The Reality Check #151: Aspartame + Cryotherapy + Dentist Suicides

The Reality Check is a weekly podcast produced by Ottawa Skeptics.

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Darren covers the evidence (or lack thereof) for aspartame’s supposed harms. Adam covers the latest trend in the NBA, cryotherapy, the use of experiencing cold to enhance athletic performance. Elan then looks at the claim that dentists have the highest suicide rate among professions.


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Straight Dope
NCI page on aspartame 

Review study

Nature Obesity paper



Mavericks Credit Cryotherapy For Improved Postseason Recovery Time
Liquid Air – Wikipedia
Cryotherapy – Wikipedia
The Skeptics’ Guide To The Universe – Podcast 69 – 11/15/2006
Dr Oz: Cryogenic Chamber Therapy: Extreme Alternative Therapies


 Dentist Suicides

APA article

Straight dope




04. August 2011 by Pat
Categories: 'The Reality Check' Episodes, The Reality Check - Podcast | 4 comments

Comments (4)

  1. If you need some ideas for new topics (not that the aspartame segment wasn’t interesting – I was going to make some suggestions anyway), I have two.

    First – I started a new job this week and among the various policy documents I had to read, one was a hefty 60+ pages on a scent-free workplace. It went a bit like this: “Many government agencies and health bodies say the fact that 90% of scents are now chemically produced has no ill health effects (looks at a specific compound in beauty products that are legislated safe up to 10% concentrations), but now here are a some random studies that suggest it is bad for the reproductive health of foetuses. Further, we live in an epidemic of cancer caused by our toxic environment.” I do get headaches when exposed to strong perfumes or scents, but I was still highly skeptical of the whole document. I could pass it along if you want, but really I want to know: what’s the deal with scent free policies, the health impacts of phthalates and “multiple chemical sensitivity”?

    Second, my mom just started the Dukan diet – the book was released in North America last year. There are a few brief debunkings around, but a full segment on protein diets might be interesting.

    I haven’t listened to every episode, so sorry if you have already covered these in some way.

  2. I do agree that aspartame might not be that dangerous, and probably not responsible for the plethora of problems that you described. At least when the consumption is moderate or low.

    Anyway, i would like to point out that Italian research group has found out that it causes cancer in rats and mice;
    IIRC you said that some paper said that no such connection was ever found on humans or animals.

    I also found from pubmed a recent case study that says it does cause fibromyalgia to some. However this is just preliminary stuff;

    But in a general note i didn’t like the idea that some of you promoted soda drinking, even be it non-sugar kind. What is wrong with water as a 0 calorie drink? Or carbonated water with some squeezed lemon etc?
    Perhaps this is a cultural thing out there in America (and Canada) to drink so much processed sweet liquids?
    Water ftw i would say 😀

    I don’t drink aspartame drinks cos they taste bad and i generally dont like sweet soda drinks but I am not that eager either being a living guinea-pig with these new foodstuffs that are so recent in our evolution.

    Anyway, good show as always. Keep up the good skeptic work.

  3. Hi Guillermo,
    Thanks for the comment.
    The main message I was trying to convey was that there is no good evidence it causes problems in humans. The NCI had a page, they since changed it to –
    and you’ll see there are no strong links for people and the animal stuff isn’t so conclusive either.
    As for the soda drinking, perhaps it is a cultural thing. I was projecting outward a bit but also targeting those who drink sweet things. And if you want/need to drink something sweet, it is okay to have a sugar substitute in there.

  4. Indeed that page says that
    “sweeteners have not provided clear evidence of an association with cancer in humans. Similarly, studies of other FDA-approved sweeteners have not demonstrated clear evidence of an association with cancer in humans.”

    But that page has old info. The last study about Aspartame it mentions is from 2005. There have been studies with negative results after that (2007 and 2010) from Italy.

    And I suppose the magic word in the text is the “clear”.

    Some small studies have found connection to cancer with artificial sweeteners;

    + the animal studies on top which show the causality which the page above did not mention, + the rationale that this stuff is so new to us in evolution scale so i am rather skeptical against the whole use of artificial sweeteners in general.

    Yes, i still don’t think that the stuff kills u instantly and I even think that it might not be that dangerous at all in low/moderate doses either. I am just skeptical 😀

    I just had hoped that you would have digged a bit deeper in the aspartame segment and not taken the easy way out by just referencing the wackos out there when there are actual studies out there that make the stuff more controversial and interesting.

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