7/06/2010

Mercola: Truer Words Were Never Written?

ResearchBlogging.org

Mercola, webster of woo, he of the get your vitamin D through our tanning bed fame, has a new post up at Huffington Post. I tell you, I find it endlessly comforting to know that these medically-related articles are reviewed by Ornish, you know? Okay, not.


Can Huffington Post put up a health related piece that isn't woo? I mean, can they?


Mercola's latest is on aspartame. I won't go into all the details relating to his assertion that aspartame is more evil than the devil. Aspartame has received a fair amount of attention from people who think it is at the root of a lot of health issues.


No, what really gets me is this sentence, and Mercola's never written truer words: "This is deception at its finest: begin with a shred of truth, and then spin it to fit your own agenda."


It's what Mercola does, time and time again, so it's fascinating to read him accuse the manufacturer of aspartame of the same thing.


The rest of Mercola's article is designed to scare the shit out of you concerning aspartame and make you go on over to his site, so you can learn all about his plan to free you from your sugar and sugar-free habits through the incredibly odd Meridian Tapping Technique.


The American Council on Science and Health writes concerning aspartame:


"The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) is now receiving daily inquiries regarding one such health hoax about aspartame (see below).The hoax links the sweetener to multiple sclerosis-like symptoms and systemic lupus using quasi-medical jargon. Like most of its kind, this Web scare appears to be credible, pointing to impressive-sounding names like the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, the "World Environmental Conference" and the mysterious "Dr. Espisto." Also like its compadres, this article is packed with misinformation that could frighten those, such as diabetics, who rely on aspartame.
In fact, aspartame, known as "NutraSweet" and "Equal," is safe. Aspartame is one of the most thoroughly tested substances in the U.S. food supply. Numerous authorities, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives of the FAO/WHO, the European Community, and the American Medical Association have concluded that aspartame is a safe product, except in the rare cases of phenylketonuria. For more information on aspartame, please refer to ACSH's peer-reviewed booklet Low Calorie Sweeteners. And beware of Internet health hoaxes." 


Should one see just how much aspartame one can consume in a day? Probably not. But, for the overwhelming majority of people, aspartame causes no adverse effects:


"Even when aspartame is consumed in unusually large (but physically possible) amounts, adverse health effects do not occur. Aspartame has been tested in human volunteers in single doses four times the acceptable daily intake (the amount considered safe for daily consumption for a lifetime) and in studies where volunteers consumed aspartame daily at a level 50% higher than the acceptable daily intake for several months. Even at these high doses, the levels of all three of aspartame’s components in the volunteers’ blood remained within safe ranges, and no adverse effects occurred." ACSH


The ADI (acceptable daily intake) of aspartame is 50 mg/kg/d. Acute toxicity symptoms include: "Headache, dry mouth, dizziness, mood change, nausea, vomiting, reduced seizure threshold, thrombocytopenia" (Whitehouse, et al., 2008). Note that the ACSH reports that individuals have taken 4 times that and had none of these adverse events.


No, what seems apparent, upon reading Mercola's article (devoid of even this bare minimum of research), is that Mercola is interested, primarily, in scaring people, driving them to his website, and even where he's not trying to explicitly sell them something, make them susceptible to looking at his products and buying them.


There's no doubt that Mercola is big, big, big business. He's got lots of followers, lots willing to listen to him as if he had all the answers. It'd be a wise thing to take a minute and remember that scientists and science-based doctors are always willing to admit they don't have all the answers. They have informed opinions based on the weight of the scientific evidence.




Whitehouse, C., Boullata, J., & Mccauley, L. (2008). The Potential Toxicity of Artificial Sweeteners AAOHN Journal, 56 (6), 251-259 DOI: 10.3928/08910162-20080601-02

2 comments:

Lyn said...

I don't bother with aspartame as it tastes nasty, and I'm trying to avoid HFCS, which is not easy to do, but don't rats get tumors if you sneeze on them?

the Nurskeptic said...

Interesting that the ACSH was selected to be a counterpoint to Mercola's woo. When it comes to aspartame, they are probably right, but on many topics, the ACSH seems to come down on the side of large industry, including big tobacco and various chemical manufacturing industries. They are big on sticking up for secondhand smoke, and BisphenolA in plastic and food containers (which really does need more study).