Dr. George J. Georgiou, Ph.D. Clinical Nutritionist - Master Herbalist - Naturopath - Homeopath - Iridologist - Clinical Sexologist - Clinical Psychologist
IS ASPARTAME O.K. ?
My patients have often asked me whether taking aspartame is OK. At the time, I thought that it was, as I had read that it was present in over 6,000 foods, and was consumed by more than 100 million people worldwide, so naturally I assumed it must be OK. Being an inquisitive mind, however, I decided to do a little background research into Aspartame. I was horrified with what I discovered, and would like to share this with you so that you can be a little more informed, and share this wisdom with your patients, loved ones and family.
Aspartame is the technical name for the brand names, NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure. Aspartame was discovered by accident in 1965, when James Schlatter, a chemist of G.D. Searle Company was testing an anti-ulcer drug. Aspartame was approved for dry goods in 1981 and for carbonated beverages in 1983.
SYMPTOMS OF ASPARTAME TOXICITY
Aspartame is, by far, the most dangerous substance on the market that is added to foods. Aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Many of these reactions are very serious including seizures and death as disclosed in a February 1994 Department of Health and Human Services report. 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.
According to researchers and physicians studying the adverse effects of aspartame, the following chronic illnesses can be triggered or worsened by ingesting of aspartame:
Brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, parkinson's disease, alzheimer's, mental retardation, lymphoma, birth defects, fibromyalgia, and diabetes.
Aspartame is 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.
SUMMARY OF HOW ASPARTATE (AND GLUTAMATE) CAUSES DAMAGE
Aspartate and 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. Aspartic acid 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 intact. The excess glutamate and aspartate slowly begin to destroy neurons. The large majority (75%+) 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 excitatory amino acid damage include:
Multiple sclerosis (MS), ALS, memory loss, hormonal problems, hearing loss, epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, hypoglycemia, AIDS dementia, brain lesions, and neuroendocrine disorders.
THE OTHER POISON - METHANOL (10% OF ASPARTAME)
Methanol/wood 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 encounters the enzyme chymotrypsin. The absorption 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).
Methanol breaks 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.” The recommended EPA limit of consumption is 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 limit.
SYMPTOMS OF METHANOL POISONING
Symptoms from 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. Formaldehye is a known carcinogen, causes retinal damage, interferes with DNA replication, and causes birth defects. 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.”
ASPARTAME AND BLINDNESS
Many people today say their ophthalmologists have said they were going blind but don't know why, and diabetics in particular are thought to have simple diabetic retinopathy. The methanol in aspartame converts to formaldehyde in the retina of the eye. It causes retinal detachments, blurring of the vision, double vision, floaters, flashes, black spots, optic neuritis, tunnel vision, etc. Dr. H. J. Roberts on a radio program recently said aspartame destroys the optic nerve.
Over the past few years Dr. Morgan B. Raiford, M.D. D.Sc (Med) OPHTHALMOLOGY has observed the fact that any portion of the central nervous system can and is affected. Since the chemical PHENYLALANINE is mixed up with some metabolic mess, we have seen symptoms of varying hue in the extremities, sensations of dullness of the intellect, visual shadows, evidence of word structure reversing and some hearing impairment is noted by the individual. This can and will in time cause problems in learning. The medical community must alert itself that we have a problem that has surfaced due to the factor of the drug industry. Parents must be alerted to the side reactions of this toxic product and its reactions.
DIKETOPIPERAZINE (DKP) AND BRAIN TUMORS
DKP is a by-product of aspartame metabolism. DKP has been implicated in the occurance of brain tumors. Olney noticed that DKP, when nitrosated in the gut, produced a compound which was similar to N-nitrosourea, a powerful brain tumor causing chemical. Some authors have said that DKP is produced after aspartame ingestion. It is definitely true that DKP is formed in liquid aspartame-containing products during prolonged storage. G.D. Searle conducted animal experiments on the safety of DKP. The FDA found numerous experimental errors occured, 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. 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 length. 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. 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 US Senate.
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.(15) The approval of aspartame was a violation of the Delaney Amendment which was supposed to prevent cancer-causing substances such as methanol (formaldehye) 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?”
DIABETES AND HYPOGLYCEMIA
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is actually recommending this chemical poison to persons with diabetes. According to research conducted by H.J. Roberts, M.D., F.A.C.P.,F.C.C.P., a diabetes specialist, a member of the ADA, and an authority on artificial sweeteners, aspartame:
Leads to the precipitation of clinical diabetes.
Causes poorer diabetic control in diabetics on insulin or oral drugs.
Leads to the aggravation of diabetic complications such as retinopathy, cataracts, neuropathy and gastro paresis.
Dr. H.J. Roberts, has treated many patients with diabetes mellitus and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in his capacity as a Board-certified internist and an endocrinologist (member of the Endocrine Society). Since both groups should abstain from sugar, Dr. Roberts initially rejoiced that these persons had an acceptable and presumable safe sugar substitute in aspartame. Unfortunately, many patients in his 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 recurrent of these problems when the patient resumed aspartame products, knowingly or inadvertently. He has cited many instances of severe complications in patients with diabetes and hypoglycemia caused by the use of aspartame products in his books and scientific articles. Here are a couple of illustrations:
A 21 year-old insulin-dependent teacher suffered more frequent insulin reactions both at school and at home, while drinking many aspartame colas daily. He reported: When we cut down on aspartame, I stopped having so many reactions. A diabetic man suffered severe changes in vision when he was drinking four liters of aspartame soft drinks daily. An opthalmologist assured him that there was no detectable diabetic retinopathy. The patient then chanced to read an article about aspartame-related eye problems. He promptly improved after avoiding these beverages, an unlikely event if the problem was primarily a diabetic retinopathy.
A 46 year-old man with insulin-dependent diabetes had been in good control for three decades until he began using several aspartame sodas and packets of tabletop sweetener daily. He summarized his experience in these terms: My diabetes went haywire, and I had terrible insulin reactions. His diabetes was fully controlled within one week after abstaining from aspartame products.
A 12-year-old boy with known diabetes required multiple hospitalizations for diabetic coma while consuming considerable aspartame products. Physicians at a university hospital had difficulty in stabilizing his insulin requirements while he used them.
Dr. Roberts has discussed some of the reasons aspartame might aggravate diabetes and hypoglycemia in his books. The possible mechanisms include the following:
Marked changes in appetite and weight as reflected by paradoxic weight gain or severe loss of weight.
Excessive insulin secretion and depletion of the insulin reserve.
Possible alteration of cellular receptor sites for insulin, with ensuing insulin resistance.
Neurotransmitter alterations within the brain and peripheral nerves.
The toxicity of each of the three components of aspartame (phenylalanine; aspartic acid: the methylester, which promptly becomes methyl alcohol or methanol), and their multiple breakdown products after exposure to heat or during prolonged storage.
ASPARTAME AND HEADACHES
For the past few years, numerous side-effects have been observed due to Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) in a Central Texas medium-small town General Practice by Dr. James B. Hays, M.D. These side effects have been grouped into two types. The first, more numerous type consists of headaches which are related to dosage and length of exposure and accounts for at least two percent and probably ten percent of frequent Aspartame users as initially observed. More recent experience suggests that this figure is potentially higher, that is, with more Aspartame exposure over a longer period, this outside figure may be much higher and the theory that almost everybody can get headaches from prolonged and higher dosage is a tempting theory. It appears to be simply dose-related.
The headaches were bilateral, severe, and generally daily or at least on days that significant amounts of Aspartame were ingested. The headaches did not resemble migraine at all - they rarely were described as throbbing and were at best described as tension, fatigue, caffeine withdrawal type headaches and a big hangover all combined.
JOINT PAIN AND ASPARTAME USE
Dr. H.J. Roberts, M.D. found that 58 patients, who consumed moderate to large amounts of aspartame, experienced joint pain requiring analgesics. This association seems convincing in light of (1) the prompt improvement of both these pains and other aspartame–associated complaints after abstinence from aspartame and (2) their prompt recurrence following aspartame rechallenge, known or inadvertent.
Clinicians should inquire about aspartame use in all patients who present with unexplained join pain or the exacerbations of rheumatologic disorders. A therapeutic trial of aspartame avoidance is warranted before ordering expensive studies, consultations and potent drugs.
GULF WAR SYNDROME AND ASPARTAME USE
I will finish on this last note, which I also find a fascinating correlation. The soda pop companies sent truckloads of diet pop to the Persian Gulf where one soldier said they sat for as long as 8 weeks on pallets in the 120 degree Arabian sun, and that they drank them all day. At 86 degrees aspartame liberates methanol in the can! Desert Storm Syndrome symptoms are identical to Aspartame Disease: Memory loss, vision loss, chronic fatigue syndrome (methanol breaks down the immune system), joint pain, headaches, manic depression, dizziness, equilibrium problems, confusion, etc. The CFIDS Network (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Immunologic Disease) said 6000 of the troops have already perished! I wonder how many of them died from aspartame?
Aspartame consumption is not only a problem in the US. It is being sold in over 70 countries throughout the world.
ASPARTAME CAN BE FOUND IN:
sugar-free chewing gum
pharmaceuticals and supplements
instant teas and coffees