Aspartame was discovered by accident in 1965. A chemist with the G.D. Searle Company was testing an anti-ulcer drug and discovered it tasted sweet. It was approved for dry goods in 1974, but was met with objections by a neuroscience researcher and the Consumer attorney prompting investigation of the research practices of the G.D. Searle Company. There are reports that the research was falsified to finally get FDA approval in 1981. The argument over the effects of aspartame has been going on for decades and continues today. When you do the research, however, there doesn’t seem to be much of an argument for aspartame.
Over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA are due to aspartame. These reactions include:
• muscle spasms,
• weight gain,
• vision problems,
• hearing loss,
• heart palpitations,
• breathing difficulties,
• anxiety attacks,
• memory loss and
• joint pain.
Often times it has been found that the excessive consumption of aspartame has been linked to worsening, triggering or mimicking the following illnesses: brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, birth defects, fibromyalgia and diabetes.
To understand these negative side effects of aspartame, you need to understand its components. Aspartame is made up of three chemicals: aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol. The bond holding these together is very weak causing aspartame to breakdown into its components readily in liquids, during prolonged storage and when exposed to heat in excess of 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The argument that these components are harmless because they are found naturally in food is irrelevant because they are bound to proteins or pectin in foods allowing them to be released slowly into the body.
Aspartic Acid makes up 40 % of aspartame. It functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain, facilitating the transfer of information from one nerve cell to another. Too much aspartic acid will produce free radicals causing brain cells to be damaged and die. This is known as an “excitotoxin” because it stimulates the nerve cells to death. When aspartame is ingested, aspartic acid is released quickly,
causing a spike in the plasma blood levels. As these blood levels rise, so do those of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. This is a stress hormone affecting the brain where attention and impulsivity are controlled. Excessive amounts have been associated with anxiety, agitation and mania.
Phenylalanine makes up 50% of aspartame. Individuals with the genetic disorder PKU (phenylketonuria) are not able to metabolize phenylalanine. This causes a high build up of phenylalanine in the brain. There is evidence that ingesting aspartame along with carbohydrates can lead to excessive levels of phenylalanine in the brain in persons not affected by PKU. Although phenylalanine is used in some instances as a treatment for depression, high amounts in the brain can cause the mood regulator, serotonin, to decrease, making depression worse. A decrease in serotonin levels may also result in carbohydrate cravings, explaining its ineffectiveness as a dietary aid. The build up of phenylalanine may also worsen schizophrenia and seizures.
Methanol makes up 10% percent of aspartame. It is a deadly poison that is released from aspartame at temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit (in prolonged storage or inside the human body). The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) says due to the low rate of excretion once it is absorbed, methanol is a cumulative poison. The EPA only recommends a limit of consumption of methanol up to 7.8 mg/day. A one-liter beverage sweetened with aspartame contains around 56mg of methanol. According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, professor of neurosurgery at the Medical University of Mississippi, NutraSweet contains seven times more than the amount allowed in any other product. Furthermore, methanol breaks down into formic acid and formaldehyde. That’s right – it breaks down into the same stuff used for embalming fluid.
So what about the research testing the ingestion of aspartame on rats? The tests done on animals do not accurately reflect the potential dangers to humans. Humans are more sensitive to the effects of methanol due to our lack of some key enzymes. We are 5 times more sensitive than rodents and 20 times more sensitive than monkeys to aspartic acid. This is because we concentrate it in our blood at much higher levels and for longer periods of time. There are no human studies on the long term effects of aspartame. It is ironic that G.D. Searle, the manufacturer of aspartame, searched for a drug that would combat memory loss caused by excitatory amino acid damage (high levels of aspartic acid).
It is alarming how many foods contain aspartame. Next time you are grocery shopping you may want to go right on by the reduced calorie version of these products: Carbonated Soft Drinks, Cereals , Chewing Gum , Flavored Syrups for Coffee , Flavored Water Products, Frozen Ice Cream Novelties, Fruit Spreads, Sugar Free Gelatin, Iced Tea Powder, Iced Tea Ready to Drink, Instant Cocoa Mix, Jams & Jellies, Juice Blends, Juice Drinks, Maple Syrups, Meal Replacements, Mousse, No Sugar Added Pies, Non- Carbonated Diet Soft drinks, Nutritional Bars, Powdered Soft Drinks, Protein Nutritional Drinks, Pudding, Candy, Sugar Free Chocolate Syrup, Sugar Free Cookies, Sugar Free Ketchup, Table Top Sweeteners, Vegetable Drinks, Fat Free or Sugar Free Yogurt.
Don’t buy in to the clever marketing. This is not the safe alternative to sugar. There are actually safe, natural sweetners like Xylitol. If you want to know what you should be using, read our supplement of the month article. And if you think Splenda (Sucralose) is any safer than Equal (aspartame) or Sweet ‘n Low (saccharin), we dare you to Google it!
Most of the above information was taken from Mercola.com and “Aspartame: Killing Us by Degrees – Part II”, by Pat Thomas
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