Many people looking to avoid fructose, but yet not consume too much glucose, turn to alternative sweeteners.

The natural ones, such as raw honey, date sugar, and real maple syrup provide some good options. Others, such as sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners, pose health concerns far more damaging than actually consuming sugar.

In this article, I want to look at one of those: aspartame. Aspartame, sold under the name NutraSweet or Equal, is responsible for more than 75% of all food additive complaints to the FDA. It has been shown to cause, mimic or trigger serious conditions such as Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue, Epstein-Barr, Epilepsy, non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and ADD.

There have been numerous cases of people diagnosed with these conditions only to find out they were actually caused by aspartame consumption and once the aspartame was removed from their diet, the conditions were completely resolved.

In addition, beyond specific conditions, symptoms such as headaches and migraines, tinnitus, vision problems, seizures, depression, aggressive behavior, suicidal tendencies, dizziness, insomnia, anxiety and severe PMS have all been linked to aspartame. In fact, there are over 92 recorded symptoms of aspartame sensitivity. If you consumer aspartame regularly and you have struggled with a health condition, diagnosed or undiagnosed, you should definitely consider that aspartame may be a cause or at least an exacerbating factor.

Aspartame is comprised of aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. Aspartate, which comprises 40% of aspartame, is a neurotransmitter that facilitates information flow from neuron to neuron. When you have too much aspartate, too much calcium will flow into cells, triggering free radicals and killing the neurons. It’s considered an excitotoxin because it literally “excites” or stimulates the cells to death.

Phenylalanine, which makes up 50% of aspartame, is an amino acid. It’s normally found in the brain but high levels have been shown to be lethal. Ingesting high amounts of aspartame along with carbohydrates has been shown to result in excess levels of phenylalanine in the brain, mimicking a condition known as phenylketonuria, a genetic condition where phenylalanine cannot be metabolized.

While chronic use of aspartame has been shown to raise phenylalanine in the brain, studies show that even one time use can have this effect. When phenylalanine levels are high, seratonin in the brain decreases which can result in depression or other emotional disorders.

Methanol or wood alcohol is a poison known to cause blindness. When it encounters the enzyme chymotrypsin it is gradually released into the small intestine. But when free methanol is ingested, methanol absorption is sped up. When aspartame reaches a temperature of 86 degrees or higher such as when it’s heated making jello, transported or stored in warm temperatures, free methanol is created. It breaks down into formic acid and formaldehyde, both of which are toxic. Formaldehyde is considered to be a deadly neurotoxin.

Methanol is hard to get rid of once consumed; only a small amount is excreted so it accumulates in the body over time. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends no more than 7.8 mg/day. One liter of aspartame soda or flavored water contains 56 mg of methanol. Scientists estimate that that heavy consumers of aspartame products, such as those who drink large amounts of diet soda or eat aspartame-laden products regularly, may be consuming as much as 250 mg of methanol a day; that’s 32 times the EPA suggested limit.

Aspartame is found on tabletops in colored red and blue NutraSweet and Equal packets, but it is also the sweetener of choice for diet sodas, gum, and many low- fat, reduced sugar or fat-free food options from jello to yogurt to flavored water and even cereal. While many people consume it hoping to avoid sugar and weight gain, aspartame actually has been shown to lead to weight gain. One study showed that when a group of aspartame consumers stopped eating aspartame, the average weight loss was 19 pounds per person.

It’s hard to avoid aspartame if you consume packaged diet products as it is now found in more than 5000 food products! Given the fact that aspartame is linked to so many serious conditions and debilitating symptoms, you might wonder why it is on the market. I’d like to tell you the story of aspartame approval as it’s a great example of how hard it is to ensure good food policies are actively in place.

Aspartame was originally discovered in 1965 by a scientist at G. D. Searle who was working on an ulcer drug. Finding a substance 180 times sweeter than sugar with no calories was exciting and testing began immediately to ensure its safety. Even from the beginning, the results were not good. In 1967, a biochemist at the University of Wisconsin tested aspartame on infant monkeys. Of the seven monkeys who received the aspartame, one died and 5 had grand mal seizures.

While Searle moves forward and spends tens of millions of dollars conducting its own safety tests, independent research continues to challenge aspartame’s safety. When cyclamate, the leading artificial sweetener of the day is linked with cancer and questions about saccharin safety arise, a gap in the market emerges for a new artificial sweetener and Searle executives devise a strategy, as detailed in company memos, to get the FDA into the habit of saying “Yes.”

Dr. John Olney, the neuroscientist responsible for having MSG removed from baby foods, brings Searle his studies that show that aspartic acid, an ingredient of aspartame, caused holes in the brains of baby mice. One of Searle’s own scientists confirms the research in an additional study.

Nevertheless, Searle applies for FDA approval in the spring of 1973, submitting over 100 studies showing its safety. One of the first FDA scientists to review the data concludes it is incomplete and that more research is needed. But even as a consumer advocate attorney, Jim Turner, is meeting with Searle to discuss the mice study, the FDA grants its first approval for aspartame use in dry foods.

Attorney Turner and Dr. John Olney file objections and an FDA investigation is conducted. The FDA finds the Searle study data has been manipulated, and is full of inaccuracies. They go so far as to say that they “had never seen anything as bad as Searle’s testing.”

In 1977, the FDA formally requests the US Attorney’s office to investigate whether indictments should be filed against Searle for misrepresenting findings and making false statements. It’s the first time in FDA history that a criminal investigation of a manufacturer is requested.

While the grand jury probe is underway, Searle begins negotiations to hire the attorney in charge of the investigation, Samuel Skinner. Searle hires Washington insider Donald Rumsfeld as its CEO and he brings in several of his friends as top management. A few months later, Samuel Skinner leaves the US Attorney’s office and takes a job with Searle’s law firm.

An FDA report is released finding that 98 of the 196 animals died during one of Searle’s studies and were not autopsied until much later. In addition, a polyp, a mass, and ovarian neoplasms are found in the animals but had not been reported by Searle. Despite this, because of U.S. Attorney Samuel Skinner’s resignation, the grand jury investigation is stalled and the statute of limitations on the charges around aspartame runs out.

In 1979, the FDA creates a Public Board of Inquiry around NutraSweet that concludes it should not be approved pending further investigations of the brain tumors in animals.

CEO of Searle, Donald Rumsfeld, announces he will make a push to get it approved and a few weeks later, in January of 1981, Ronald Reagan is sworn in a President. Reagan’s transition team, which includes Rumsfeld, hand picks Dr. Arthur Hull Hayes Jr. to be the new FDA commissioner. Searle reapplies to the FDA for approval and Arthur Hull appoints a 5 person panel to review the board of inquiry decision.

When it becomes clear that the decision would likely be upheld 3-2, Hull suddenly adds a 6th member to the commission, resulting in a 3-3 deadlock. He then personally breaks the tie himself in aspartame’s favor. Aspartame is approved for use in dry products.

Shortly thereafter, Searle applies for aspartame approval for use in carbonated beverages and other sweeteners. The National soft Drink Association asks the FDA to delay approval citing a need for further testing, as aspartame is known to be highly unstable in liquid form. When it is exposed to temperatures above 85 degrees, which could happen in storage or transport, it breaks down into two known toxins, DKP and formaldehyde.

Approval is given and the National Soft Drink Association drafts an objection. Consumer attorney Jim Turner and Dr. Woodrow Monte, Arizona State University’s Director of Food Science and Nutritional Laboratories, file suit with the FDA, objecting to the approval based on unresolved safety issues.

Hayes resigns from the FDA amidst charges of impropriety (taking unauthorized rides aboard a General Foods, a major NutraSweet customer’s, jet.) He’s immediately hired by Searle’s public relations firm and in the fall of 1983, the first carbonated beverages containing NutraSweet are released.

In 1985, undeterred by its controversial past, Monsanto buys Searle and makes Searle and NutraSweet separate subsidiaries and aspartame continues to be a lucrative product used in thousands of food and beverages today.

If this approval story alone doesn’t cause you to question aspartame consumption, hopefully the concerns raised by the scientific research will be enough to ensure you completely avoid ALL consumption of aspartame.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at

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