Aspartame, an artificial sweetener
found in diet
sodas and other sugar-free foods, is one of the most toxic
substances that is added to food. This sweetener
, commonly marketed under brand names like NutraSweet
, generally appears to cause slow, silent damage to health
that accumulates over the years, through long-term use. aspartame
, like the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate
is a neurotoxin
and has been linked to causing over 90 different side effects ranging from headaches, seizures, memory
loss, joint pain, brain
tumors, and even death
. It has been linked to physical, visual and mental problems, and mimics the symptoms or worsens the condition of various diseases.
Aspartame and brain Tumors
When aspartame is exposed to heat or prolonged storage, it breaks down into metabolites (substances produced by metabolism). One of these breakdown products is Diketopiperazine (DKP), a toxic metabolite that is not usually found in our diet. The effects of these different metabolites are unknown, but DKP has been implicated in the occurrence of brain tumors. It was found that when this substance was converted in the gut, it produced a compound similar to that of a powerful brain-tumor causing chemical.
In a two-year study conducted by the manufacturer of aspartame, twelve of the 320 rats tested fed a normal diet and aspartame, developed brain tumors while none of the control rats had tumors. Five of the twelve tumors were in rats given a low dose of aspartame.
It is true that aspartame is composed of the same amino acids that can be found in protein foods. However, there are only two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid, that are in aspartame while protein foods contain many different amino acids. When aspartame is ingested, it floods the bloodstream with these two amino acids while protein foods, on the other hand, have other amino acids which "neutralize" and eliminate this sudden flooding. It is thought that taking amino acids out of their natural form cause problems and adverse reactions. A closer look at aspartame's ingredients and its adverse reactions reveal the dangers of this artificial sweetener.
How aspartame Causes Damage
Aspartame is made up of three chemicals: Aspartic acid (40%), phenylalanine (50%), and methanol (10%).
Aspartic acid (40% of Aspartame)
Both aspartate (aspartic acid) and glutamate (found in the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate) are amino acids and work in the same way in the body. They act as neurotransmitters in the brain by aiding the transmission of information from neuron to neuron. Too much aspartate or glutamate in the brain kills certain neurons by allowing an influx of calcium into the cells. This influx triggers excessive amounts of free radicals, which kill the cells. This 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.
Because aspartate and glutamate are amino acids, when they are ingested in their free form (unbound to proteins), they significantly raise blood plasma levels of these chemicals. This excess leads to a high level of those neurotransmitters in certain areas of the brain.
Usually the blood brain barrier protects the brain from excess glutamate and aspartate as well as from other toxins. However in children it is not fully developed, or it can become damaged by numerous chronic and acute conditions, which can allow leakage of excess glutamate and aspartate into the brain. This excess glutamate and aspartate slowly begins to destroy neurons. The large majority (75% or more) of neural cells in a particular area of the brain are killed before any symptoms of a chronic illness are even noticed. Some of the many chronic illnesses that have been shown to be contributed to by long-term exposure to excitotoxin damage include:
Multiple sclerosis (MS), motor neuron disease, hearing loss, epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, hypoglycemia, dementia, brain lesions, and neuroendocrine disorders.
Phenylalanine (50% Of Aspartame)
Phenylalanine is an amino acid normally found in the brain. People with the genetic disorder, phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot metabolize phenylalanine, leading to dangerously high levels of phenylalanine in the brain. But even in people who do not have this disorder, it has been shown that ingesting aspartame can lead to an overload of phenylalanine in the brain.
Excessive levels of phenylalanine in the brain are associated with causing levels of seratonin in the brain to decrease, leading to emotional disorders such as depression, schizophrenia and brain damage. It was shown in human testing that phenylalanine levels of the blood were increased significantly in human subjects who chronically used aspartame. But even a single use of aspartame raised the blood phenylalanine levels, which is especially dangerous for infants and fetuses. Another study showed that phenylalanine is metabolized much more efficiently by rodents than by humans.
Methanol (10% of Aspartame)
Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol or wood alcohol, forms 10% of aspartame, and is a deadly poison. Free methanol, such as that formed from aspartame when it is heated or stored for a long time, breaks down into formic acid and formaldehyde in the body. Formaldehyde is a known deadly neurotoxin. The recommended Environmental Protection Agency limit of consumption is 7.8 mg/day. A one-liter aspartame-sweetened beverage contains about 56 mg of methanol.
Formaldehye is also a known carcinogen, is also linked to causing blindness, retinal damage, interfering with DNA, and causing birth defects. Due to the lack of a few 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.
Eliminate aspartame from Your diet
Despite all of these harmful effects, aspartame is an "approved sweetener" and is found in many common foods and drinks. To protect yourself from the damaging effects of this toxin, eliminate it from your diet. Aspartame is sometimes labeled as phenylalanine in foods. It can be found in:
- soft drinks, usually diet soft drinks
- sugar-free chewing gum and breath mints
- instant breakfasts
- juice beverages
- milk drinks
- tabletop sweeteners
and many other foods.
Some Research Findings on Aspartame:
- Stegink, L.: Filer, L.J. Jr. Aspartame Physiology and Biochemistry. University of Iowa College of medicine. Iowa City, IA Marcel Dekker, Inc. 1984.
- Boehm, M.: Bada, J. Racemization of aspartic acid and phenylalanine in the sweetener aspartame at 100 degrees C. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA (81) August 1984.
- Walton, R. G. "Seizure and mania after high intake of aspartame." Psychopathology 17:98-106 (1984)
- Drake, M.E. "Panic Attacks and Excessive aspartame Ingestion." The Lancet (Sept 13, l986) p. 631
- Walton, R. G. "The Possible Role of aspartame in Seizure Induction" Proceedings of the First International Meeting on Dietary phenylalanine and brain Function. (May 8-10 1987) pp.495-499
- Epstein, C. M.: Trotter, J.F.: et al "EEG Mean Frequencies are Sensitive indices of phenylalanine Effects on Normal brain." Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology 72:133-139 (1989)
- Pinto, J.M.B." Maher, T. J. "Administration of aspartame Potentiates Pentlyeneterazole and Fluorothyl-Induced Seizure in Mice." Neuropharmacology 27 (1):51-55 (l988)
- Olney, John "Excitatory Neurotoxins as Food Additives: An Evaluation of Risk." Neurotoxicology 2:163-192 (1980)
- Koehler S.M.: Glaros, A. "The effect of aspartame on migraine headache." headache 28:000-000 (l988)
- Edmeada, J. Editorial: "Aspartame and headache." headache, pp.64-65 (February, 1988)
- Lipton, R. B.; Newman, L. C.: Solomon, S. "Aspartame and headache, (re:Schiffman et al study)," New England Journal of medicine 318 (18): 1200-1201 (May 5, 1988)
- Steinmetzer, R.V.: Kunkel, R.S. "Aspartame and Headache" New England Journal of medicine 318 (18): 1201 (May 5, 1988)
- Koehler, Shirley; and Glaros, Alan. "The Effect of aspartame on migraine headache." headache 28 (1):10-14 (l988)
- Olney, J. W.; and Ho, Ol. "Brain damage in Infant Mice Following Oral Intake of Glutamate, Aspartate or Cysteine." Nature 227:609-611 (August 8, 1970)
- Olney, J. W. "Excitotoxic food additives - Relevance of Animal Studies to Human Safety." Neurological Behavioral Toxicology and Teratology 6:455-462 (l984).
- Olney, J. W.; Labruyere, J: DeGubaret, T. "Brain Damage in Mice from Voluntary Ingestion of Glutamate and aspartame." Neurobehavioral Toxicology 2:125-129 (l980)
- Roberts, H. J. "Does aspartame Cause Human brain cancer?" Journal of Advances in medicine 4 (4): 231-241 (Winter, 1991).
- Potenza, D." El-Mailakh, Rif S. "Aspartame: Clinical Update." Connecticut Medical Journal 53 (7): 395-400 (l989)
- Sardesai, V.M.: Holliday, J.F.; et al. "Effect of aspartame in Normal and Diabetic Rats." Biochemical Archives 2:237-243 (l986)
- Yokigoshi, H.: Roberts, C. F>: Caballero, B.: Wurtman, R. J. "Effects of aspartame and glucose Administration on brain and Plasma Levels of Large Neutral amino acids and brain 5-Hydroxyindoles." American Journal of Clinical nutrition. 40:1-7 (July 1, 1984)
- Krause, W.:Halminksi, M." et al. "Biochemical and Neuropsychological Effects of Elevated Plasma phenylalanine in Patients with Treated Phenylketonuria." Journal of Clinical Investigation 75: 40-48 (January, 1985).
- Pardridge, W.M. "Potential Effects of the Dipeptide sweetener aspartame on the brain. Nutrition and the brain 7:199-241 (l986)
- Gaines, S. M.: Bada, J.I. "Reversed Phase, High-Performance Liquid Chromatographic Separation of aspartame Diastereomeric Decomposition Products." Journal of Chromatography. 389-:219-225 (l987)
- Filer, L. J.; Stegnink. L.D. "Effect of aspartame on Plasma phenylalanine concentration in Humans." Proceedings of the First International Meeting on Dietary phenylalanine and the brain Function (May 8-10, l987) pp 25-26
- Matalon, R.: Michals, K.:et al. "Aspartame Consumption in Normal Individuals and Carriers for Phenylketonuria (PKU)." Proceedings of the First International Meeting on Dietary phenylalanine and brain Function (May 8-10, l987) pp. 81-93
- Matalon, R. Michals, K." Sullivan, D.; et al. "Aspartame Consumption in Normal Individuals and Carriers for Phenylketonuria (PKU)." University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Pediatrics, nutrition and Medical Dietetics and Epidemiology and Biometry, Chicago, Illinois (l986).
- Tocci, P.M.: Beber, B. "Anomalous phenylalanine Loading Responses in Relation to Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate." Pediatrics 52: 109-113 (July l973)
- Blundell, J.E.: Hill, A.H. "Paradoxical Effects of an Intense sweetener (aspartame) on Appetite." The Lancet (May 10, l986) pp. l092-1093.
- Garriga, M., MD; and Metcalf, D.,MD. "Aspartame intolerance" Annals of allergy 61:63-66 (December 1988)
- Council Report: aspartame review of safety issues. Journal of the American Medical Association l985:254 (3):400
- Novick, N.J. "Aspartame-induced granulomatous panniculitis." Annals of Internal medicine 102:206-207 (l985)
- McCauliffe, D.: and Poitras, K. "Aspartame-induced lobular panniculitis." J of the American Academy of Dermatology 24 (2):298-299 (February 1991)
- Kulezycki,A.Jr. "Aspartame induced urticaria. Annals of Internal medicine 104:207-208 (l986)
- Wurtman, R.J. "Aspartame: possible effect on seizure susceptibility." Lancet 2:1060. (l985)
- Schainker, N. and Olney, J.W. "Glutamate Type Hypothalamic Pituitary Syndrome in Mice Treated with aspartame or Cysteate in Infancy." Journal of Neutral Trans. 35: 207-215 (l974)
- Reynolds, W. A.: Butler, V." Lemley-Johnson, N. "Hypothalamic Morphology Following ingestion of aspartame of MSG in the Neonatal Rodent and Primate: A Preliminary Report" Journal of Toxicology and Environmental health 2:471-480 (l976)
- Pizzi, W.J.:Tabor, J.M.:Barnhart,J. "Somatic, Behavioral and Reproductive Disturbances in Mice Following Neonatal Administration of sodium L-Aspartate." Pharmacological Biochemical Behavior 9::481-485 (l976)
- Stegnik, L.D.: Brummel, M.C.; et al, "Blood Methanol Concentrations in Normal Adult Subjects Administered Abuse dose of aspartame." J of Toxicological Environmental health 7:281-290 (l981)
- Monte, Woodrow, "Aspartame: Methanol and the Public health," Journal of Applied nutrition 36(1):42-54 (l984).
- Bergeron, R.:Cardinal, J." et al. "Prevention of Methanol Toxicity by Ethanol Therapy." New England Journal of medicine (December 9, 1982) pp. 1528
- Tsang, W.S.;Clarke, M.A.; Parrish, F.W. "Determination of aspartame and Its Breakdown Products in soft drinks by Reverse-Phase Chromatography with UV Detection." Journal of Agricultural Fd. Chemicals 33:734-738 (l985)
- Davoli, E.; Cappeilini, L.' et al. "Serum Methanol Concentrations in Rats and in Men after a Single Dose of aspartame." Fed. Chemical Toxicology 24 (3):187-189 (l986).
- Wurtman, R.J. "Neurochemical Changes Following High Dose aspartame with Dietary carbohydrates." New England Journal of medicine 309:7 (August 18, 1982).
- Sharma, R.P.; Coulombe, R.A., Jr. "Effects of Repeated Doses of aspartame on serotonin and its Metabolite in Various Regions of the Mouse brain." Toxicology Program, Department of Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences. Utah State University. (l986).
- Padridge, W.M. "The Safety of aspartame." J of the American Medical Association 256 (19):2678. (November 21, l986).
- Walton, R.G.: Hudak, R.: and Green-Waite, R.J. "Adverse Reactions to Aspartame: Double-blind Challenge in Patients from a Vulnerable Population." Biological Psychiatary pp. 13-17 (l993).
- Millstone, E. "Sweet and Sour: The Unanswered Questions about aspartame." The Scoiogist Volume 24, Number 2 (March/April 1994).