By the 1990s, aspartame, found exclusively as NutraSweet/Equal®, was well positioned. Top-notch marketing and crafty advertising were creating a “diet industry fad.” The more weight people gained, the more diet products they sold.
Sugar-bashing was accepted as the norm, and movie stars, sports figures, and celebrities were seen flashing their diet cola cans as “the way to go” if you want to be anybody.
Resistance Is Futile
The research proving aspartame’s health dangers was getting little to no attention, and the efforts to warn consumers about the “dangerous side” of aspartame were falling on to deaf ears.
The mantra was” If the FDA approved it, then it must be safe.” Sadly, aspartame’s victims were ignored, but everyone was watching Cher on the Diet Coke® commercials.
The first National Symposium on the Safety of NutraSweet/Equal was held at The University of North Texas at Denton, November 8-9, directed by Dr. Janet Starr Hull.
Canada became the first country to approve the use of Splenda.
NutraSweet’s patent for aspartame expired. Now available in both sugar-free and regular food products, aspartame was no longer exclusively identified with the red and white NutraSweet swirl.
Saccharin sales increased, reappearing in more food products.
Over 10,000 complaints against aspartame were filed with the FDA.
Dr. Susan Shephard published a study “Mutagenic activity of peptides and the artificial sweetener aspartame after nitrosation”, Food and Chemical Toxicology, 1993, Vol. 31, pp. 323-329.
Shephard and her colleagues attempted to simulate in vitro the conditions from aspartame that occur in the human digestive tract, and in particular the conditions that result in the nitrosation of dietary ingredients. They reported that the nitrosated aspartame had significant mutagenic action. This research identified a mechanism through which aspartame can exert a carcinogenic action.
Shephard’s research findings got little to no attention.
Dr. John Olney of Washington University published an aspartame study in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology: November 1996.
Olney analyzed cancer statistics from the US National Cancer Institute covering a sample of approximately 10 percent of the US population for the period from 1975 to 1995.
He found that the introduction of aspartame into dry goods in 1981 and into soft drinks in 1983 was followed by an abrupt increase in the reported incidence of brain tumors. The change was most noticeable between 1984 and 1985, and it corresponded to approximately 1,500 extra cases of brain cancer per year in the US.
Olney’s findings got little to no attention.
The diet sweetener industry was worth $1.5 billion, with 70 to 80 percent of the market from diet soft drinks.
The US FDA granted marketing approval for Splenda.
Johnson & Johnson purchased the rights to develop sucralose in the United States as a commercially available product. They formed McNeil Specialty Products (renamed McNeil Nutritionals) as a part of the Johnson & Johnson corporate umbrella for the exclusive purpose of marketing Splenda.
The Trocho study was published on aspartame toxicity performed through the Bosch & Gimpera Foundation, Barcelona, Spain. The study concluded that aspartame consumption constitutes a health hazard because of its contribution to the formation of formaldehyde adducts.
The binding of methanol-derived carbon to tissue proteins was widespread in the study, affecting all body systems, and fully reaching the most sensitive targets such as the brain and the retina. (click this link for the original PDF research report)
The Trocho study got little to no attention.
The Battle Begins
As the turn of the century was about to unfold and the Y2K buzz filled the news, the sweetener corporations were preparing for an upcoming battle.
The NutraSweet Company had been netting BILLIONS of dollars when NutraSweet/Equal dominated the exclusive diet sweetener market. Now that NutraSweet’s extended aspartame patent had expired, saccharin users were returning to Sweet N’Low® and generic pink packs, and Splenda was preparing for its market debut.
Aspartame was forced to get back in the game – big time. “The Sweetener War” was about to heat up.