Start Getting Healthy Nutrition Series Part 4: Aspartame

In The Start Getting Healthy Nutrition Series we looked at the dangers of sugar and how this substance has caused a massive change in our health and well-being.

People will always have a sweet tooth and I understand that. The problem is instead of reaching for that sugar based drink sugar-free alternatives become the choice.

You may want to reconsider grabbing that Diet soft drink thinking that something that has zero calories will not impact your health in a negative way.


Aspartame is going to be the most recognized artificial sweetener but artificial sweeteners exist as many brands and varieties including

  • NutraSweet
  • Equal
  • Sweet N’ Low
  • Sweet Twin
  • Sugar Twin
  • Splenda
  • Sunnet
  • Sweet One

So what does an artificial sweetener do in the body? In the case of Aspartame it is made up of ingredients that include methanol that converts to formaldehyde in the body which has been linked to retinal damage and birth defects. The combination of these ingredients act as ‘ excitotoxins ‘ in the body and can cause potential nerve damage in the brain and can be connected to long term illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, brain lesions, Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

Simply put an artificial sweetener is a chemical creation unrecognized by the body and capable of creating some concerning issues.


Clearly the main reason behind and product or drink with the word “diet” in the name is looked at as a partner to weight loss. You will be surprised to find out how these chemical sweeteners can actually compromise your weight loss pursuits.

When your body consumes an artificial sweetener the sweet taste signals that some amount of calories are on the way. When these calories are not received the body then starts to crave what it feels it was teased with. This can lead to carbohydrate and sugar cravings which can cause havoc in a person’s weight loss pursuits.

Also in conjunction with that artificial sweeteners have addictive properties and lead to a person craving another diet drink not long after already consuming one. Put all this together and you have a vicious cycle of addiction and cravings that go round and round and round.


As of 2014 Aspartame can be found in over 6000 products. What is concerning is that amount of products where chemical sweeteners are not even disclosed. Traces are even being found in some milk products

This should make it more clear than ever to focus on eating real foods. You will not find aspartame in carrots. Nor will you find any artificial sweeteners in a big bunch of spinach.

Stick to the foods that do not need anything added in to them and start to get a better grasp on your health.

The last of Healthy Eating Series will focus not as much on a specific food but something that can cause just as much damage to our health if not properly managed: Stress

The Breast Is Best – Baby Stays Ahead When Breast Fed

Research has shown that one of the most critical times in the development for children is within their first year of life. During their first year is when the development process potentially results in a weight gain that can triple the weight of the child. (Stoppler, 2014) Where that weight comes from is one of the most significant contributing factors that determines how successfully healthy the child will be during the rest of their development. Therefore, it is up to the mothers to make that crucial decision on what will be used to supplement the nutritional needs of a child that determine the success of their well-being as they continue to develop. This decision can be difficult to make when looking at the variety of products offered for infant nutrition, especially for moms who are inexperienced at having children and do not know what products to use to promote success in different types of development. With this, instead of letting various companies who specialize in the manufacture and distribution of baby formula and nutrition decide what is good for the child, why not let something that specialized in the creation of the child decide what is best for the nutrition of that child during their critical time of development.

What is meant by this is that baby formula manufacturers produce products that go through a number of machines and tests that were created by people who know nothing about the needs of each particular child their product may serve. The one machine that actually knows what is best for each in individual child is that machine that created the child which is body of the child’s mother. This is why of all the alternatives available for supplementing child nutrition during the first year of development the best alternative in most cases is achieved through breast feeding from the mother. Baby formula products are something that have been around for a few decades and continue to be tested and changed with the progression of time. Breastfeeding is something that has existed and been used ever since the beginning of man and has been tested and proven for success with man’s continued existence. Although now in modern times it is used less because of the introduction of alternative methods that are perceived as more convenient with the use of formula, breastfeeding is still the one alternative that is preferred and supported by people who specialized in the care and development of children.

Most hospitals and facilities that accommodate child birthing have staff that actually encourage expecting and new moms to at least consider the use of breast feeding for providing the child’s nutritional needs during that first year. The support of breast feeding is also seen in recent changes made in policies at hospitals that once supported the use of formula. “As of 2011, nearly half of about 2,600 hospitals in a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had stopped giving formula samples to breast-feeding mothers”. (Belluck, 2012) This is because more and more medical experts at hospitals are being awakened to the benefits offered through breastfeeding and do not want to use things, such as giving formula samples, that may potentially discourage new mothers from breastfeeding.

The potential benefits offered through breastfeeding are numerous. “The immunity factors in breast milk can help the baby to fight off infections. Breast milk contains vitamins, minerals, and enzymes which aid the baby’s digestion.” (Stoppler, 2014). The source of the majority of medical benefits offered with breastfeeding comes with the fact that mother’s body is designed specifically by mother nature to provide for the well being of the child it produces. In other words the mother’s breast milk is specifically tailored for the mother’s baby. This is what plays a significant role in the creation of the immunity to infection and disease benefit that is offered with breastfeeding. When the mother’s body responds to infections her body will create secretory IgA that is made to combat those infections and this is passed from the mother’s body to the baby with breast milk and offers protection for the baby also. (BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board, 2014) It has also been shown that the protection against disease that comes from breast feeding extends well beyond the baby’s initial stages of development.

A variety of medical research has shown that “breast-fed children are less likely to contract a number of diseases later in life, including juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer before the age of 15″(National Resources Defense Council, 2014). The benefits of breastfeeding have also been found to be beneficial for the mother too. Research has shown that women who breastfeed have a reduced risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. There have also been studies conducted that prove that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of conditions such as type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2014). Breastfeeding is the choice that requires no research, test, or something manufactured with chemicals and machines with no design intended to see to the welfare of a child. With this, it seems it should the choice should be obvious. It only seems sensible that mothers should take full advantage the gift that nature has provided for the long term benefit of the child and her.


Belluck, P. (2012). Hospitals Ditch Formula Samples to Promote Breast-Feeding. The New York Times. Retrieved from:

Stoppler, M. C. (2014). Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding. Retrieved from:

BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board (2014). How breastfeeding benefits you and your baby. National Resources Defense Council (2014). Benefits of Breastfeeding.

American Academy of Pediatrics (2014). Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom.

Moves By the FDA May Change Food Packaging In the Near Future

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) efforts as of late have been focused on safety in the packaging and processing of food products and on information for the consumer. While these two areas of interest are hardly rare for the agency, the introduction of a couple of new pieces of legislation could require some significant changes in the packaging, processing and labeling of food products in the near future.

In 2011, the FDA passed the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA). As of the beginning of 2014, some areas of the FSMA are still open for interpretation. In general, the FDA is requiring makers and packagers of food to ensure that those who supply them with components of food are following certain guidelines. This is being done to ensure that a safe and sanitary process is being used not only by the maker or packager, but by all of those involved in the supply chain.

Some confusion, though, surrounds the definition of food, where the legal definition includes contact materials. This, in turn, could pull more than just food suppliers – vendors like packaging machinery manufacturers or cap, bottle and box suppliers – within the reach of the legislation. Though the FSMA appears to place the burden of setting up a safe and sanitary production process, this is not exactly spelled out in the Act. However, as long as food packagers and their vendors and suppliers work together to create product specific packaging lines, even a vague definition may not create too much turmoil.

But while food packagers and the industries that serve them await clarification on the FSMA, the FDA has turned their sites to the actual package that holds the food, or more specifically the nutrition label on that package. Suggestions for a nutrition label makeover have just moved from the FDA to the White House for approval. Unlike the FSMA, no changes have been made law as of yet, but just like the FSMA, food packagers are left wondering exactly what will be expected of them should the FDA adopt new guidelines.

Some expected changes include more focus or a more prominent display of the calorie count, a more clear picture of a serving size, moving away from gram measurements, additional or extended information on sugar and wheat and a possible move for the nutrition label to the front of the package. Given the trend toward healthy eating, it is surprising that this is the first makeover of the nutrition label since it was first introduced in the 1990s.

So why the change now? Generally speaking, our understanding of nutrition has changed quite a bit since the nutrition label was first introduced. As that understanding changes, the nutrition label must reflect any new information discovered to avoid becoming a useless box of numbers and percentages. As more and more Americans focus on getting and staying healthy, the nutrition label on food packages can be used as a tool if the correct, and helpful, information is displayed.

At the time of this writing, things are pretty much business as usual for food packagers and industry vendors. While changes to both packages and the packaging process can not be far off, the extent of those changes remains to be clearly defined.

2014 Food Revolution Summit: Credentialed Experts and Passionate Celebrities Call for Food Changes

Introduction: The 2014 Food Revolution Summit

The Summit began on April 26 and featured a series of 24 free lectures on the Internet, each lasting almost an hour, conducted over an eight-day period, with three talks per day. The range of topics dealt with the challenge of eating in ways that are good for the health of the individual, that respect and conserve the environment and that exhibit decent regard for other life forms. A lot of attention, as you might expect, was focused on the power of what one speaker called the corporate kleptocracy that transgresses mightily against the three interests noted-human health, the environment and other animals.

No doubt a major theme of this event was this: That food products created and promoted by major industries cause massive amounts of suffering all over the planet. Details concerning this proposition were offered depicting the degradation of the food supply, with stomach and brain churning data regarding the problems and hazards of our industrial food system. No wonder such an overwhelmingly large segment of society does not live and dine wisely. The Summit is simply another reminder of the fact that reality is not cheerful – cantdoit is the norm and it’s not going anywhere soon.

Over 100,000 participants registered for this free Summit event. While the nature of the dreadful system described is unlikely to change anytime soon, awareness of the realities is unquestionably useful for the small number of informed people who can recognize how and why things are as they are.

The founder and leader of the Summit is John Robbins, assisted by his son Ocean. Robins is an author, social activist and a humanitarian. He is a recipient of many honors, including the Rachel Carson, Albert Schweitzer, Peace Abbey’s Courage of Conscience and the Green America Lifetime Achievement awards. The two men interviewed 24 highly engaged doctors and others well-known for their books, research, nutrition-reform initiatives and other involvements. All these speakers are, as usual, celebrated in some nutrition circles, loathed in others. That’s how it is when you make a mark in the world or, come to think of it, when you fail to make a mark in the world, as well. Not only can you not please all the people all the time; it seems you can’t avoid really pissing off a good number of them, either.

The goal of the Summit is to promote a movement for change in the American and other food systems that will enable greater opportunities for a future with healthier, more sustainable, more humanely derived and consciously enjoyed food for all.

Day One: The Big Three of a Plant-Based Diet Approach

I tuned in to the first day’s three lectures, featuring three of the biggest guns or hardest hitters or whatever phrase might be assigned to the renowned lead-off medical experts with rather nutrient-dense portfolios.

First up was Mark Hyman, a family physician, author and adviser for multiple media outlets, politicians, a charlatan or two and varied citizen groups active in large scale weight loss projects. Among them are Rick Warren’s mega-church, though it’s obvious that Dr. Hyman’s diet advice must be of little interest to the Reverend himself, a bloated bloviator of biblical babble.

The second speaker was Dean Ornish, founder of a noted research institute and author of six best-sellers. More than any other, the Ornish program is based on making lifestyle changes an alternative to drugs and other medical strategies. In addition to the usual diet, exercise and stress reduction emphases, Dr. Ornish advocates such REAL wellness qualities as love, enjoyment and meaning to extend and transform lives.

The third speaker was Caldwell Esselstyn, a former rancher, surgeon and successful author who runs a plant-based diet program at the Cleveland Clinic and from his own foundation that he claims will render adherents bullet-proof to heart disease. Needless to say, this makes him a lightening rod for powerful interests in the medical community whose careers, livelihood and reputations are founded on interventions to treat heart disease. Dr. Esselstyn is also the father of Rip Esselstyn, a former professional triathlete who himself is quite famous and successful for his books and programs about Engine 2 whole-foods plant-based approaches to well being.


The three opening day speakers provided sweeping overviews of the system – one noting that there are 600,000 food items available today – and you don’t benefit from most of them. Politics and disease drive the health, or rather medical care system, with our Federal government inadvertently subsidizing the obesity epidemic.

Common fallacies were addressed, such as the idea that all calories are the same, that if you balance calories in and calories out you’ll do fine. This was termed absurd. It’s the nature of the calories taken in that matter more than number consumed. The extent of dysfunctional subsidies for unhealthy food that Congress steers to mega-farming industries was documented. Politically-driven priorities are, of course, guided by massive campaign donations. Surprisingly, such perfidy is not universal: Mexico is one of the few countries that subsidize and promote foods high in nutrient values.

The determinants of health were reviewed. Dr. Hyman said that we inherit tendencies from our parents, but we don’t inherit destinies. At present, the food industry,which is the biggest drug ring on the planet, profits by alienating us from our bodies. People can change, but under present conditions it’s unlikely – they can’t do it. The good doctors downplayed genetics from its all-controlling reputation to a 50/50 role with environments and chance. One identified an overlooked variable-the lifestyles of friends. (You are more likely to be overweight if your friends are overweight than if your parents are overweight.) Our connections are more controlling of the choices we’ll make than anything else. The advice: If you want to be fit and trim, hang out with healthy people who eat and otherwise live wisely. Good plan, and of course offered in the context of other considerations (e.g., being kind and helpful to those who don’t meet the healthy test).

One needed strategy for all who desire food system reforms is to decentralize; local actions are more likely to succeed. All speakers want us to reclaim our taste buds, dulled by sugar and other non-nutritive added ingredients. In mocking health claims on labels (with many examples, such as vitamin water), Dr. Hyman offered an ironic guideline, If a product has a health claim on the label, it’s probably bad for you. He agreed that milk, as the dairy industry ads proclaim, is nature’s perfect food, but added, if you’re a dairy cow. All three first-day speakers suggested, in varied ways, that our food aid export programs inflict our bad eating habits and food production processes on other nations. One remarked that if another country wreaked as much havoc on the health of American children as we do just about everywhere, we would go to war over it.

The three speakers, especially Dr. Esselstyn, hold thoroughly to the premise that our food culture is toxic. Big companies contaminate food with pesticides, hormones, GMOs and chemicals, and create products attractive to kids that are in fact sugary junk. No wonder 18 percent of our GDP goes for medical expenditures-this will not change for the better if we remain locked into a chemical-laden, highly processed, sugar infested and pesticide-contaminated pseudo-food diet.

A considerable emphasis was placed on the wisdom of choosing foods that are organic, sustainable, subject to fair trade, guided by GMO-free policies and obtained in ways both humane and healthy.

Major campaigns are in underway in 30 states for GMO labeling, improved treatment of animals and policies that require factory farms to pay for the pollution they produce. In addition, efforts are widespread across the country to reform school lunch menus currently designed by and beneficial only to the dairy, cattle and other food industries-not school children or taxpayers.

Dean Ornish focused on making healthy choices, doing the right thing for your health based not on disease avoidance but on the payoffs of positive returns. His was a REAL wellness message, a quality that has always characterized his work. He reviewed the limits of medicine and the sad fact that we seem conditioned to look for a new drug, gizmo (e.g., laser), surgical intervention – all things high-tech and, unfortunately, as expensive as they are ineffective for health enrichment. According to Dr. Ornish, 75 percent of the $2.7 trillion in health care costs, which are really ‘sick care’ costs, are from chronic diseases that can be largely prevented, or even reversed, by changing diet and lifestyle.

All promoted simple choices we can make every day – what we eat, how we respond to stress, whether or not we smoke, how much we exercise and the quality of our relationships. Dr. Ornish made the case for overcoming obstacles and barriers great and small on an individual basis, though in concert with others, whenever possible.

The three doctors addressed issues of science, the health insurance system, the role of behaviors on all the major diseases, needed medical reforms, the problems with fear-based motivation and the need to link good health with joy, love, meaning in life, fun, optimism, better bodies, good sensations (and vibrations, no doubt) and all of that.

Dr. Ornish said that the work he has done under the wellness banner is indeed a bit touchy-feely but it’s backed by science and it works.

Follow Up

If you want to listen to any or all of these free presentations now, after the Summit has concluded, you will have to spend a little money to do so. However, it won’t cost much. You can buy one of the three optional packages on offer and you will have all the lectures and more. This small investment will surely be wildly profitable in terms of knowledge gained and, assuming you follow at least some of the advice, quality of life returns. (The lectures were free during the Summit; however, the three daily lectures were available at no cost online only for 24 hours during the week-long Summit.) Three Food Revolution Summit Empowerment Package options range in price from $97 to $227.

Many thousands of well-informed, highly conscious people have reaped the rewards of switching from the standard American diet to a whole foods, plant-based menu promoted by the Summit speakers. I expect that tens of thousands more will benefit from the work of John Robbins and the 24 truly exceptional speakers featured in the 2014 Food Revolution Summit, as well as from related efforts across the Western world. But, this aware segment of the planet’s population will remain a small portion of the six billion humans struggling to get by every day, many grateful to have anything at all to eat, and thus the poignant realities for most people will not be much affected in our lifetimes. There is no reason, save for the fortunate few, to expect a major change in the controlling reality that blocks the way to even a reasonable level of well being for most, let alone that resulting from a REAL wellness mentality and lifestyle.

C’est dommage.

Just the same, oh fortunate ones, continue to eat wisely, live well and enjoy your time. Though it is true, as Ingersoll observed, that we are all children of the same Mother and the same fate awaits us all, while we’re here our realities are more unalike than similar. Try to make the most of what you have but also consider doing what little you can for the well being of your fellow man.

Weight Loss? We Need Acai Weight Loss!

Health Care Reform Law Update:

The United States currently spends twice as much on health care per person than other industrialized nations, yet we are not twice as healthy.

Despite being marketed as a health care reform bill, the legislation that was signed into law expands the size and scope of the federal government, while failing to deliver on the promise to lower health care costs. Unfortunately, it will actually increase costs for many Americans, both in terms of higher insurance premiums and in higher taxes.

The sad reason for these escalating health costs falls on the overweight, obese and morbidly obese in the US which is now close to 45% of the general population. The overweight population is responsible for the high percentage of doctor and hospital visits along with prescription medicine needs in the US.

The overweight have higher cases of high blood pressure, diabetes, and a variety of other overweight caused diseases. So the overweight is one of the top and prime reasons for why the health care costs are running up for everyone. Most of the overweight are not concerned with their condition or the costs that we all have to bear according to health officials.  As a result – enter the new health law.

Specifically, analysis released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary, the official government actuary for the Medicare program, confirms that the new health reform law fails to reduce health care costs. In fact, the Actuary’s analysis finds that this new law will increase national health spending by $311 billion over the next decade. Equally concerning, the latest analysis warns that the Medicare cuts in the new law could jeopardize seniors’ access to care.

Ultimately, hard-working Americans who are already struggling in this difficult economy are going to bear the brunt of new taxes, fees and penalties. With each day that goes by, it becomes clearer that we should repeal this bill and replace it with meaningful health reform that will actually reduce the cost of health care.

The President’s New Health Care Law

• Increases government spending by trillions. When fully implemented, this new law will increase federal government spending by $2.6 trillion, just over 10 years..

• Increases the costs of health care. This law fails to deliver on the promise to lower health care costs. In fact, the Actuary of the Medicare program has stated in a letter that national health spending will increase by $311 billion over 10 years. For a person who buys a new insurance policy in the nongroup market, this means their average premium would be 10 to 13 percent higher in 2016 than if we had done nothing. This is an average premium increase of $2,100 for a family policy in the individual market. Americans did not want reform that makes their premiums even more expensive. To read a report issued by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the increase in premiums.

• Massive expansion of government health care. The new law includes a massive expansion in the government’s health care program for the low-income (Medicaid). Rather than making health insurance more affordable so that Americans could choose a policy that best meets their health care needs, 16 million more Americans will instead be forced into a government-run health care program in which 40 percent of physicians restrict access to patients.

• If you like what you have, you CAN’T keep it. About 14 million people will lose the health insurance they get through their job, resulting in more Americans enrolling into Medicaid. In addition, the new law will cut a total of nearly $145 billion from Medicare Advantage plans – popular insurance plans that deliver a range of health care options to millions of seniors. This law also places new restrictions on Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Medical Savings Accounts, Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSAs), and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs). The law’s new restrictions and tax increases will dramatically change for the worse the coverage and benefits millions of Americans currently enjoy.

• New penalties and fees. This new law includes an unconstitutional mandate that requires most Americans to obtain health insurance or be charged a fine simply for not being insured. This fine could be the greater of $695 or 2.5% of your household income in the coming years.

• Taking money from Medicare and seniors’ health care to create new government programs. This law cuts more than half a trillion dollars from Medicare beneficiaries in order to pay for the creation of new government programs. This includes cuts to hospitals, Medicare Advantage, home health, nursing homes, and hospice care. According to the Medicare Actuary, about “15 percent of Part A providers would become unprofitable within the 10-year projection period” because of the health care law. The Actuary also found that the new law may result in doctors terminating their participation in Medicare entirely, “possibly jeopardizing access to care for Medicare beneficiaries.”

• New tax on retirees. On top of the Medicare cuts that retirees will face, this law actually increases taxes on employers who offer prescription drug coverage to their retired workers. This $4.5 billion tax increase will result in employers dropping their retiree health coverage, the exact opposite of what we should be doing. 

• New taxes on life-saving medical devices and drugs. These new taxes on life-saving medical devices and drugs make health care more expensive for patients and could stifle medical innovation. The Medicare Actuary found that this tax “would generally be passed through to health consumers in the form of higher drug and device prices and higher insurance premiums.”

• Job-killing tax. This health reform law imposes a new tax on jobs by forcing employers who do not provide “acceptable” coverage to pay a penalty tax of up to $2,000 per worker. The Congressional Budget Office confirmed that such taxes “could reduce the hiring of low-wage workers.”

 According to the Medicare Actuary, businesses will pay $87 billion in new penalties between 2014 and 2019. These new penalties will fall on the backs of hard-working Americans who are already facing great financial challenges in a struggling economy. With unemployment at such high levels and with so few jobs available, the last thing our government should be doing is imposing new taxes that will actually kill jobs and make our “jobless recovery” even worse.

Acai is the best healthy weight loss answer for all.

To your weight loss success, health and happiness,

John Schmidt – Weight Loss Nutritionist Coach