Posts Tagged ‘methanol’

Nutrasweet is unsafe?!

June 20, 2008

In honor of one of my favorite shows on the radio, called Science Friday, I decided to do a little research today, Friday, into my diet in a scientific direction.

So I got to thinking about the NutraSweet thing and thought I would look into it. I vaguely have the notion that NutraSweet probably isn’t all that good for a person, but neither is 12 teaspoons of sugar worth of high fructose corn syrup that you will find in a can of normal soda. So first let’s tackle the sugar equation to verify it.  

So I figured it out and it was too much math. I will give the result and suggest you don’t read the section below unless you really care about how I came up with the equations. There are two equations. You choose which one you want based on the more reliable number. If you know how many calories there are due to sugar then you can calculate the teaspoons by dividing by 16.14. If you know how many grams of sugar carbohydrates there are you can divide by 4.17 to get the equivalent teaspoons of sugar. A 12 fl oz can of Coca-Cola Classic has the equivalent of 9 teaspoons of sugar. A 12 fl oz can of Pepsi’s Mountain Dew has the equivalent of 10 1/4 teaspoons of sugar. The worst offender I could find is Jones Cream Soda which has the equivalent of 11 3/4 teaspoons of sugar based on the 190 calories. I am not positive the can has 190 calories some of these nutrition websites look a bit shaky to me I will have to check it out next time I find myself in the supermarket.

Too Much Math it gets hard to read but I wanted to show how I calculated this stuff…

They give you stats for 8 fl oz of coca-colabut a can holds 12 fl oz, brilliant. It says 27 grams of carbs but it actually has to be 25.06 to get the 97 calories. Each gram of carbs has 4 calories (actually 3.87 if you do the math on sugar 774/199.8=3.87) . Since a teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams, (actually a cup of sugar is 200 grams and a cup has 48 teaspoons so its 200/48=4.17). I love how the field of nutrition just rounds all this stuff to even numbers…

[On a side note can you guys tell yet that I am an engineer? Who else would care about the actual numbers being so precise. Sometimes I wonder about me.]

The final tally goes something like this. We have 37.6 grams of sugar when you scale up to the actual size of the can is 12 fl oz not 8. (Remember I used the 97 calories to get this number not the listing of grams which it doesn’t say) If you divide that by 4.17 grams/teaspoon you get 9.02 teaspoons. We can safely round that to 9 cause I can’t measure a teaspoon that close anyway. (the trick is not to round off until you are all done cause if you just rounded everything before you get errors. You would get 27 grams*1.5=40 grams then 40/4= 10 teaspoons which is too much). So take the calories due to sugar and divide by 16.14 (3.87*4.17) to get the equivalent teaspoons, or take the grams of sugars and divide by 4.17. Sometimes the carbohydrates are not broken out into sugars so you have to decide which number is better. This is easy for soda, there is no protein or fat so you can use the calories as the more accurate number. 

So one day soon I think I will test the myth that there is so much sugar in a can of pop that it won’t all dissolve and that is why they use corn syrup. Will 9 to 12 teaspoons of sugar dissolve into 12 fl oz of carbonated water?  And, by the way, my recollection that there are 12 teaspoons of sugar in a can of pop was incorrect after all. It’s only 9 or 10 for most popular ones, but most people calculate it wrong and in my defense I just believed them.

So now back to the evil topic of the post. [It only took me 700 words to get to the point.] Let’s compare 10 teaspoons of sugar to instead ingesting aspartame which is labeled as Nutrasweet and Equal. Nutrasweet is made up of three things, one of which alarms me. The first two are amino acids. There are 20 amino acidsthat make up the building blocks of protein, anything considered complete protein has enough of all 20 for human needs, they are each needed in varying amounts though. Sometimes proteins are incompleteand must be paired up with another incomplete protein that has some of the amino acids the other is missing. For example beans and rice.

NutraSweet is made up of phenylalanine (50%) and aspartic acid (40%). It wouldn’t at first seem a big deal that we are consuming two amino acids of which we consume throughout the day anyway. But the concern raised is that aspartic acid is a neurotransmitter and in high concentrations can cause trouble in the nervous system such as aberrant neuron firing and cell death. There are many other probelms to that can be read in the article published in oygen magazine that I am linking to. When consumed in an isolated way the body can digest them more quickly which allows for higher than normal concentrations of these two amino acids. It is pretty obvious to me that this is probably a valid point. The digestive system will have to work for quite a while to tear up and digest that steak I ate last night while making quick work of a powder I dissolved into my chai tea.

So even if none of this is true about the amino acids being a problem the last ingredient is definitely a problem. It is Methanol (10%). You can buy pure methanol at the race track (drag racing fuel) or at an auto store (Heet brand fuel line anti freeze in the yellow bottle). I know about methanol from my investigations into the process of making biodeisel from oil such as from waste oil used in restaurants or directly from the fields if you are willing to pay for the fresh corn or other vegetable oil. The instructions for making bio-deisel include a chemical process to take methanol mixed with a sodium or potassium hydroxide to create a very dangerous substance used to remove the fatty acids from the oil so they don’t gum up a normal deisel engine. The compound is only a catalyst and methanol must be removed/recovered from the unfinished bio-deisel at the end. All of the instructions go to great length cautioning you to be very safe with this very dangerous substance. And here I am drinking it with my chai tea!

Another term for methanol that might be more familiar is wood alcohol. It is what moonshiners that make a bad batch are killed by. Now I am sure that the process does not involve simply mixing these three ingredients together in a blender but the chemistry term for aspartame is 1-aspartyl 1-phenylalanine methyl ester. In my study of bio-diesel there was a methyl ester created in the process of mixing the potassium hydroxide with methanol. And another chemical process that occurs with simply dumping the mix into a heated pan of oil brings the methanol back out. My body is sort of like a pan of heated oil and I am relatively certain that my body which is made to break things down can pretty easily remove the amino acids and be left with methanol. In fact here is a scientific book that talks about feeding this stuff with radiation in it to various animals to see how it is digested by where the radioactive atoms are expelled. The point I take from all these links combined is that the methanol is not a substance locked up in some chemical bond that cannot be digested by the body. So indeed I am actually drinking methanol, a known poison, with my chai tea. The methanol once released starts producing things in the body like formaldahyde which is a poison too, this is the same fluid used in the embalming process.

I think I will switch to Splenda. I haven’t been this scared of my food since I saw Super Size Me.