Processed foods may be approved by the FDA, but they aren’t without controversy.
Aspartame, commonly sold as NutraSweet® and Equal®, is typically found in “diet” foods as well as gum, yogurt, processed honey, and fruit juice (1).
It’s made by joining together the amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine and has been on the market since the 1980’s (2).
This lab-created sweetener is 200 times sweetener than sugar, making it dangerously addictive (3).
Aspartame may be popular, but studies don’t agree on whether or not it’s safe.
In fact, some studies even call it deadly.
Aspartame Dangers You’ve Never Heard Of
Aspartame 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.” (4)
Aspartic acid acts as a neurotoxin that causes the hyperexcitability of neurons. It’s also a precursor to another amino acid that overexcites your central nervous system (CNS): glutamates.
Methanol and its metabolites cause CNS depression, vision disorders and other symptoms. Chronic exposure can lead to metabolic acidosis and, eventually, coma. Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which are present in your brain, also converts methanol to formaldehyde (5).
Another metabolite, diketopiperazine, is carcinogenic in the central nervous system and contributes towards the formations of tumors, including gliomas, medulloblastomas, and meningiomas.
Plus, the substance “has been linked to pediatric and adolescent migraines. Upon ingestion, aspartame is broken, converted, and oxidized into formaldehyde in various tissues.”(5). Not only is formaldehyde carcinogenic, it’s also cumulative, meaning that it builds up in your body (6,7).
Lastly, since serotonin and dopamine are key “happy” hormones, aspartame can directly contribute towards mental disorders, addiction, and including depression, suicidal behavior, and substance abuse (8).
In an open letter to the FDA, the Aspartame Toxicity Information Center warns “Some of the many aspartame toxicity symptoms reported include seizures, headaches, memory loss, tremors, convulsions, vision loss, nausea, dizziness, confusion, depression, irritability, anxiety attacks, personality changes, heart palpitations, chest pains, skin diseases, loss of blood sugar control, arthritic symptoms, weight gain (in some cases), fluid retention, excessive thirst or urination. Clearly, regular exposure to a toxic substance such as formaldehyde may worsen, or in some cases contribute to the development of chronic diseases.”(9)
So Why Is Aspartame Still Around?
Aspartame wasn’t always a food product, it actually originated as an experimental ulcer medication.
Once it came onto the market, it didn’t last very long: 1980 the FDA banned the substance after having 3 independent scientist studied the artificial sweetener. The substance was linked “without a shadow of a doubt” to brain tumors and brain cancer by the FDA’s own toxicologist, Dr. Adrian Gross (10).
It was even found to mimic and worsen fibromyalgia, MS, lupus, ADD, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and chronic fatigue.
In 1981, Donald Rumsfeld, CEO of Searle (the company behind aspartame) pushed through the scientific proof thanks to his high-level connections in Ronald Regan’s government.
He ushered pharmacologist Dr. Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr. to be the new FDA commissioner and re-applied to the FDA for approval to use aspartame in food sweetener.
After deadlocking the FDA’s Scientific Commission with a newly-appointed 6th member, Hayes personally broke the tie in aspartame’s favor. It quickly gained popularity in processed foods and became an important source of income for the company.
In 1985, Monsanto absorbed Searle and the rest is history.
Instead of using aspartame use natural sweeteners like maple syrup, agave nectar, stevia, fruit juice, and molasses.