Alternative names: Nutrasweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure.
The story of Aspartame is interesting in how it was discovered, how it was approved for use, and how it remains on the market. Because of the many different reports of adverse reactions, we do not recommend its use, especially if you have any of the symptoms or conditions it has been linked to.
Adverse effects reported from short-term and/or long-term use of Aspartame include: Seizures and convulsions, dizziness, tremors, migraines and severe headaches (triggered or caused by chronic intake), memory loss (common toxicity effect), slurring of speech, confusion, numbness or tingling of extremities, chronic fatigue, depression, insomnia, irritability, panic attacks (common aspartame toxicity reaction), marked personality changes, phobias, rapid heart beat (tachycardia – another frequent reaction), asthma, chest pains, hypertension (high blood pressure), nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, swallowing pain, itching, hives / urticaria, other allergic reactions, blood sugar control problems (e.g. hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia), menstrual cramps and other menstrual problems or changes, impotency and sexual problems, food cravings, weight gain, hair loss / baldness or thinning of hair, burning urination & other urination problems, excessive thirst or excessive hunger, bloating, edema (fluid retention), infection susceptibility, joint pain, brain cancer (in pre-approval studies on animals), death.
Aspartame Disease may mimic symptoms of, or worsen: Fibromyalgia, arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's disease, lupus, multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), diabetes and diabetic Complications, seizures, Alzheimer's disease, birth defects, chronic fatigue syndrome, lymphoma, Lyme's disease, attention deficit disorder (ADD and ADHD), panic disorder, depression and other psychological disorders.
Check all labels very carefully (including vitamins and pharmaceuticals). Look for the word "aspartame" on the label and avoid it. (Also, it is a good idea to avoid "acesulfame-k" or "sunette.") Finally, avoid getting nutrition information from junk food industry PR organizations such as IFIC or organizations that accept large sums of money from the junk and chemical food industry such as the American Dietetic Association.
Products containing Aspartame include instant breakfasts, breath mints, cereals, sugar-free chewing gum, cocoa mixes, coffee beverages, desserts, candies, juice beverages, laxatives, multivitamins, milk drinks, pharmaceuticals, medicines and supplements, shake mixes, soft drinks, tabletop sweeteners, tea beverages, instant teas and coffees, topping mixes, wine coolers, and yogurt amongst other things. The list is almost endless: always read the label.
It often takes at least sixty days without any aspartame to see a significant improvement in any conditions it may be contributing to. Improvement in health is also often accompanied by weight loss.
Dr Diana Dow Edwards, a researcher, was funded by Monsanto to study possible birth defects caused by the ingestion of aspartame. After preliminary data showed damaging information about aspartame, funding for the study was cut off. A separate genetic pediatrician at Emory University has testified that aspartame is causing birth defects.
In the book, While Waiting: A Prenatal Guidebook by George R. Verrilli, M.D. and Anne Marie Mueser, it is stated that aspartame is suspected of causing brain damage in sensitive individuals: a fetus may be at risk for these effects. Some researchers have suggested that high doses of aspartame may be associated with problems ranging from dizziness and subtle brain changes to mental retardation.
According to researchers and physicians studying the adverse effects of aspartame, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia among other conditions can be triggered or worsened by ingesting aspartame.
Aspartame use has been reported to trigger or mimic symptoms of Post-Polio Syndrome.
A double blind study on the effects of aspartame on persons with mood disorders was conducted by Dr. Ralph G. Walton. The study showed a large increase in serious symptoms for persons taking aspartame. Since some of the symptoms were so serious, the Institutional Review Board had to stop the study. Three of the participants had said that they had been "poisoned" by aspartame. Dr. Walton concluded that "individuals with mood disorders are particularly sensitive to this artificial sweetener; its use in this population should be discouraged." [Biol Psychiatry. 1993 Jul 1-15;34(1-2): pp.13-7]
Since the study wasn't funded/controlled by the makers of aspartame, The Nutrasweet Company refused to sell him the aspartame. Walton was forced to obtain and certify it from an outside source.
Aware that the experiment could not be repeated because of the danger to the test subjects, Walton was quoted as saying, "I know it causes seizures. I'm convinced also that it definitely causes behavioral changes. I'm very angry that this substance is on the market. I personally question the reliability and validity of any studies funded by the Nutrasweet Company."
There are numerous reported cases of low brain serotonin levels, depression and other emotional disorders that have been linked to aspartame and often are relieved by stopping the intake of aspartame. Researchers have pointed out that increases in phenylalanine levels in the brain leads to a decreased level of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which leads to a variety of emotional disorders. Dr William M. Pardridge of UCLA testified before the US Senate that a youth drinking four 16-ounce bottles of diet soda per day would lead to an enormous increase in phenylalanine levels.
For those who have chronic health problems that have not responded to other interventions, a trial of avoiding aspartame for several weeks to months may produce noticeable benefits.
In 1984, there were 3 reports about large amounts of Aspartame causing a lowering of the seizure threshold and therefore increasing seizure activity. The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta did a review of this and were unable to find any cause or effect relationship at normal doses. More recently, Aspartame has been found to be unsuitable for some children with generalized absence Epilepsy. A Queen's University study looked at the brain-wave patterns in 10 children and the effects of the artificial sweetener "NutraSweet". A 40% increase in abnormal brain-wave activity associated with absence seizures was found in this study. However, there was no effect on the actual number of seizures. Research on this topic is continuing.
In a statement concerning the use of products containing aspartame by persons with diabetes and hypoglycemia, Roberts says: "Unfortunately, many patients in my practice, and others seen in consultation, developed serious metabolic, neurologic and other complications that could be specifically attributed to using aspartame products. This was evidenced by:
"The loss of diabetic control, the intensification of hypoglycemia, the occurrence of presumed 'insulin reactions' (including convulsions) that proved to be aspartame reactions, and the precipitation, aggravation or simulation of diabetic complications (especially impaired vision and neuropathy) while using these products.
"...dramatic improvement of such features after avoiding aspartame, and the prompt predictable recurrence of these problems when the patient resumed aspartame products, knowingly or inadvertently."
Unfortunately for diabetics, the ADA accepts the FDA's conclusion that the consumption of Aspartame is safe and can be part of a healthy diet – and is actually recommending this chemical poison to persons with diabetes.
Roberts goes on to say:
"I regret the failure of other physicians and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to sound appropriate warnings to patients and consumers based on these repeated findings which have been described in my corporate-neutral studies and publications."
In 1981 Satya Dubey, an FDA statistician, stated that the brain tumor data on aspartame was so "worrisome" that he could not recommend approval of NutraSweet. In a two-year study conducted by the manufacturer of aspartame, twelve of the 320 rats 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. The approval of aspartame was a violation of the Delaney Amendment which was supposed to prevent cancer-causing substances such as methanol (formaldehyde) and DKP from entering our food supply.
The late Dr Adrian Gross, an FDA toxicologist, testified before the US Congress that aspartame was capable of producing brain tumors. This made it illegal for the FDA to set an allowable daily intake at any level. He stated in his testimony that Searle's studies were "to a large extent unreliable" and that "at least one of those studies has established beyond any reasonable doubt that aspartame is capable of inducing brain tumors in experimental animals..." He concluded his testimony by asking, "What is the reason for the apparent refusal by the FDA to invoke for this food additive the so-called Delaney Amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act? ... And if the FDA itself elects to violate the law, who is left to protect the health of the public?"
In the mid-1970s it was discovered that the manufacturer of aspartame falsified studies in several ways. One of the techniques used was to cut tumors out of test animals and put them back in the study. Another technique used to falsify the studies was to list animals that had actually died as surviving the study. Thus, the data on brain tumors was likely worse than discussed above. In addition, a former employee of the manufacturer of aspartame, Raymond Schroeder, told the FDA on July 13, 1977 that the particles of DKP were so large that the rats could discriminate between the DKP and their normal diet.
It is interesting to note that the incidence of brain tumors in persons over 65 years of age increased 67% between the years 1973 and 1990. Brain tumors in all age groups has jumped 10%. The greatest increase has come during the years 1985-1987.
In his book, Aspartame (NutraSweet). Is it Safe?, Roberts gives evidence that aspartame can cause a particularly dangerous form of cancer – primary lymphoma of the brain.
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