the technical name for the brand names NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful,
and Equal-Measure. It was discovered by accident in 1965 when James
Schlatter, a chemist of G.D. Searle Company, was testing an anti-ulcer
was approved for dry goods in 1981 and for carbonated beverages
in 1983. It was originally approved for dry goods on July 26, 1974,
but objections filed by neuroscience researcher Dr John W. Olney
and Consumer attorney James Turner in August 1974 as well as investigations
of G.D. Searle’s research practices caused the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) to put approval of aspartame on hold (December
5, 1974). In 1985, Monsanto purchased G.D. Searle and made Searle
Pharmaceuticals and The NutraSweet Company separate subsidiaries.
for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported
to the FDA. Many of these reactions are very serious including seizures
and death.(1) A few of the 90 different documented symptoms listed
in the report as being caused by aspartame include: Headaches/migraines,
dizziness, seizures, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, weight gain,
rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, tachycardia, insomnia,
vision problems, hearing loss, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties,
anxiety attacks, slurred speech, loss of taste, tinnitus, vertigo,
memory loss, and joint pain.
researchers and physicians studying the adverse
effects of aspartame, the following chronic illnesses can be
triggered or worsened by ingesting of aspartame:(2) Brain tumors,
multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s
disease, Alzheimer’s, mental retardation, lymphoma, birth defects,
fibromyalgia, and diabetes.
made up of three chemicals: aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol.
The book "Prescription for Nutritional Healing," by James
and Phyllis Balch, lists aspartame under the category of "chemical
poison." As you shall see, that is exactly what it is.
Aspartame Made Of?
Acid (40 percent of Aspartame)
L. Blaylock, a professor of neurosurgery at the Medical University
of Mississippi, recently published a book thoroughly detailing the
damage that is caused by the ingestion of excessive aspartic acid
from aspartame. Blaylock makes use of almost 500 scientific references
to show how excess free excitatory amino acids such as aspartic
acid and glutamic acid (about 99 percent of monosodium glutamate
(MSG) is glutamic acid) in our food supply are causing serious chronic
neurological disorders and a myriad of other acute symptoms.(3)
(and Glutamate) Cause Damage
glutamate act as neurotransmitters in the brain by facilitating
the transmission of information from neuron to neuron. Too much
aspartate or glutamate in the brain kills certain neurons by allowing
the influx of too much calcium into the cells. This influx triggers
excessive amounts of free radicals, which kill the cells. The neural
cell damage that can be caused by excessive aspartate and glutamate
is why they are referred to as "excitotoxins." They "excite"
or stimulate the neural cells to death.
is an amino acid. Taken in its free form (unbound to proteins) it
significantly raises the blood plasma level of aspartate and glutamate.
The excess aspartate and glutamate in the blood plasma shortly after
ingesting aspartame or products with free glutamic acid (glutamate
precursor) leads to a high level of those neurotransmitters in certain
areas of the brain.
The blood brain
barrier (BBB), which normally protects the brain from excess glutamate
and aspartate as well as toxins, 1) is not fully developed during
childhood, 2) does not fully protect all areas of the brain, 3)
is damaged by numerous chronic and acute conditions, and 4) allows
seepage of excess glutamate and aspartate into the brain even when
glutamate and aspartate slowly begin to destroy neurons. The large
majority (75 percent or more) of neural cells in a particular area
of the brain are killed before any clinical symptoms of a chronic
illness are noticed. A few of the many chronic illnesses that have
been shown to be contributed to by long-term exposure to excitatory
amino acid damage include:
- Memory loss
- Brain lesions
The risk to
infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly and persons with
certain chronic health problems from excitotoxins are great. Even
the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB),
which usually understates problems and mimics the FDA party-line,
recently stated in a review that:
prudent to avoid the use of dietary supplements of L-glutamic acid
by pregnant women, infants, and children. The existence of evidence
of potential endocrine responses, i.e., elevated cortisol and prolactin,
and differential responses between males and females, would also
suggest a neuroendocrine link and that supplemental L-glutamic acid
should be avoided by women of childbearing age and individuals with
from aspartame has the same deleterious effects on the body as glutamic
The exact mechanism
of acute reactions to excess free glutamate and aspartate is currently
being debated. As reported to the FDA, those reactions include:(5)
(blocks sufficient glucose entry into brain)
- Sleep problems
- Vision problems
complaint of persons suffering from the effect of aspartame is memory
loss. Ironically, in 1987, G.D. Searle, the manufacturer of aspartame,
undertook a search for a drug to combat memory loss caused by excitatory
amino acid damage. Blaylock is one of many scientists and physicians
who are concerned about excitatory amino acid damage caused by ingestion
of aspartame and MSG.
A few of the
many experts who have spoken out against the damage being caused
by aspartate and glutamate include Adrienne Samuels, Ph.D., an experimental
psychologist specializing in research design. Another is Olney,
a professor in the department of psychiatry, School of Medicine,
Washington University, a neuroscientist and researcher, and one
of the world’s foremost authorities on excitotoxins. (He informed
Searle in 1971 that aspartic acid caused holes in the brains of
(50 percent of aspartame)
Phenylalanine is an amino acid normally found in the brain. Persons
with the genetic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot metabolize
phenylalanine. This leads to dangerously high levels of phenylalanine
in the brain (sometimes lethal). It has been shown that ingesting
aspartame, especially along with carbohydrates, can lead to excess
levels of phenylalanine in the brain even in persons who do not
This is not
just a theory, as many people who have eaten large amounts of aspartame
over a long period of time and do not have PKU have been shown to
have excessive levels of phenylalanine in the blood. Excessive levels
of phenylalanine in the brain can cause the levels of seratonin
in the brain to decrease, leading to emotional disorders such as
depression. It was shown in human testing that phenylalanine levels
of the blood were increased significantly in human subjects who
chronically used aspartame.(6)
Even a single
use of aspartame raised the blood phenylalanine levels. In his testimony
before the U.S. Congress, Dr. Louis J. Elsas showed that high blood
phenylalanine can be concentrated in parts of the brain and is especially
dangerous for infants and fetuses. He also showed that phenylalanine
is metabolised much more efficiently by rodents than by humans.(7)
of a case of extremely high phenylalanine levels caused by aspartame
was recently published in the Wednesday Journal in an article
titled "An Aspartame Nightmare." John Cook began drinking
six to eight diet drinks every day. His symptoms started out as
memory loss and frequent headaches. He began to crave more aspartame-sweetened
drinks. His condition deteriorated so much that he experienced wide
mood swings and violent rages. Even though he did not suffer from
PKU, a blood test revealed a phenylalanine level of 80 mg/dl. He
also showed abnormal brain function and brain damage. After he kicked
his aspartame habit, his symptoms improved dramatically.(8)
points out in his book, early studies measuring phenylalanine buildup
in the brain were flawed. Investigators who measured specific brain
regions and not the average throughout the brain notice significant
rises in phenylalanine levels. Specifically the hypothalamus, medulla
oblongata, and corpus striatum areas of the brain had the largest
increases in phenylalanine. Blaylock goes on to point out that excessive
buildup of phenylalanine in the brain can cause schizophrenia or
make one more susceptible to seizures.
long-term, excessive use of aspartame may provide a boost to sales
of seratonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac and drugs to control
schizophrenia and seizures.
(aka wood alcohol/poison) (10 percent of aspartame)
alcohol is a deadly poison. Some people may remember methanol as
the poison that has caused some "skid row" alcoholics
to end up blind or dead. Methanol is gradually released in the small
intestine when the methyl group of aspartame encounter the enzyme
of methanol into the body is sped up considerably when free methanol
is ingested. Free methanol is created from aspartame when it is
heated to above 86 Fahrenheit (30 Centigrade). This would occur
when aspartame-containing product is improperly stored or when it
is heated (e.g., as part of a "food" product such as Jello).
down into formic acid and formaldehyde in the body. Formaldehyde
is a deadly neurotoxin. An EPA assessment of methanol states that
methanol "is considered a cumulative poison due to the low
rate of excretion once it is absorbed. In the body, methanol is
oxidized to formaldehyde and formic acid; both of these metabolites
are toxic." They recommend a limit of consumption of 7.8 mg/day.
A one-liter (approx. 1 quart) aspartame-sweetened beverage contains
about 56 mg of methanol. Heavy users of aspartame-containing products
consume as much as 250 mg of methanol daily or 32 times the EPA
methanol poisoning include headaches, ear buzzing, dizziness, nausea,
gastrointestinal disturbances, weakness, vertigo, chills, memory
lapses, numbness and shooting pains in the extremities, behavioral
disturbances, and neuritis. The most well known problems from methanol
poisoning are vision problems including misty vision, progressive
contraction of visual fields, blurring of vision, obscuration of
vision, retinal damage, and blindness. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen,
causes retinal damage, interferes with DNA replication and causes
Due to the
lack of a couple of key enzymes, humans are many times more sensitive
to the toxic effects of methanol than animals. Therefore, tests
of aspartame or methanol on animals do not accurately reflect the
danger for humans. As pointed out by Dr. Woodrow C. Monte, director
of the food science and nutrition laboratory at Arizona State University,
"There are no human or mammalian studies to evaluate the possible
mutagenic, teratogenic or carcinogenic effects of chronic administration
of methyl alcohol."(11)
He was so concerned
about the unresolved safety issues that he filed suit with the FDA
requesting a hearing to address these issues. He asked the FDA to
"slow down on this soft drink issue long enough to answer some
of the important questions. It’s not fair that you are leaving the
full burden of proof on the few of us who are concerned and have
such limited resources. You must remember that you are the American
public’s last defense. Once you allow usage (of aspartame) there
is literally nothing I or my colleagues can do to reverse the course.
Aspartame will then join saccharin, the sulfiting agents, and God
knows how many other questionable compounds enjoined to insult the
human constitution with governmental approval."(10) Shortly
thereafter, the Commissioner of the FDA, Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr.,
approved the use of aspartame in carbonated beverages, he then left
for a position with G.D. Searle’s public relations firm.(11)
It has been
pointed out that some fruit juices and alcoholic beverages contain
small amounts of methanol. It is important to remember, however,
that methanol never appears alone. In every case, ethanol is present,
usually in much higher amounts. Ethanol is an antidote for methanol
toxicity in humans.(9) The troops of Desert Storm were "treated"
to large amounts of aspartame-sweetened beverages, which had been
heated to over 86 degrees F in the Saudi Arabian sun. Many of them
returned home with numerous disorders similar to what has been seen
in persons who have been chemically poisoned by formaldehyde. The
free methanol in the beverages may have been a contributing factor
in these illnesses. Other breakdown products of aspartame such as
DKP (discussed below) may also have been a factor.
In a 1993 act
that can only be described as "unconscionable," the FDA
approved aspartame as an ingredient in numerous food items that
would always be heated to above 86 degree F (30 degree C).
DKP is a byproduct
of aspartame metabolism. DKP has been implicated in the occurrence
of brain tumors. Olney noticed that DKP, when nitrosated in the
gut, produced a compound that was similar to N-nitrosourea, a powerful
brain tumor causing chemical. Some authors have said that DKP is
produced after aspartame ingestion. I am not sure if that is correct.
It is definitely true that DKP is formed in liquid aspartame-containing
products during prolonged storage.
conducted animal experiments on the safety of DKP. The FDA found
numerous experimental errors occurred, including "clerical
errors, mixed-up animals, animals not getting drugs they were supposed
to get, pathological specimens lost because of improper handling,"
and many other errors.(12) These sloppy laboratory procedures may
explain why both the test and control animals had sixteen times
more brain tumors than would be expected in experiments of this
In an ironic
twist, shortly after these experimental errors were discovered,
the FDA used guidelines recommended by G.D. Searle to develop the
industry-wide FDA standards for good laboratory practices.(11)
DKP has also
been implicated as a cause of uterine polyps and changes in blood
cholesterol by FDA Toxicologist Dr. Jacqueline Verrett in her testimony
before the U.S. Senate.(13)
of Health and Human Services, Report on All Adverse Reactions
in the Adverse Reaction Monitoring System, (February 25 and 28,
by researchers, physicians, and artificial sweetener experts for
Mission Possible, a group dedicated to warning consumers about
The Taste That Kills, by Russell L. Blaylock, M.D.
- Safety of
Amino Acids, Life Sciences Research Office, FASEB, FDA Contract
No. 223-88-2124, Task Order No. 8.
- FDA Adverse
Reaction Monitoring System.
and Walker, "Dietary Phenylalanine and Brain Function,"
Proceedings of the First International Meeting on Dietary Phenylalanine
and Brain Function., Washington, D.C., May 8, 1987.
Before the Committee On Labor and Human Resources United States
Senate, First Session on Examining the Health and Safety Concerns
of Nutrasweet (Aspartame).
of John Cook as published in Informed Consent Magazine.
"How Safe Is Your Artificial Sweetener" by Barbara Mullarkey,
C. Monte, Ph.D., R.D., "Aspartame: Methanol and the Public
Health," Journal of Applied Nutrition, 36 (1): 42–53.
- US Court
of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, No. 84-1153 Community
Nutrition Institute and Dr Woodrow Monte v. Dr Mark Novitch, Acting
Commissioner, US FDA (9/24/85).
Time Line by Barbara Mullarkey as published in Informed Consent
Magazine, May/June 1994.
- FDA Searle
Investigation Task Force. "Final Report of Investigation
of G.D. Searle Company." (March 24, 1976)
of Dr Jacqueline Verrett, FDA Toxicologist before the US Senate
Committee on Labor and Human Resources, (November 3, 1987).