RE: aspartame

Vandergraaf, Chuck (
Fri, 7 May 1999 21:48:49 -0400


Thanks for your response. Maybe you are correct in suggesting that the ASA
forum is a proper place to discuss this. As Christians, we have to let our
light shine in all areas of life and food additives certainly fall within
this sphere.

To my question about how much methanol there is in aspartame, you reply with
an "I don't know." I think it is important to know an approximate
concentration because we can get worked up about very little. If it is
physically impossible to ingest enough methanol to cause any damage, the
presence of methanol in aspartame is irrelevant. As my thesis advisor used
to say, some 30 years ago, "there is always 1 ppm (part per million) of
something in something else." In other words, nothing is 100.0000% pure.
(In case one has any doubts, look at the label on a bottle of chemicals in a
chemical lab. I don't recall seeing anything with less than 1 ppm impurity
in it (and my background is analytical chemistry).

You may respond by pointing out that the effects of methanol are cumulative.
Maybe so, but the human body also has a repair mechanism; if it didn't, we'd
probably would not last long!

The critics, be they proponents of "alternative medicine" or opponents of
nuclear power and fluoridation, will often distort reality to make their
point and convince the gullible. "According to Whitaker," methanol "breaks
down into ... diketopiperazene." I don't know the structure of this
compound (organic chemistry was never my strong suit) but I would guess
that, at best, this compound is formed from methanol and something else. My
question again, how much methanol is there is other foodstuff?

I don't doubt for a moment that the pharmaceutical industry is very
powerful. IMHO, if it should be attacked, it should be attacked on pure
scientific, ethical, and economic grounds, not by scaremongering. Too often
people start with the assumption that "natural" is good and that
"artificial" is bad. Sugar is natural and is therefore good, aspartame is
artificial and is therefore bad. How often do we hear the comment "I
wouldn't eat this because it is full of chemicals." These assumptions need
to be challenged. Cassava root is not edible unless the cyanides are
removed, poison ivy and stinging nettles are hardly "user friendly,' nutmeg
is said to contain hallucinogenic compounds and there has been at least one
case where somebody died of cyanide poisoning by eating a cup of apple

In summary, we need to seek the truth in all we do, lead others to the
truth, and let our little light shine in a world filled with ignorance,
suspicion and superstition.

Chuck Vandergraaf
Pinawa, MB