Thank you for a very informative site.
05/11/2010 05:51 PM

Thanks Lynda, I’m really glad you find it interesting,
05/12/2010 08:10 AM
in reply to Lynda Robson
Maria Laben

Hi Roz many thanks for the info – will pass this onto other people
05/10/2010 01:26 PM

Thanks Maria, I appreciate you passing it on.
05/10/2010 09:30 PM
in reply to Maria Laben
Lidia Becci

Thanks Roz for the info. I no longer bother with low fat option although reading the labels is interestig! I also heard on radio that 5 pieces of fruit and veg a day isnt really making much difference to helping prevent cancer. I since starting your programme lost 5inches off my waist and nearly 2 stones in weight and I know I am not going to gain the weight again so thankyou Roz. I am enjoying my butter again on toast. People ask me how I am doing it and I tell them but they still beleive in dieting and low fat. I used to teach health promotion and after years in nursing and teaching it is extremely difficult to change people thinking.
05/09/2010 11:02 AM

Hi Lidia, thank you for commenting. I’m delighted to hear about your progress – that is really wonderful – well done!

It’s such a shame people find it so hard to abandon the low fat approach even though it doesn’t work. You are right that it is very hard to change people’s thinking. Thanks for doing your best to spread the word though!

05/09/2010 12:01 PM
in reply to Lidia Becci

Thanks for the helpful comments. I avoid fizzy drinks and diet food and since doing your enlighten programme have no problem with knowing when I am hungry and full. Sounds simple doesn’t it but such a simple reflex (if that is the right word) had become very blurred from years of dieting. I am getting there and eating like a ‘normal’ person and enjoying it. I am losing an average of a pound a week. It took 25 years to gain the weight and I another 12 months of not dieting should see it all off. Thanks for all your help.
05/09/2010 09:41 AM

Thank you so much for commenting. I’m really glad you are doing well and losing weight eating “normally” and not dieting. That is fantastic!
05/09/2010 11:57 AM
in reply to seekerphil

Hi Roz,
well done for finding out yet more about what food companies are trying to hide, and about what the Governbment won’t admit, namely that sugar is dangerous, not fat, and as it seems, fructose is worse than glucose. The government say we should eat lots of fruit and low fat. Their advice very nearly made me diabetic, which I would be now, hadn’t it been for Roz’s wonderful advice in her course!
Well done Roz, and keep up the good work!
Regards, Katherine
05/08/2010 11:33 PM
Roz Collapse

Thank you Katherine, I really appreciate you taking the time to comment and hopefully it will help others avoid that dangerous low fat, high sugar diet.