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Reasons to Avoid Aspartame

When Tim Gullickson, former professional tennis player and coach to Pete Sampras, died in 1996 from complications related to brain tumors, I distinctly remember reading about Tim's fondness for diet Coke; according to one close friend, Tim was addicted to the stuff - he always seemed to have a can in hand.

When I began private practice a year later, within a few months, I encountered three patients who had brain tumors and drank several diet sodas a day. These findings were easy to notice and group together in my mind, as I took a detailed dietary survey during each new patient evaluation.

From that point on, I shared my suspicions about aspartame with family, friends, and patients. And over time, I learned about the ways in which aspartame injures nervous tissue on a cellular level - most of my education on this issue has been from the work of Dr. Russell Blaylock, a retired neurosurgeon who has long maintained that aspartame and MSG are harmful to human health.

Aspartame, the technical name for popular brand names NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure, has been documented by the United States FDA to be a cause of the following symptoms:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depression and irritability
  • Seizures
  • Nausea
  • Numbness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart irregularities
  • Joint Pain

Why is Aspartame Harmful to Your Health?

To put it simply, aspartame is toxic to your nervous system. Enough exposure to aspartame can lead to nerve cell death.

Aspartame - also know as 1-aspartyl 1 phenylalanine methyl ester - is made up of the following components:

  • Wood Alcohol (methanol) - about 10%

  • Phenylalanine - about 50%

  • Aspartic acid - about 40%

Problems with Wood Alcohol

The United States Environmental Protective Agency says that the average person can consume 7.8 milligrams of wood alcohol per day without negative effects - some cans of diet soda have been found to have double this amount.

Although wood alcohol naturally occurs in some of the foods that we eat, it doesn't come naturally bound to amino acids as it does in aspartame. Rather, in nature, wood alcohol typically comes attached to fiber that allows it to pass through the digestive tract without being absorbed into the bloodstream.

Since wood alcohol that comes with aspartame doesn't have fiber to keep it out of your bloodstream, just about all of it gets absorbed into your blood, where it can spontaneously convert to formaldehyde, a poisonous substance that is an established carcinogen.

Metabolism of formaldehyde in your body can lead to the production of formate, a waste product that, if accumulated in large amounts, can cause metabolic acidosis and ensuing blindness, kidney damage, and even death. Clearly, this could only potentially happen if you consume extremely large quantities of aspartame and your body's buffering mechanisms fail to prevent metabolic acidosis.

Problems with Phenylalanine

When exposed to high temperatures or simply stored for a long period of time, aspartame breaks down into a few different compounds, one of which is aspartylphenylalanine diketopiperazine (DKP).

There is some evidence to suggest that DKP can undergo a nitrosation process in the stomach, which can lead to the production of a chemical that may cause brain tumors.

Since many food products and beverages are exposed to extremely high temperatures during distribution and storage, especially in areas of the world where the climate is hot year-round, the presence of and potential harmful effects of DKP become more worrisome in regions and countries that are closer to the equator.

Also, it's worth noting that whenever your body is exposed to a sudden surge in phenylalanine, the break down of phenylalanine to a larger-than-normal supply of neurotransmitters (L-dopa, norepinephrine, and epinephrine) may create imbalances in nerve signaling that may cause any number of symptoms, including:

  • Anxiety attacks and nervousness
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations

Problems with Aspartic Acid

Like phenylalanine, aspartic acid is an amino acid that naturally occurs in foods. When your body obtains these amino acids along with other naturally occurring amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals, your cells can put phenylalanine and aspartic acid to use for normal metabolic activities.

When you introduce abnormally large amounts of phenylalanine and aspartic acid (synthetically bound together by an ester bond) into your bloodstream - which is exactly what happens whenever you drink a can of soda that is sweetened with aspartame - your cells can be overwhelmed.

Specifically, a surge in aspartic acid can lead to over-stimulation of nerve cells and sometimes even nerve cell death - this overstimulation is what Dr. Blaylock refers to as excitotoxicity.

The risk of experiencing nerve cell death from ingesting too much aspartame is higher in people who smoke, have high blood pressure, or have diabetes, as all of these factors potentially increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier that is supposed to protect your nerve cells against excitotoxins. It's safe to assume that the more your overall health is compromised, the more susceptible your nerve cells are to the toxic effects of aspartic acid.

Pregnant and nursing moms should know that babies in the womb and newborns are particularly susceptible to having aspartic acid cross the blood-brain barrier, so it's especially advisable to avoid aspartame during these times.

If you'd like to avoid aspartame, please keep in mind that it's a common ingredient in many packaged foods and beverages, particularly those that are marketed as being sugar-free or low in calories. Examples include sugar-free or low calorie:

  • Yogurt
  • Chewing gum
  • Soft drinks
  • Cookies and candy bars that are made for diabetics
  • Frozen desserts
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Cough candies, drops, and syrups
  • Chewable vitamins

Be sure to read through the list of ingredients on all packaged foods and avoid those that list aspartame, NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure.

If you're relatively healthy, your body can likely handle some exposure to aspartame without experiencing irreversible damage. Still, it's hard to justify hurting your health, even just a little, by knowingly ingesting aspartame.

The great danger with aspartame is in regularly consuming it - the most common example is the person who drinks a few or more diet sodas every day. If you know anyone who belongs in this category and is open to looking into this matter, please consider sharing this post.

If you happen to be one of those people who just can't do without the "bite" that sodas provide, one healthy alternative is to combine fruit juice with sparkling water. Too much fruit juice isn't good for your blood sugar-regulating mechanisms, but every once in a while, a glass that combines three-quarters fruit juice and one-quarter sparkling water should satisfy your need for a biting beverage.


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I have suffered from migraine headaches since the age of 15, (I am 32 now). Five years ago, after keeping a food journal, I finally figured out the triggers for my headaches-artificial sweetners. It was a long road to figure out, because I would get a headache even after cutting out diet drinks/foods and etc. Well to find out, the chapstick I used had artificial sweetner in it. Almost ALL gum, even the kind containing sugar, contains aspartame! Aren't there labeling guidelines for this? As bad as my headaches are, I wish there were some type of guidelines for this!

I am 25 years old and use to suffer from migrain headaches. One night about 5 years I saw something on the news about aspartame along with a long line of other things that could cause migraines. I decided to start with the artificial sweetner and lay off those and as soon as I did I didn't have any more migrains. Until last year when I was taking Nyquil and got so sick with a migrain that lasted about three days. I read the ingrediants and it said it contained sodium saccarin then I realized that is an artificial sweetner. So now I make sure I read all the labels of everything I buy. I feel so much better now and haven't even had a headach since. Unless its a sinus headach. Now I just have do away with allergies.

I premise my comment with the fact that I am NOT a biolgist, doctor, nutritionist or anything remotely close to BEING a person with medical background... In fact, the closest I come is that I am related to doctors & nurses. However, I would like to share a personal observation.

I have hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and to combat it I eat less sugar to keep my pancreas from overproducing (leading to eventual shutdown). So, I am quite familiar with the affects - everything from headaches to fainting spells. In EVERYTHING I have read about artificial sweeteners, the side-effects are similar to the affects of low blood sugar. That said, I cannot help but believe that our bodies are responding to our intake of the artificial sweeteners as if we are actually consuming the amount of sugar we normally would take to have our food "taste good."

Again, I am not a professional in this field, but our bodies are designed quite well to the point that if we give it what it truly needs it will cure itself of MANY of the ailments we try to fix today. In my opinion, ALL artificial sweeteners are bad for the body, and it is simply wise to consume real sugar (as unprocessed as possible) in a much lesser amount.

I have known for many years about the dangers of aspartame. So, I switched to splenda. Thank you for your information that it may also be dangerous. It had not occurred to me that it also contained chlorine. Thank you.

Please be aware that Splenda can cause extreme gastrointestinal distress as well.

Since I was very young, I've had to avoid artificial sweeteners. If I accidently ate something with saccarin or Aspartame I'd end up with a headache so bad I can barely function. My mother always thought I was making it up because I didn't like the after taist. But now I find out that they break down into methanol and formaldehyde, it finaly makes sense. I'm very chemicaly sensitive, and no one else in my family is.

I don't know how I react to Splenda because I avoid it due to it being artificial. I just don't want to take the chance.

Recently I had to recieve some antibiotic treatments for a Staph infection. One that was hospital acquired, after a routine procedure too.

As you sit in the hospital getting IV treatments, you watch what other patients are eating.
Cans of Diet Soda, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, cold cuts on white bread, canned processed soups, etc.

You try to say something and you're met with " a just shut up look", or at best, indifference.
What schools are the dietitians or nutritionists going to ?
Can these people with all their advanced degrees be so ignorant ?
If the Medical System won't get it, the battle can never be won.

At least those of us who read this site, as well as other sites, get the picture.

I am not in the medical field, but my opinion is by poisoning their patients creates job security for everyone. There is so much ignorance going on that I wonder if there will be a time when stupid will be a crime. In other words, If you know it can make you ill, why do they eat IT?

I had a similar experience when my dad went in for an unnecessary surgery and almost died in the hospital. I saw what the hospital was feeding him. I threw most of it out and we brought food from home. Most of the hospital food, although my dad was diabetic, was made with sugar or substitute sugar in it. I intervened and got them to stop the IV made of 20% dextrose which is a form of sugar that may be made from genetically- engineered corn. He got better after that.

Dr. Mercola and several others talk about the conditioning of doctors and hospital staff onto the conventional medical model which is now dictated by the pharma industry. He talks about how rough the process is to in becoming a doctor and the lack of sleep causing physician burnout. And their hands are tied, even if they wanted to do something different.

Large corporate interests over people. That's who we're letting run our country.

Thank you Dr. Kim for this article on aspartame. I am glad that you mentioned Dr. Russell Blaylock's name in your piece. If anyone is interested please listen to Dr Blaylock's Webinar on Immunoexcitotoxicity in the developing brain specifically how vaccines cause brain damage. Just google "medical voices" or "medical voices vaccine information center". This is an awesome website for anyone trying to know the truth about vaccines.

My husband died four years ago of gastro-esophageal cancer. He led a very healthy life except for one thing - he drank diet Coke everyday! I do believe that this is what caused his cancer. Your article really needs to be spread around the US. Thanks for all you do!

Im so sorry to hear that... I am thirteen and extremely aware of the side affects and diseases aspartame can cause. It mimics or creates over 92 diseases! Thats CRAZY!!!!!!!! I had a debate and am now writing an essay on gum chewing! My side always wins! I have showed many people how dangerous it can be and am proud to say they are now too staying away from aspartame! Although some make fun of me, I am happy to say that I have been aspartame free for nearly a year!(as long as I've known about it. It just breaks my heart to hear that it is also in childrens cereal and now vitamins! It's even worse that I can't figure out why America is legalizing it?(They don't want to loose money, just lives). Infact many countries have banned it and produced their products with anything but aspartame! YEAH!! So everybody who knows about it, please preach about it. Make people aware of what they are doing to themselves! It needs to be heard!

holy crayola. this is so scary. I'm terrified I want to cry. the past week I bought 8 bottles of 2 litre sparkling water form walmart. each day I drank 1 to 2 bottles of it. I'm just terrified.

I had seizures triggered by aspartame for years. I struggled with side-effects of medication and almost killed myself more than once because of it. When I read about it and talked to doctors, they said it was just a conspiracy theory. Yeah, right.

I stopped all aspartame consumption, followed the protocol on stopping medication and never had a seizure again. After several months seizure free I decided to test it and started using aspartame again. In less than a week I started having absence seizures and frequent deja vus again.

That's why I don't trust doctors anymore.