Aspartame, more commonly known as NutraSweet or Equal, is one of the most toxic substances being consumed today. The artificial sweetener, currently used in over 4,000 products worldwide, entertains a sordid past and has been one of the most tested and debated food additives in the history of the FDA. While the manufacturer maintains that aspartame is not a danger to your health, the scientific studies don't necessarily agree. The FDA has approved the product for mass consumption, in spite of overwhelming evidence that aspartame can have neurotoxic, metabolic, allergenic and carcinogenic effects. When you question how such a substance has not been banned, one simply needs to look at the billions of dollars generated by the sale of aspartame each year. In light of the staggering number of dollar signs involved, it's easy to see that the artificial sweetener industry has reached Big Tobacco status. With so much money at stake, the truth suffers almost as much as the health of the consumers, while the shareholders' wealth continues to grow exponentially.
In 1965, James Schlatter, a chemist for G.D. Searle, was developing an anti-ulcer drug when he accidentally stumbled upon aspartame. Made up of aspartic acid (40%), phenylalanine (50%) and methanol (10%), aspartame is 200 times sweeter than natural sugar.
Aspartate is a neurotransmitter in the brain, facilitating information from one neuron to another. Too much aspartate allows an influx of calcium into the brain cells, triggering an excessive amount of free radicals which kill the cells. Aspartate is referred to as an "excitotoxin" because of the nerve cell damage that it causes. Many chronic illnesses have been attributed to long term excitotoxin exposure, including multiple sclerosis, ALS, memory loss, hormonal problems, hearing loss, epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, hypoglycemia, dementia, brain lesions and neuroendocrine disorders.
In 1971, Dr. John Olney, neuroscientist and one of the world's foremost experts on excitotoxins, informed G.D. Searle that his research had revealed that aspartic acid caused holes in the brains of mice. Searle did not inform the FDA of these findings until after aspartame's approval in 1981. This would prove to be one event in a startling pattern of lies and deception.
Phenylalanine is an amino acid normally found in the brain. Human testing has shown phenylalanine levels in the blood are increased significantly in those who chronically use aspartame. Excessive levels of phenylalanine in the brain can cause the levels of serotonin to decrease, which can lead to depression, schizophrenia and make one more susceptible to seizures.
Studies conducted on rats by G.D. Searle found phenylalanine to be safe for humans. However, Louis J. Elsas, II, M.D., Director of Medical Genetics and Professor of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine told the U.S. Senate in 1987 that, "Normal humans do not metabolize phenylalanine as efficiently as do lower species such as rodents and thus most of the previous studies on aspartame effects on rodents are irrelevant." Unfortunately, this fell on deaf ears and failed to garner additional testing.
By far, the most controversial ingredient in aspartame is methanol (aka wood alcohol). An EPA assessment of methanol states that it is "considered a cumulative poison due to the low rate of excretion once it is absorbed. In the body, methanol is oxidated to formaldehyde and formic acid; both of these metabolites are toxic." This oxidation occurs when methanol reaches 86 degrees F (30 degrees C).
A product broken down from aspartate is a known carcinogen and causes retinal damage, birth defects and interferes with DNA replications. The EPA recommends a consumption limit of 7.8 mg/day. A 1 Liter aspartame sweetened beverage contains about 56 mg of methanol, seven times the EPA limit. The most common maladies related to methanol poisoning are vision problems including misty vision, progressive contraction of visual fields, blurring of vision, obscuration of vision, retinal damage and blindness.