You may recognize this killer ingredient as Equal, NutraSweet, or Sugar Twin. It is 200 to 700 times sweeter than sugar itself, which lowers the calories in your food or beverages, because it doesn’t contain calories.
It’s found in most everyday products like diet sodas, breath mints and gum, to desserts, vitamin supplements, instant coffee, yogurt and cereals.
Aspartame is one of the most exhaustively studied substances in the human food supply, with more than 200 studies completed. Aspartame has many side effects I want to discuss.
In 1995 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was forced, under the Freedom of Information Act, to release a list of aspartame symptoms reported by thousands of victims. From 10,000 consumer complaints, the FDA compiled a list of 92 symptoms, including death.
The FDA used to mail this list out, but now you can’t get the list without a congressman or Freedom of Information Act request.
According to Dr. Martini, aspartame has brought more complaints to the FDA than any other additive and is responsible for 75% of such complaints to the FDA.
This doesn’t sound good does it?
With over 90 side effects linked to the consumption of aspartame, individuals have experienced seizures, lupus, brain tumors, cancer, and mild rashes.
And that’s not all. According to several allegations made against Aspartame, it is said to have adverse effects on the consumers health. Some of which include
- Multiple sclerosis
- Lupus erythematosus
- Gulf War Syndrome
- Brain tumors
- Epileptic seizures
- Complications of diabetes
Aspartame worsens or mimics the symptoms of such diseases and conditions as fibromyalgia, MS, lupus, ADD, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue and depression.
What Is Aspartame?
So what exactly is aspartame and is it bad for you? Should you be using artificial sweeteners? Discovered almost 5 decades ago, aspartame is an FDA approved artificial sweetener used in many foods and beverages.
It is one of the most extensively studies drug with more than 200 clinical studies and used in over 6,000 food and beverage items.
Aspartame has been used in the United States since the early 1980’s and is commonly found in the form of tabletop sugar-free packets at your favorite coffee shop.
Aspartame has only 4 calories per gram and is said to be 200 times sweeter than sugar — which means this could be a great alternative to added sugars in your drink.
Until you take a deeper look and find out what it is made of and what aspartame side effects are…..
Aspartic acid makes up 40% of aspartame and is a non-essential amino acid involved with numerous neurological disorders.
Aspartic acid is found in your dairy, beef, poultry, sugar cane and molasses products.
This amino acid acts as a neurotransmitter. Too much of aspartic acid can cause over-stimulation and death of brain cells. Too much aspartic acid in the brain kills certain neurons. These cells die by allowing too much calcium into the cells.
This rush of apartic acid triggers excessive amounts of free radicals, which kill the cells. The damage to the neurons in your brain can be caused by excessive aspartate.
In spite of such devious results this drug was still marketed many years even after the clinical trials showed that it was bad for your health.
Phenylalanine is anther amino acid that makes up almost 50% of the aspartame constitution.
Phenylalanine can be obtained from foods that contain protein, including beef, poultry, pork, fish, milk, yogurt, eggs, cheese, soy products, and certain nuts and seeds.
Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid found in your brain. When I say essential, I mean that your body needs phenylalanine, but can’t produce it on its own; meaning you have to get it from food.
This amino acid is responsible for transmitting brain signals. Elevated levels of phenylalanine can cause serious emotional and behavioral disorders.
Phenylalanine also causes severe health issues in people suffering from phelykentoneuria (PKU) which is a condition that makes it difficult for the sufferer to metabolize phenylalanine. PKU is a serious, metabolic disorder, affecting 1 in 10,000 individuals.
An increase in the overall blood concentration of phenylalanine could lead to serious brain damage if not left untreated.
This is precisely why PKU patients are counseled to avoid aspartame consumption in order to prevent any serious metabolic disorders.
Methanol, also commonly called “wood alcohol” is used as an industrial solvent, pesticide and alternative source of fuel.
Methanol is a 10% constituent of artificial sweeteners like aspartame.
Foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, fruit juices, fermented beverages, and diet soft drinks containing aspartame are the primary sources of methanol in the human body.
Most methanol poisoning generally occurs due to consumption of beverages of foods containing methanol.
Diketopiperazine has also shown evidence of increased uterine polyps and blood cholesterol fluctuations in rats.
This shocking food fact instantly helped me ditch the sweetener additions to my hot coffee. Now, I walk past the sweetener section at every supermarket because even the term “sugar-free” is bad for your health.
Is it not scary how we ingest these harmful chemicals and continue to be ignorant about the health defects that arise due to the consumption of aspartame?
Where Did Aspartame Come From?
Aspartame was first discovered in 1965 when Jim Schlatter, a chemist at G.D. Searle & Company was researching on new treatments for gastric ulcers.
He accidentally drop some of the drug on his finger and licked it later while reaching to pick up an important piece of paper.
To his surprise this drug tasted sweet and to confirm his results he consulted his friend who added the drug to coffee, only to discover that the drug also acted as a sweetening agent.
Boom! Now we have artificial sweeteners.
This was the birth of aspartame from an anti-ulcer drug to a food additive.
How would you trust yourself with a substance that was approved and rejected so many times?
That is when I realized that understanding aspartame was beyond all the buzz on the internet and getting down to its building blocks was the best way to move forward with my study.
Understanding Aspartame And It’s Metabolites
Ever wonder what happens when you eat aspartame? Once you consume aspartame, it is broken down into its components:
- Phenylalanine – an essential amino acid
- Aspartic acid – a nonessential amino acid
- Methanol – type of alcohol
Studies suggest that once aspartame is consumed, it is almost instantly metabolized into its three dietary components. These components reaching the blood stream are insignificant to your body and cause harm.
The excess amount of phenylalanine blocks the transport of important amino acids to the brain contributing to reduced levels of dopamine and serotonin.
Aspartic acid at high concentrations is a toxin. The excess quantity of aspartic acid induces your nerve cells to be damaged and killed by excessive stimulation which leads to the degeneration of your neurons.
Methanol found in aspartame causes central nervous system depression.
This can result in decreased rate of breathing, decreased heart rate, and loss of consciousness possibly leading to coma or death.
Methanol poisoning can cause vision disorders and other symptoms ultimately leading to metabolic acidosis and coma.
Now, have you seen the person in the coffee shop sitting next to you fall out of their chair onto the floor because they added Sweet-N-Low to their coffee? No, because they are not consuming large amounts of aspartame. But these findings are what researchers have found in laboratory tests.
These adverse effects are what happens on a smaller scale inside your body when you consume aspartame.
Aspartame: The Silent Killer
In an epidemiological study performed in 1988, documented in the American Journal of Nutrition, 551 people who underwent aspartame ingestion were surveyed for side effects and chronic toxicity due to aspartame consumption.
This study generated a list of 92 disorders and side effects of which some common ones include:
A migraine can cause a throbbing pain in one particular area of the brain and can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound.
A study performed in 1994 to evaluate the correlation between aspartame consumption and headaches.
This experiment reports that a subset of the study group reported 9% more frequent headaches as compared to the control group.
Seven patients backed out from this trial due to the severe effects after aspartame ingestion. I don’t know about you, but that sounds kind of alarming to me.
Food additives such as aspartame have been listed as causative agents of headache by Mayo Clinic.
The headaches lasted longer and some subjects experienced an increase in ‘unusual symptoms’ during aspartame-inspired headaches, such as dizziness, shakiness and diminished vision.”
This side effect has been on the rise ever since aspartame and other calorie-free sweeteners have become a part of our daily food and beverages.
Now you would be thinking, “If aspartame is meant to be a calorie-free sweetener, why would it cause weight gain anyway?”
Here’s the best explanation.
An article published by Sharon Fowler in The Journal of Obesity in 2009 suggests that diet soda consumers are always more prone to conditions like obesity.
In this study people consuming more than 3 diet soda a day for a period of 8 years were 40% more prone to obesity as compared to others.
Though her study did not indicate a direct correlation between aspartame and the side effect of weight gain.
Animal studies performed on rats drinking calorie-free drinks illustrated that when the rats were fed with unlimited quantities of food, they had a bigger appetite as compared to the others fed with sucrose rich drinks.
The standard problem with artificial sweeteners lies in the increase of appetite or food cravings and there is a study I stumbled upon that explains why this phenomena takes place.
The study states that substituting sugary foods for calorie-free sweetened versions are a great way of cutting calories and watching your weight.
This substitution helps control your calorie intake but still leaves you with a deficit of sugar intake, and thus the sugar cravings.
According to a study in 2010, to make up for these cravings you may end up eating other sweet foods that could overcompensate your calorie intake. This can lead to excessive weight gain.
So if you think having a coffee with a sugar-free sweetener gives you the license to eat a cheesecake you are only fooling your self into piling up more calories.
Depression, Mood Changes and Anxiety
Another one of aspartame’s side effects also includes mood disorders.
A study carried out in 1993 was paused by the Institutional Review Board when 13 individuals (depression patients) undergoing the test had serious adverse effects due to the administration of the aspartame diet.
That’s how severely this ingredient could hamper your mental wellbeing.
While most studies do not indicate any adverse reactions in healthy individuals, it is interesting to note that people with a history of depression are more sensitive to the effects of this artificial sweetener than the rest.
It came as a shocker to me when I learned that the American of Neurology stated that consuming 4 or more cups or cans of soda were 30% more likely to develop depression than those who did not drink soda.
Those who reported this level of intake of fruit punch were about 38% more likely to develop depression.
I value my brains like an irreplaceable asset and I definitely don’t want to be depressed and gloomy.
What about you?
Despite its wide-spread use, aspartame has been associated with many neurological side effects.
A study in 2014 suggested that when healthy individuals were exposed to a high aspartame diet, they showed significant upheaval in their neurobehavioral health.
Phenylalanine, one of the major constituents of aspartame can act as a neurotoxin at high levels and may affect the synthesis of neurotransmitters.
A careful reconsideration of the safety of aspartame only seems long overdue with such upcoming studies.
Heart Palpitations And Disorders
A study performed in Manhattan in 2012 was published in the Journal of Internal Medicine. This study supports that continued consumption of aspartame found in diet soda and soft drinks can cause serious vascular complications.
The University of Iowa looked if there was a link between diet soda and cardiovascular disease in women.
Women who drank at least two diet drinks per day were at a 30% higher risk for a cardiovascular event and 50% more likely to die from a related disease.
Similar studies were performed in Japan to evaluate the safety of diet soda and their effect on strokes and heart disorders and they confirmed the risk of cardiac disorders associated with artificial sweeteners.
If you want a healthy heart, quitting on artificial sweeteners should be next on your to-do list.
A study by Monsanto (sustainable agriculture company) on the birth defects caused by aspartame was discontinued after initial research data showed damaging information about aspartame.
The book While Waiting: A Prenatal Guidebook, also stated that aspartame could be a potential causative agent of brain damage in sensitive people and a fetus may also be at risk of such brain damage effects.
Problems ranging from dizziness and subtle brain changes causing mental retardation have also been chalked out by modern-day research.
Though the FDA claims that aspartame is safe for consumption during pregnancy and lactation, I wouldn’t want my arriving child to be exposed to aspartame.
Diabetes was America’s 7th leading cause of death in 2010 as stated by the American Diabetes Association.
By 2012 almost 9.3% of Americans suffered from diabetes, which comes up to almost 29.1 million of the population.
A diseases so rampant has its roots dug in more sources than just one. One source could be directed towards the consumption of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame.
In 2007 a study published by the American Diabetes Association supports this hypothesis.
This study involved human subjects to test the effects of aspartame on the blood glucose and insulin levels wherein 14 actively exercising men suffering from type-2-diabetes were subjected to high aspartame meals.
The result of this trial was contradictory to the concept that artificial sweeteners are safe for consumption by diabetics. Though the aspartame meal was 22% lower in calories and 10% lower in carb content it still lead to a rise in blood sugar and insulin levels similar to a sucrose rich meal.
Having such reputed research organizations bringing up side effects of aspartame in their study time and time again is a strong indication about its controversial fate.
But really every research boils down to the point where they claim that consuming recommended amounts of aspartame is free from risk of any side effects unless you suffer from PKU disorder.
Can Aspartame Consumption actually be Safe?
Any new food additive has to be cleared by the FDA before it is used in food and beverage preparations for public use.
Regulatory agencies impose restrictions on the daily consumption of new additives like aspartame by quoting the maximum amount of product you could safely consume on a daily basis through out your lifetime.
And there it is! another disagreement among two very reputed health and safety agencies.
Aspartame research claims that the amount of product consumed by the population in the Unites States, and globally, is below the specifies ADI (acceptable daily intake).
Relying on contradictory an unstable research could hamper all health and fitness routines you strive to put up with daily.
It’s Never Too Late
The first step towards flushing out aspartame from your systems includes avoiding all products that contain it. Even though it is in over 6,000 products, you can actively avoid most.
If you are wondering how to avoid aspartame, the next time you shop for food or drinks flip to the ingredient and nutritional label to take a close look at the ingredients.
If you spot the word aspartame or the code E-951 (Europe only) put that product right back on the shelf and look for its alternative. In the United States, it is a little more difficult due to certain laws. Take a look at the label to see if the words “contains phenylalanine”
Artificial sweeteners are cleared for safe consumption by various regulatory agencies but the repeated and extensive scrutiny on their safety makes it difficult to believe that they are a 100% safe for consumption.
And when it comes to your health, compromising is not an option.
Share with me your experience with aspartame and artificial sweeteners. I would love to hear them. How do you plan to ditch these artificial sweeteners?