Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The case against Aspartame

One of the few good things to come out of my health problems is that I've become more aware of health and nutrition.  I have tried to spin the negative of my health problems into a positive by educating my family and close friends (subtly, and hopefully without becoming annoying).  My hope is that, because of my health problems, my family and friends can potentially avoid problems of their own.

While I've had some small successes, I've found that for the most part, people aren't very motivated to change their lifestyles or diets unless they experience health problems of their own. Case in point, my parents are both regular consumers of Aspartame (aka aspartate).  I have been trying to convince them to ditch Aspartame (along with sugar - for different reasons.)  My dad responded that he searched the internet for "dangers of Aspartame" and discovered nothing of significance.  I found that hard to believe.  So my dad challenged me to show him the links.  This post is my effort to do that.

First: For many years, controversy surrounded Aspartame and whether it was a carcinogen (a cancer causing substance).  Controversy also surrounded the FDA approval of Aspartame, which may or may not have been tainted by "irregularities" and suspicion in the process.  Over the years, research into the potential cancer-causing affects of Aspartame has found that Aspartame is probably not carcinogenic in small amounts.  Some still dispute this, but I am sufficiently convinced.  The unfortunate consequence of these findings is that, it seems, the message has mutated into "Aspartame is completely safe."

What's been lost are the other potential health hazards of Aspartame, namely that it has been repeatedly found to kill nerves, leading to or exacerbating nerve-related diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinsons, MS, ALS, ME/CFS, and others...

There are far too many links and research papers to include in one blog post, so I will include only a few highlights.  After each link, I quote a key paragraph from the source.  But keep in mind that most of these links have a trove of information about Aspartame that goes well beyond the excerpts:
"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."
[The article goes on to say that nerve death due to excitotoxins is linked to, among other things, Alzheimer's disease]  
"Aspartame, a widespread sweetener used in many food products, is considered as a highly hazardous compound. Aspartame was discovered in 1965 and raises a lot of controversy up to date. Astrocytes are glial cells, the presence and functions of which are closely connected with the central nervous system (CNS). The aim of this article is to demonstrate the direct and indirect role of astrocytes participating in the harmful effects of aspartame metabolites on neurons. The artificial sweetener is broken down into phenylalanine (50%), aspartic acid (40%) and methanol (10%) during metabolism in the body. The excess of phenylalanine blocks the transport of important amino acids to the brain contributing to reduced levels of dopamine and serotonin. Astrocytes directly affect the transport of this amino acid and also indirectly by modulation of carriers in the endothelium. Aspartic acid at high concentrations is a toxin that causes hyperexcitability of neurons and is also a precursor of other excitatory amino acid - glutamates. Their excess in quantity and lack of astrocytic uptake induces excitotoxicity and leads to the degeneration of astrocytes and neurons." [Emphasis added]
In conclusion, there is compelling evidence to indicate that food additive
excitotoxins, such as aspartame, pose a serious danger to our well being,
especially so in the case of children and the elderly. It has been
demonstrated that excitotoxins in the diet can dramatically elevate free
radical generation for prolonged periods of time and that once induced, it
triggers a viscous cycle that ends in neuron death. Most authorities now
agree that elevated free radical generation is associated with virtually all
degenerative diseases as well as most injuries and toxins. It makes little
sense to expose the general public to a product that we know increases free
radical generation so dramatically and is associated with laboratory proven
injuries to the nervous system.
Aspartame can change the chemistry of the brain. Formaldehyde, a product of methanol, gathers in certain areas of the brain causing degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and ALS. Aspartame consumption can also trigger seizures in both epileptics and other individuals without a history of epilepsy.  Aspartame may contain fewer calories than sugar, however, the toxic sweetener has the potential to cause serious damage to the nervous system and in the worst case scenarios can be fatal.

I could go on and include many others, but the point is made.  To be fair, there are sources that refute these findings (specifically the FDA), but it's interesting to note that none of them (at least that I have found) attempts to explain why the chemical process described above is wrong.  The response is generally, to paraphrase, "we haven't seen enough evidence to be convinced."

I've read the FDA's arguments of why Aspartame is safe, and I am not convinced.  I will not include those arguments here because I don't want to lend credence to them.  I'm not trying to be objective here, but, suffice it to say, if you want to read the other side of the argument, it is out there for you to find.  


  1. I believe that Aspartame is banned in Europe for the reasons you cited.

  2. Snap! your dad just got owned.