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But it doesn't cause cancer


A note in the October 2006 issue of Health magazine, on page 70, reads:

Sweet news about a sugar substitute

Aspartame, the sugar-free sweetener in hundreds of soft drinks and diet products, doesn't cause cancer, according to a National Cancer Institute (NCI) study of nearly 500,000 older Americans. Previous research in rats linked aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) to lymphoma, leukemia, and brain tumors. But the NCI found that drinking even as many as three (or more) diet sodas a day seems to be safe.

I read this, and cringed. Sure, aspartame may not cause cancer, but it can still kill you.

Aspartame has been linked to migraine headaches as a cause. I know of no person who suffers migraines on a regular basis who couldn't reduce the frequency by cutting aspartame from his diet.

Aside from the loss of functionality, blinding pain and lost productivity that comes with a migraine headache, more research shows a strong link between migraines and stroke, with migraines sometimes considered the equivalent of a mini-stroke. Each of those migraines can mean more brain damage. Even if this damage is slight, the accumulation of years of migraines and mini-strokes can be devastating over the long term.

So, telling people that aspartame is okay to drink because it doesn't cause cancer is a bit like saying, it's okay to play with the gun loaded with rubber bullets: the rubber bullets won't kill you if you're standing far away (doesn't cause cancer), but they sure as hell can if you're standing close and get the bullet in the eye (migraines as mini-strokes).

Is it really worth the 10 calories in a stick of aspartame-laced gum to risk a migraine and the long term consequences?

Not and never for me.

If I choose to drink a soda (I've had six this year), it'll be full sugar.

I'll take the stairs to burn those extra calories, instead, thank you very much.