Aspartame: Is it really that bad for you? I used to think so. Here are the facts.

side-effects-of-aspartame1I see memes like this one about aspartame all the time. But are they accurate? I also see memes that claim Vitamin C supplements can cure cancer, vaccines cause autism, and so many other claims that have no scientific basis. So what about aspartame? Are these claims true, or are they just more paranoia and pseudoscience?

I’ve been doing a lot of research on this issue lately. I grew up hearing that aspartame was very bad for you, so I have avoided it myself for many years. But the more I look into it, the more the evidence points to it being just fine to consume. Study after study after study has shown it to be safe. In moderation, as with every other thing we eat, aspartame appears to be perfectly safe for people to consume in their regular diet.

https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/pepsi-removing-aspartame/

http://www.realclearscience.com/journal_club/2015/05/08/aspartame_sensitivity_doesnt_exist_109214.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=17828671&ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

Now I am not arguing that corporations are all good corporate citizens or wouldn’t dream of sweeping some inconvenient evidence under the carpet. But I am saying that a decades long conspiracy among industry, federal regulatory agencies, the medical community, and multiple research institutions and individual researchers – all under the nose of the press and lawyers looking for big class-action suits – is implausible in the extreme. I am also arguing that we should fairly assess all the evidence, not just cherry pick the evidence we like and dismiss the rest out of hand. https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/aspartame-truth-vs-fiction/

You’ll notice something about the links I’ve posted- they all cite scientific studies and/or quotes from verifiable sources, I believe all of them link to these studies or tell you the names so you can verify it for yourself. One of these links is from the US National Library of Medicine. THIS is the kind of research I try to do. I want to know what the actual science says. And contrary to many pseudoscience adherents and conspiracy theorists, I generally trust the consensus of the scientific community.

“But what if they’re wrong or lying? What about this doctor or that person who disagrees?” Then prove it! Get other scientists who have the required education and experience to perform their own studies and concretely prove that aspartame is unsafe! But you don’t have to do that unless you really want to, because they’ve already been doing this exact thing for 30 years, and it’s STILL considered safe for consumption. Shouldn’t this tell us something? Instead of assuming that there must be a decades-long conspiracy by all these countless independent researchers to hide the “truth”, doesn’t it make more sense to assume that maybe people’s fears about aspartame are unfounded?

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I want my views to be based on facts. If something is truly bad for me, I’ll avoid it and I’ll encourage others to do the same. But if it’s not, I don’t see why I shouldn’t use it or why we should be stoking fear and paranoia about the food we consume. If there are other scientifically sound studies that show significant possibility of harm from using aspartame and these studies are backed by scientists experienced in this specific field, I’d certainly take that into account. But aspartame is one of the most highly studied food additives of all time, and 30 years of intense research has not proven that its unsafe or harmful.

Is there a downside to aspartame? Surely there must be one. And there is- but it’s not just aspartame.
The only downside I’ve seen of aspartame is also true of any other calorie-free sweetener: If you’re trying to retrain your taste buds to not crave sweet things anymore, then consuming artificial sweeteners will do the same thing to your brain as eating regular sugar. When we eat sweets, we then crave more sweets, even if there’s no calories. We crave the taste psychologically. So if you’re trying to retrain your brain to not crave sweets, then aspartame and all other calorie free sweeteners are going to hurt your progress.

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Please read through the information in the links I shared here before making comments about me not knowing what I’m talking about. Yes, I am just a blogger with an opinion, but this isn’t really about my opinions. This is about sharing the already confirmed consensus of the scientific and medical community. I may not be a scientist or a doctor, but the people who did these studies and verified its safety are. Don’t take my word for it- go research it yourself!

Please keep in mind that if you comment that aspartame is bad for me, I will be asking you for sources. I’ll certainly consider what you have to say, but you’re not going to change my mind with just your opinions or by citing sources that are not verifiable or reliable. I require proof- and so should you.

My Journey Away From Creationism and Criticism of Lee Strobel

debunking-creationism-in-two-minutes

(This was originally my reply to an internet discussion about the claims made by Lee Strobel in “A Case for a Creator”, where he interviews supposed experts and uses several examples to “debunk” evolution, such as Haeckle’s Embryos and the Archeopteryx. I decided to modify it into a blog post since it was almost that long anyways lol.) 

I was a creationist for most of my life, it was a very serious interest of mine because I am incredibly passionate about truth and facts. I strongly supported Kent Hovind, Ken Ham and others like them, I loved Answer in Genesis and I had a big binder full of what I thought was proof against evolution, including the exact examples mentioned in “A Case for a Creator” (my copy of that book was dog-eared and highlighted).

Until I actually studied evolution from a non-creationist source.

When I started being open enough to question things, I started questioning creationism too. I was shocked at what I found- and then I got angry. I felt utterly betrayed.

Creationism had grossly misrepresented evolution to me, in some cases drastically. I was led to believe that there was significant scientific opposition to evolution, even though there isn’t. I was told that there wasn’t sufficient fossil evidence for evolution, when in fact there are thousands of fossils and biological links that prove evolution beyond any reasonable doubt. Even if the Archeopteryx was debunked, which is isn’t, it wouldn’t change the other mountains of evidence for evolution in the fossil record, biology, genetics, and so much more. I was told to ask questions that makes no sense, like why we still have monkeys if we evolved from them (we didn’t evolve from them, we had a common ancestor).

Scientists debate the details, as they do in every branch of accepted science, but there is no real scientific debate on whether evolution itself is a fact or not.

Scientists use evolutionary biology every single day to understand how viruses evolve and change so they can treat it. Without understanding evolution, we would not have vaccines and cures for many diseases. That’s why we have to get a new flu shot every year, because the virus is constantly evolving. Scientists have figured out evolution so well that they can predict evolutionary patterns in the fossil record, which has been confirmed over and over again by fossils we discover.

Here are some sources about the basics of evolution:

Excellent 10 minute description of evolution: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdddbYILel0

Great youtube series on the basics of evolution: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85diEXbJBIk&list=PL0201355430A94385

Evolotion 101: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evo_01

Answers to Creationist arguments: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/15-answers-to-creationist/

Creationist sources tend to rely on fundamental misunderstandings of evolution and by ignoring the scientific rebuttals to their criticisms. Lee Strobel’s book is a perfect example of this.

Strobel’s Book

There are some major problems with Strobel’s book, A Case for a Creator. For one, he uses Haeckle’s Embryo’s as an example of evolutionary proof even though they were debunked as frauds long ago. No scientist uses that as evidence to prove evolution, there’s plenty of accurate information without needing to use forgeries. So why do Strobel and other creationists specifically use an example that evolutionary scientists today don’t even accept as factual or relevant? It’s incredibly misleading and dishonest. It’s cherry picked to make evolution look unreliable. This alone should call Strobel’s journalistic credibility and competency into question. No truly unbiased author would use such a bad example of evolutionary proof unless he either didn’t understand evolution or was grasping at straws to debunk it and was willing to blur the lines a little.

Another problem with his book is his very biased choice of “experts” to interview.

“And in order to obtain the “hard facts of mathematics” and the “cold data of cosmology,” Strobel interviewed Dr. Craig, who doesn’t even have an undergraduate degree in mathematics or cosmology! Dr. Craig’s credentials are purely in theology and philosophy. While Dr. Craig is indeed qualified to publish on related topics, such as the philosophy of science, he is not among the first people one should approach with questions about mathematics and cosmology–unless one already has an underlying agenda.” http://pleiotropy.fieldofscience.com/2009/02/strobels-case-for-creator.html#sthash.XfHUYuiu.dpuf
“Strobel is frankly misleading about his experts’ qualifications. While spending paragraphs touting each of his interviewees’ “doctorate-level” educations, he fails to point out that most of them do not have doctorates in the fields dealing with the issues on which they were interviewed. Rather, most of them have doctorates in philosophy or theology, and perhaps undergraduate degrees in a related science. Strobel clearly meant to insinuate that he picked doctorate-level experts in the fields dealing with the issues they were interviewed about; but, with a few exceptions, this is not the case. This does not bode well for his claim of standing “in the shoes of the skeptic.” Further, the opinions expressed by his experts are minority opinions in their fields. Of course, minority opinions can and do become majority opinions. But if you are conducting an investigation concerning a particular field of study, you don’t simply interview those with minority opinions and treat their opinions as representative of that field. This provides further evidence that Strobel’s pretense of playing the skeptic is a complete farce.” http://infidels.org/library/modern/paul_doland/creator.html

As for the other examples in Strobel’s book, scientists have debunked those issues many times. I could go into details, but I encourage you to research those claims for yourself.

I strongly encourage you to study science from scientific sources.

Being Horny Used to be a Medical Condition, “Treated” by Doctors

Oh my… history is certainly enlightening!!

Back in the day, there was “no such thing” as a woman’s sex drive. If you were a lady living before the 20th century and were experiencing feelings of anxiety, irritability, nervousness, heaviness in the lower abdomen, wetness between the legs, and erotic fantasies, doctors would diagnose you with “hysteria.”

In order to “cure” hysteria, doctors would apply vegetable oil to a woman’s genitals and message them until the woman suddenly felt a sense of relief. Or in other words, doctors treated hysteria with hand jobs. Because many doctors experienced chronic hand fatigue – achy, cramped fingers – from all the massaging they were doing, maintaining long-term treatment was difficult.

Because of that, physicians experimented with mechanical substitutes for their hands. Thus, the vibrator was born.

Sometimes history is more interesting than anything Hollywood comes up with. Hehe.

I should buy a book on the history of human sexuality, it’s fascinating to see how attitudes towards sex have changed. Oh wait- I have one I haven’t read yet! It’s in my stack of “I want to read these” books. lol.

On a serious note, reading things like this reminds me of the great strides we have made as women- and also just how far we have to go. Female sexuality has long been feared and misunderstood, but we’re making excellent progress in changing that. But we’re not there yet! Once words like “slut” stop being an insult and women aren’t called whores for enjoying sex, then we’ll be getting somewhere.

http://www.bustle.com/articles/81245-the-history-of-vibrators-and-more-things-you-need-to-know-about-your-favorite-sex-toy?utm_source=FBTraffic&utm_medium=fijifrost&utm_campaign=CMfacebook&ts_pid=2

“I am an Atheist Because…” (Meme)

316ffa692584253996a1a475c0e25fa2“I am an atheist.

I’m not an atheist because I think it’s cool.

I’m not an atheist because of religious extremism or oppression

in some depraved corners of the world.

I’m not an atheist because I don’t think evil can exist in a world with a god.

I’m not an atheist because I think science can disprove god.

I’m an atheist because of one simple fact:

The Burden of Proof Lies on Religion.

If you propose the existence of something, you must follow the

scientific method in your defense of its existence.

Otherwise, I have no reason to listen to you.”

“You’re an Atheist Because You Want to Sin.”

I’ve heard a lot of things since my beliefs changed. Some are rather funny, but most are hurtful and frustrating. This is one I hear a lot: “You’re an atheist because you want to sin!” Here are my rebuttals.

1. First of all, you’re essentially calling me a liar. I know why I stopped believing, and that’s not it. Your implication is that I actually DO believe in God and sin, but am lying or in denial, and that being an atheist is my excuse for being able to sin. So what you’re saying is that I cannot possibly know my true reasons for disbelieving, but you (often a stranger) somehow do. How arrogant and offensive.

2. Secondly, you’re assuming that I’m basically devoid of common sense. Do you think I’m foolish enough to think that saying “I don’t believe in God” would be enough to save me from the consequences of sin if God did exist and sin was a real thing? Of course not. According to common Christian teachings my belief in sin would be irrelevant, it would not change how I was punished. I’m not foolish enough to try to fool an omniscient deity- I just don’t believe there is such a thing.

3. You assume that I care about or fear sin. I don’t. Just like Christians don’t think about or worry about reincarnation, I don’t worry about sin. Why? Because I don’t think it’s a real thing, other than as a human societal construct. I believe sin is a human construct that was created by people for controlling others. If you tell someone that what they’re doing is sinful and they’ll burn in hell for it, it’s a very powerful tool of manipulation. Political rulers have used this tool since early human history. I don’t think about sin at all in my daily life because it has absolutely no bearing on my life.

It’s equally humorous and frustrating when some Christians threaten me with hell, or make comments about how “if I loved God I would turn from my sin”. I don’t love God- I can’t love something that doesn’t exist. It’s like chiding me for not loving Allah or Vishnu, both of which are deities that other people currently believe in. And I don’t care about sin, because I don’t need obey another human’s arbitrary rules to be moral and kind.