Newsletter #26! Aspartame risk in the news! Connecting the aspartame dots to Louis Pasteur! 🍏👄🐶💕 Greetings from your local food scientist! 🍏👄🐶💕

Newsletter #26! Aspartame risk in the news! Connecting the aspartame dots to Louis Pasteur! 🍏👄🐶💕 Greetings from your local food scientist! 🍏👄🐶💕




Inside this newsletter:
1. What's New and food science factoids?
2. When to see me?
3. Deals!
(At the farmers' market, mention you received this newsletter for 10% off!)

1A) Food Science of ASPARTAME and Louis Pasteur: connecting the dots…

If you do not consume “diet” soda, that is excellent. Diet sodas are not good for you, that we know. Are they better than sugary soda? Let’s not go into that debate. (this paper does)

Even if you don’t consume aspartame, you may still find this email interesting, as I believe I have discovered an interesting aspect of “pasteurization” and its history.

Aspartame was in the news recently after a WHO report. Not sure why the timing was now. 1st world problem? 1st world has obesity problems, so perhaps the WHO figured they’d weigh in. I wrote a term paper on aspartame way back during high school, in 1996!

Confusingly, I thought Coke-Zero was sweetened with sucralose, not aspartame, but aspartame is now in Coke-Zero too! (not just "Diet Coke" has aspartame) Apparently, the hard working food scientists at Coca-Cola have been adjusting the formulations based on consumer preferences (and pricing pressure? Sucralose is typically more expensive than aspartame.)

There may even be a sucralose-version of Coke-Zero, if you search the grocery shelves enough or go online.

What is aspartame? It's fairly simple to explain: Three molecueles bound together into one big molecule:

(1) Aspartatic Acid + (2) Phenylalanine + (3) Methanol

Asparatic acid and phenylalanine are amino acids our bodies need, so I don't see what's so bad about consuming these two molecules. However, methanol is very toxic, which I will go into further detail.

    ***Methanol, however, is toxic***

Nature cited that the amount of methanol in aspartame is a "trivial" amount, although I would argue that regular drinkers of diet soda can damage their liver. I'll explain further.

Interestingly, Aspartame is not heat stable, so a can of aspartame containing soda if not refrigerated will taste less sweet. Sucarlose is heat stable.

Why not just use sucralose? (1) diet coke has been around longer (came out first); (2) thus, diet coke has its fans and the taste and astringent afterstaste, whereas sucralose has a sweet/lingering aftertaste some folks don’t like; (3) sucralose is generally more expensive than aspartame; (4) Sucralose has its own share of health concerns.

WHO report did not seem to be written in a very alarmist tone. The summary does not mention liver cancer from methanol.

Does sucralose cause cancer? Does Acesulfame K (ASK) high-intensity sweetener cause cancer? ASK is often used with aspartame to create a more rounded-out sweetness. Maybe I'll dive into those chemicals another time.

So how does aspartame tie-in to Louis Pasteur?

The process "pasteurization" is traditionally defined as heating to 149F. Then it dawned on me: interestly: 148F is the boiling point of methanol!

I found this article about when back in 1860s, French royalty enlisted Louis Pasteur to help with the nation's wine production quality problems.

1. While pasteurization is often associated with inactivation of microorganisms, the temperature of pasteurization is often defined as 149F to 150F…

****Could it be the great chemist also intended winemakers to vaporize the methanol to prevent the methanol-poisoning of the populace?****

2. 149F happens to be 1 degree fahrenheit above the boiling point of methanol! (148F (each degree celcius is about two times fahrenheit)
3. Flash pasteurization in a heat exchanger is sealed and does not allow methanol vapors to escape! (bad!) The advantage of flash pasteurization in a heat exchanger for beverages such as wine is that flavors are prevented from evaporating (and the temperature is not kept high for very long. Higher temperatures can cause cooking of the wine and creating undesirable flavor notes.) Ethanol boils at 173F, so keeping the ethanol in, while removing the methanol, is not so easy. (this is generally when distillation equipment is needed.)
4. *****Red wine has much higher methanol content than white wine, and red wine can be quite high in methanol! (see chart below) Microbial fermentation of tannins in the grape-skins tend to form methanol) whereas white wine typically has had skins removed; Good winemakers take processing steps to remove the methanol from wine.

Decanting of red wine and swirling of the wine in the glass is often associated with mellowing the flavor of red wine, however, the side/additional benefit is to allow for methanol to evaporate from red wine, although the boiling point of methanol is 148F, so you'd need to be in a fairly warm room to achieve much methanol evaporation from your wine.

Some interesting details:



3.This paper came from a 1984 review on risk of aspartame causing methanol toxicity, and yet the chart below shows red wine is very high in methanol! (Red wine contains about 4x the quantity of methanol than white wine.)

To poison yourself with methanol, it's easy to chug a lot of soda, whereas chugging wine will put you on the floor.

Glass of wine based on the above chart contains: 27mg of methanol

12oz can of diet soda contains: 20mg of methanol

70kg person consuming 35mg methanol per day will experience health decline based on the EPA at 0.5mg/kg body weight.

Pregnant woman consuming aspartame were at higher risk of children having autism (attributed to methanol)

(It's fairly well established pregnant woman should not drink alcohol, in part due to methanol in wine affecting fetal development.)

ref: EPA on methanol exposure per day:

The Reference Dose (RfD) for methanol is 0.5 milligrams per kilogram body weight per day (mg/kg/d) based on increased liver enzymes (SAP and SGPT) and decreased brain weight in rats. The RfD is an estimate (with uncertainty spanning perhaps an order of magnitude) of a daily oral exposure to the human
population (including sensitive subgroups) that is likely to be without appreciable risk of deleterious noncancer effects during a lifetime. It is not a direct estimator of risk but rather a reference point to gauge the potential effects. At exposures increasingly greater than the RfD, the potential for adverse health effects increases. Lifetime exposure above the RfD does not imply that an adverse health effect would necessarily occur.



6. CNN coverage of aspartame

7. Comprehensive review of aspartame

8. KOSHER WINE: Might boiling of wine by ancient Jews be related to pasteurization and removal of methanol? Interestingly, kosher wine is either boiled nor flash-pasteurized. There actually two types of kosher wine: (1) boiled ("Mevushal") and (2) non-boiled. Non-boiled is intended for shabbot and holidays, and must only be handled by jews.

9. Great little story about

10. Nature recent article on Aspartame:

1B: What's new and in production?!?

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(iii) Vegetable Jerky
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(iv) Walnut Apples! My new favorite sweet snack and no sugar added (NSA)!

C'mon down for some free samples! I'd love your feedback! I'm very happy with how it came out!



2. When to see moi next?

Answer: This weekend!





 This weekend!

Glen Cove Deep Roots (facebook page):

Garvies Point (location)

July 22nd 9am to 1pm

Huntington Farmers' Market

228 Main Street

July 23rd 8am to 12pm

Bi-weekly thereafter 

Glen Cove Deep Roots (facebook page):

Garvies Point (location)

Aug 12th 9am to 1pm

Huntington Farmers' Market

228 Main Street

Aug 13th 8am to 12pm


Glen Cove Deep Roots (facebook page):

Garvies Point (location)

Aug 26th 9am to 1pm

Huntington Farmers' Market

228 Main Street

Aug 27th 8am to 12pm


Glen Cove Deep Roots (facebook page):

Garvies Point (location)

Sept 9th 9am to 1pm

Huntington Farmers' Market

228 Main Street

Sept 10th 8:30am to 12:30pm


Glen Cove Deep Roots (facebook page):

Garvies Point (location)

Sept 23rd 9am to 1pm

Huntington Farmers' Market

228 Main Street

Sept 24th 8:30am to 12:30pm


Glen Cove Deep Roots (facebook page):

Garvies Point (location)

Oct 14th 9am to 1pm

Huntington Farmers' Market

228 Main Street

Oct 15th 8:30am to 12:30pm


Glen Cove Deep Roots (facebook page):

Garvies Point (location)

Oct 28th 9am to 1pm

Huntington Farmers' Market

228 Main Street

Oct 29th 8:30am to 12:30pm




More info & directions:

Glen Cove-Deep Roots Farmers Market Facebook Page

Huntington Farmers Market Directions





3. Deals!

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Shameless plugs

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Hypothesis: I will see you this Saturday or Sunday! 😃

Null hypothesis: I will not see you this weekend 😭

Conclusion: Not sure! Let's see!

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