Browse articles
by topic:

Aspartame: Dangerous substance
or just another sweetener?

According to the literature from its opponents, aspartame is a deadly poison. However, proponents say it
is perfectly safe. Certainly this is a contro-
versy worth exploring.

Aspartame, aka "NutraSweet", "Equal", "Spoonful", "Equal-Measure", and "Neotame", was approved for use in solid food by the FDA in 1981 and in soft drinks in 1983. Although it claims to be a "natural" sweetener, it is actually a "synthetic chemical consisting of two amino acids, phenylalanine (50%) and aspartic acid (40%), and a methyl ester (10%) that promptly becomes free methyl alcohol (methanol; wood alcohol)." (Mercola) Wood alcohol has always been considered a poison.

According to H.J. Roberts, MD, Director, Palm Beach Institute for Medical Research, "an estimated 800 million lbs. of aspartame have been consumed since its approval for human use". There are more than 9,000 products that contain aspartame. Aspartame is used in gum, soft drinks, puddings, baby foods, toothpastes, as a table top sweetener, and a host of other products.

According to Dr. Russell L. Blaylock, professor of Neurosurgery, Medical University of Mississippi, aspartic acid is an excitatory amino acid. He believes that free excitatory amino acids cause serious, chronic neurological disorders as well as a number of other acute symptoms. Dr. Blaylock says that "excessive excitotoxin accumulation within the injured brain constitutes the leading theory of a final common pathway for a multitude of disorders affecting the central nervous system, from strokes and trauma to neurodegenerative diseases and seizures." It appears, then, that ingesting aspartame can have adverse effects that can either worsen or trigger chronic illness. Some conditions that aspartame can affect or trigger are multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, diabetes, epilepsy, mental retardation, lymphoma, and birth defects. There is also evidence that excitotoxins are involved in Parkinson's disease.

Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid. This means that it is essential that we get it in our food, because our bodies do not make it. Phenylalanine is required by people of all ages and is found in protein food such as meat, milk, and eggs. Typically, dietary proteins contain five percent phenylalanine by weight. Aspartame, however, contains fifty percent. (Roberts) Most people consume enough protein and get plenty of phenylalanine in their diet. Amino acids in protein and other foods are not in a singular form. They are not isolated. They are "meant to be taken together in combination, because, in nature, amino acids work together to build proteins in the body". (Hull) Phenylalanine has been reported to be neurotoxic. It can inhibit the central nervous system in such a way that the end result is a loss of myelin. Myelin is the protective covering over the sheaths of various nerve fibers throughout the body. (Glanze) According to Dr. Blaylock, free form phenylalanine changes the way the brain is formed, lowers seizure threshold, and accumulates in critical areas of the brain, such a the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus controls endocrine function, heart rate, and sleep/wake cycles. It also controls the emotional system and appetite. Therefore, too much phenylalanine can alter proper functioning of whatever the hypothalamus controls.

Methanol constitutes ten percent of aspartame. Just because it is only ten percent, don't be fooled into thinking that it is not as dangerous as the other two components. Some proponents of aspartame claim that methanol is found in natural foods, especially fruit. However, these foods also contain ethanol, in a 20:1 ratio. Ethanol inhibits oxidation of the methanol and allows excretion through the lungs and kidneys. If oxidation of methanol is not inhibited, it converts to formaldehyde, a known carcinogen to the human body. Aspartame does not contain ethanol and no ethanol is produced.

Methanol in brain tissue converts into formic acid and formaldehyde, which are both neurotoxic. Methanol is also the first part of aspartame to be released in the small intestine and is rapidly absorbed. Elimination of methanol by a human being is five times longer than the same amount of ethyl alcohol. Methanol has cumulative effects resulting in eventual poisoning. Complete oxidation to carbon dioxide, which can then be exhaled by the lungs, takes several days. Formic acid has been implicated in methanol poisoning, which can lead to metabolic acidosis and blindness.

Here are some interesting facts about the methanol component in aspartame from Dr. Roberts:

A. There is a correlation between aspartame consumption and methanol concentrations.
B. As little as three teaspoons of forty-percent methanol can be fatal.
C. Nineteen mg. aspartame (equivalent to 1 tsp. sugar) equals 1.9 mg. methanol.
D. One liter of aspartame sweetened soft drink averages 555 mg. aspartame, which equals 55 mg. methanol.
E. Methanol concentrations rise with heating and prolonged storage of aspartame.
F. Methanol is a component of fuels such as Sterno, antifreeze, solvents and fluids used in duplicating machines.

Before aspartame's final approval in 1981, experiments were performed in various studies for safety. In one study, done by G.D. Searle, the manufacturer, 320 rats were fed aspartame and 120 rats were fed a normal diet. The results of this study were that in the rats fed aspartame, 12 developed brain tumors and none of the control rats had. The 12 represented 3.75% incidence of brain tumors in rats fed aspartame. When these results were broken down into low dose or high dose aspartame, it was found that the high dose aspartame fed rats had a higher incidence of brain tumors, showing a dose related incidence of brain tumors. (Blaylock) Some other disorders associated with methanol toxicity are eye damage, and "preembalming" where formaldehyde crystals actually deposit in organs of persons consuming large amounts of aspartame (Roberts).

Peripheral neuropathy, pancreatitis, cardiomyopathy, and severe depression are other problems associated with the methanol component of aspartame. Methanol also interferes with "dopamine reuptake at nerve terminals", which may cause parkinsonism, dementia, neurological abnormalities and blindness. Visual loss is a symptom of someone who consumes wood alcohol (methanol). (Roberts)

It is rather apparent that more independent studies need to be done concerning the safety of aspartame. Most of the studies that have been done were either done by the manufacturer or funded, in part, by the manufacturer. Over 3000 people complained to the FDA about the side effects they suffered from consuming aspartame sweetened produces, but their voices fell on deaf ears. The reports that have been cited are disregarded by the FDA as well. Lendon Smith, MD "has stated that eighty-five percent of all complaints registered with the FDA concern reactions to aspartame, the sole ingredient in NutraSweet, and there have been four deaths in the FDA files listed under aspartame symptoms". (Hull)

Aspartame doesn't affect everyone the same. Like with other toxins, once it is dissolved in the body, it will deposit in the weakest area, which may explain the variety of complaints received by the FDA.

- Back to Top -

167 East Camp Rd, Germantown, NY 12526, (518) 537-5417, E-MAIL BONNIE

Copyright © 2012 Bonnie's Nutrition. Website by Daniel Hotter.
* The information contained herein is intended for educational purposes only.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.