Shocking NutraSweet Story: Why the FDA Should Owe You Money

[Ed. note: This is Day 2 of Stephen’s special five-part series for Tomorrow in Review readers called “The Truth About MD Warnings,” in which he exposes the truth about 2014’s whacky new health recommendations and what do about them.]

[On Jan 26., he exposed the truth about new sodium recommendations from your doctor. Should you really eat less salt? Today, he blows the lid on a scandal in the world of sweeteners. If you’ve ever chewed gum, drunk a diet soda or used a fake sweetener, you won’t want to miss this.]

Do me a favor and Google a picture of a major sweetener factory.

Chances are you won’t be able to find much in the way of photographs.

During my time at Discover magazine, I was shocked when I sent a photographer out on a routine assignment to photograph one of the biggest artificial sweetener factories in the United States.

He came back empty-handed.

Not only was the factory heavily patrolled by guards, but outlying property around the premises was accessible only by employees of the plant. He couldn’t even get close.

So I did my research…

And what I found is disturbing. It involves President Reagan, the FDA and Monsanto.

It brings to light the truth behind why artificial sweeteners have been promoted as healthy and safe for the American people when the reality is you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

If I hadn’t experienced this story firsthand, I might not have believed it myself.

Reagan’s Secret

It was Jan. 21, 1981, one day after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president. One of his first executive actions was appointing Arthur Hull Hayes Jr. as new director of the FDA, despite Hayes having no previous experience with food additives. Hayes was also appointed with the help of Donald Rumsfeld, who assisted Reagan in building and transitioning his Cabinet (this will be important in a moment…).

At this point in time, aspartame — a first-of-its-kind noncalorie sugar substitute — had been banned by the FDA due to several studies that showed brain tumor growth in mice. With a new administration and FDA leader in place, the manufacturer of aspartame, G.D. Searle, re-applied for FDA approval. The 3-2 board vote that initially banned the distribution of aspartame was upheld, but Hull appointed a sixth member, who tied the vote, 3-3. Hull then personally broke the tie vote and overthrew the ban, deeming aspartame a safe food additive by the FDA, despite the danger warnings.

In 1985, Monsanto (yes, the same Monsanto that manufactures GMO foods) bought the patent to aspartame from G.D. Searle and absorbed the company, all with the help of Searle CEO Donald Rumsfeld — yes, that Donald Rumsfeld — who helped Reagan handpick the man that approved aspartame (and might I add, he received a pretty penny payout for the deal). Monsanto gave it the catchy nickname that it’s most commonly known as today — NutraSweet.

It was marketed as a diet wonder.

You could have sugary foods without any downsides.

But consumers experienced a far different reality…

Your Low-Calorie Diet Could Kill You

The effects of how our body reacts to artificial sweeteners are contradictory and puzzling.

It’s no wonder consumers are confused.

The truth is most studies you read supporting artificial sweeteners are sponsored by companies, like Monsanto, that produce them. On the other hand, studies that warn you of the dangers of artificial sweeteners are usually sponsored by companies that support the consumption of real sugar, in order to drive up their sales.

It’s been a pain in the sweet tooth to get the facts.

Until now…

A new independent study published by the prestigious journal Nature in September found that blood sugar reacts to artificial sweeteners in much the same way it does when you eat regular sugar.

In the past, it was believed that the consumption of artificial sweeteners had no effect on your blood sugar at all.

When regular sugar is consumed, your body transfers the sugars to beta cells. These beta cells absorb the sugar, turning it into energy for use at a later time. Insulin helps the beta cells absorb the sugar from your bloodstream and is vital in the regulation of your blood sugar.

So what happens when you eat the fake stuff?

The study, conducted by the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, concluded that the same process seems to take place. The difference is that the lack of nutrients in the artificial sweetener means your body cannot actually convert it into energy. The entire process is very dangerous and can alter the bacteria in your gut, known as microbiome. This change in bacteria causes a rapid rise in blood sugar after eating that takes longer to lower back to normal levels.

It’s the most damning evidence I’ve seen that could provide a direct link between artificial sweeteners and Type 2 diabetes. Researchers on the study were so compelled by the evidence some gave up artificial sweeteners themselves.

Why the FDA Should Owe You Money

The American food industry is totally out of control.

Remember the low-fat craze of the ’90s, when everyone was petrified of a little gram of fat?

That fat in your packaged foods was replaced by artificial sweeteners and the whole product was deemed “healthy.” But hindsight is 20/20.

While I wish the recent findings would change the way artificial sweeteners are used and distributed, don’t expect to see a change in manufacturing anytime soon. It will take years of follow-up studies before enough, if any, conclusive evidence is retrieved that could make the industry change its ways.

And if history truly does repeat itself, I’m certain if there was ever a time when there was an uprising on artificial sweeteners, the American food industry would come up with an alternative that would be just as detrimental. After all, when it comes to feeding Americans, it’s all about making a quick profit at a cheap price.

As litigious of a society as we are, I’m actually surprised we don’t see more lawsuits against major food manufacturers regarding cases of diabetes, obesity and other diseases being linked to the way they process foods.

Someone who has diabetes, for example, could go after the artificial sweetener manufacturers.

Not that I’m suggesting each and every one of you go and sue the FDA. But there has to be some responsibility by the government for your so-called “healthy” yogurt that’s packed with sucralose.

But personal responsibility is key: Put down that diet soda; start reading the labels on foods you believe to be healthy; and if you have to satisfy that sweet tooth, stick with natural sugars, like honey.

To a bright future,

Stephen Petranek
for The Daily Reckoning

You May Also Be Interested In:

Stephen Petranek

Stephen Petranek’s career of over 40 years in the publishing world is marked by numerous prizes and awards for excellent writing on science, nature, technology, politics, economics and more. He has been editor-in-chief of the Miami Herald’s prestigious Sunday magazine, Tropic, and has covered a wide range of topics for Time Inc.’s Life magazine. His...

View More By Stephen Petranek