Aspartame could replace aspirin in arthritis cases


August 01, 2004|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

My wife has recently developed diabetes and watches her sugar intake carefully. She uses Equal to sweeten her coffee or iced tea.

We read that Equal might be helpful against arthritis pain, but her doctor has never heard of this. He prescribed Vioxx, but it is too expensive. Aspirin and ibuprofen are cheap, but they give her heartburn. Is it true that Equal might work? If so, how much does it take?

Research published in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (May 1998) showed that aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) worked about as well as aspirin to relieve pain and inflammation. Unlike traditional anti-inflammatory drugs, aspartame does not irritate the stomach. The dose that researchers used ranged from four to eight tablets daily (76 to 152 milligrams).

One reader with a chronic back problem reported the following:

"I began using aspartame for my backache and within a few weeks was free of pain for the first time in years. Then a holistic healer told me to avoid aspartame-containing products. Within four days my back started hurting again. I went back on aspartame, and the pain and stiffness disappeared."

My 3-year-old dog - an adorable Maltese/Shih Tzu mix - constantly licks a front paw, especially during the summer months. Can a Listerine mixture help this?

I think she is licking due to itching or allergies, because I can find nothing wrong on her foot. How do I make the Listerine mixture?

Our veterinary consultant, Dr. Andy Frost, suggests that such paw licking is often a consequence of a food allergy. You may need to work with your vet to see if a change to a hypoallergenic diet would help.

If the problem is caused by an infection, vets sometimes prescribe an antibiotic or a topical anti-fungal solution, depending on the microorganism. We don't have scientific data on the Listerine mixture, but readers have told us it works for "hot spots," or moist dermatitis.

The mixture contains 1 part Listerine, 1 part baby oil and 1 part water, applied with a spray bottle once or twice a day. It is possible that the herbal ingredients in Listerine have some anti-fungal activity.

My doctor says my cholesterol levels are borderline, but that my triglycerides are way high and put me at risk of diabetes. He has recommended I try fish oil, diet and exercise. What can you tell me about triglycerides and fish oil?

Fish oil and a low-carbohydrate diet are extremely effective at lowering triglycerides. Losing weight and exercising are also effective strategies to reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Psyllium, a soluble fiber found in Metamucil and similar laxatives, can bring cholesterol down by 15 percent.

Is it possible that ginkgo would take the place of the aspirin I take as a preventive measure?

Ginkgo, like aspirin, keeps blood platelets from clumping together. There is no data, though, to show that this herb could replace aspirin for heart attack prevention.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them via their Web site,

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