More alarming, though, is the alleged long-term side-effects of aspartame, the artificial sweetener. In his book Diet for a Poisoned Planet, David Steinman says aspartame accounts for over 75 per cent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the Food and Drug Administration (fda) of the US. Several of these reactions are very serious, even leading to seizures and death, as disclosed in a February '94 report submitted by Department of Health and Human Services of the US. The report lists some 90 different symptoms said to be linked to aspartame. Among those listed: headaches/migraines, dizziness, seizures, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, weight gain, rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, vision problems, hearing loss, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, loss of taste, tinnitus, vertigo, memory loss and joint pain. In fact, according to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the risk to infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and persons with certain chronic health problems from aspartame could be significant.
However, the problem is that so far there is not a single independent study that has investigated the side-effects of aspartame. Most of the studies on the basis of which the fda gave its approval were sponsored by Monsanto, the biggest maker of aspartame. As of now, evidence about the ill-effects of aspartame is largely anecdotal. But slowly, many people who believe they have suffered because of diet colas are organising campaigns against its use.