12 Feb 2013 - Article No: 1672
Aspartame - Sweet Killer or Sweet Poison Message - Internet/Facebook Rumour
"In October of 2001, my sister started getting very sick She had stomach spasms and she was having a hard time getting around. Walking was a major chore. It took everything she had just to get out of bed; she was in so much pain.
By March 2002, she had undergone several tissue and muscle biopsies and was on 24 various prescription medications. The doctors could not determine what was wrong with her. She was in so much pain, and so sick she just knew she was dying.
She put her house, bank accounts, life insurance, etc., in her oldest daughter`s name, and made sure that her younger children were to be taken care of.
She also wanted her last hooray, so she planned a trip to Florida (basically in a wheelchair) for March 22nd.
On March 19, I called her to ask how her most recent tests went, and she said they didn`t find anything on the test, but they believe she had MS.
I recalled an article a friend of mine e-mailed to me and I asked my sister if she drank diet soda? She told me that she did. As a matter of fact, she was getting ready to crack one open that moment.
I told her not to open it, and to stop drinking the diet soda! I e-mailed her an article my friend, a lawyer, had sent. My sister called me within 32 hours after our phone conversation and told me she had stopped drinking the diet soda AND she could walk! The muscle spasms went away. She said she didn`t feel 100% but, she sure felt a lot better.
This email is circulating social networking sites and claims that popular artificial sweetener Aspartame (marketed as NutraSweet, Equal, and Spoonful) was responsible for the near-death of the authors sister. The email asserts that the Aspartame sweetener, in this case found in the Diet Soda the sister was drinking, was responsible for almost killing her. Upon avoiding the drink, however, the sister began to immediately make a recovery.
Further assertions in the email is that Aspartame can also be responsible for worsening or mimicking the symptoms for multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, and methanol toxicity, causing "blindness, spasms, shooting pains, seizures, headaches, depression, anxiety, memory loss, birth defects" and even death, as well as causing many other unwanted side effects.
This above message is actually the latest rumour in a series of controversies that has dated back to when Aspartame was approved in the US by the FDA back in 1981. In fact Aspartame has represented one of the largest conspiracy theories/hoaxes/controversies/urban legends within the food industry, depending on how you want to look at it.
Aspartame is currently FDA approved. The FDA, after extensive studies, have concluded that Aspartame is not dangerous and is not responsible for the reactions outlined in the rumours. However many have continued to attack both the FDA and those who produce or endorse the sweetener, even going as far as asserting that the initial FDA approval process of Aspartame was "tainted" and their results inaccurate.
This was further fueled by a chain email that circulated virally accredited to someone by the name of Nancy Markel (of which the message above is largely based upon) that asserts that Aspartame is potentially lethal and should not be consumed, as well as making many of the assertions we mentioned in the paragraphs above. However this email is generally considered an anonymous hoax - no one by the name Nancy Markel has ever come forward to confirm the authenticity of the letter, instead it is understood that the email was an altered version of messages left on Internet forums. Additionally many food experts have debunked the claims made in the letter as both "misleading" and "baseless".
It should also be pointed out that the story in the message above, about the authors sisters illness and how she began to feel better after avoiding Diet Soda, is almost certainly false. No matter what stance one takes on the Aspartame controversy, the assertion in the story that the ailed wheelchair-bound sister was able to walk only 32 hours after she stopped drinking Diet Soda is wholly unrealistic.
Ultimately, however, the FDA, after many further studies, still insist that the sweetener is safe, stating in a press release ...
To date, however, the agency has not been presented with scientific information that would support a change in our conclusions about the safety of aspartame.
Also note the FDA are by far not the only body that have approved Aspartame. Others include the Scientific Committee on Food of the European Commission, the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency, the French Food Safety Agency and Health Canada
Of course every person has the choice to consume - or indeed to avoid - any food that they like. However messages like the one above are baseless and certainly contain many falsities and thus should not be circulated.
The fact is that some people may be sensitive to Aspartame. Some may get headaches or migraines or feel sluggish if they consume it. The same can also be said with sugar, salt, caffeine or any one of thousands of different additives that are added to food and drink every day. Stopping such consumption can thus stop these symptoms from occurring. Aspartame causing detrimental symptoms in a minority of people is not the subject of this article.
The Internet, and social networking sites like Facebook, are perfect platforms for spreading untruths, misinformation, rumor and propaganda. Thousands of inaccurate, exaggerated, deceptive or just plain false messages are circulated every single day.
For the anti-scam community to successfully tackle this plethora of false rumours, it is important that anyone who uses the Internet be able to identify false rumours and fully understands the possible consequences of spreading false information.
We have a two part blog post that helps provide this information. Part 1 deals with how to spot and debunk Internet rumours and Part 2 deals with the reasons why you should never circulate false information.
Additionally if you have fallen for this rumour or have Facebook friends that have, you can join our growing Facebook page here.