Twenty Years of NutraSweet/Equal (Aspartame)

Twenty Years of NutraSweet/Equal® (Aspartame)
By Dr. Janet Starr Hull
Illustrations by Lynn Townsend Dealey

After twenty years of NutraSweet/Equal® (aspartame) dominating the sweetener market, people are realizing for themselves that aspartame really is a nasty food chemical tragically harmful to their health. But the corporations deny there is a connection between aspartame and epidemic obesity, mental disturbances, addictions, and disease.   They have left the proof to the consumer, who is now getting the picture, but at great personal cost. And the corporations work against the thousands of claims of bodily harm and even death connected to this artificial sweetener.

IT'S NEVER ENOUGH:   Artificial sweeteners create an artificial need. People forget that originally, sweetness was actually a by-product of food - nature's way to encourage living creatures to consume nutritious foods. Forced sweetness, revved-up sweetness, and artificial sweetness - all altered foods - are a trap that addict people to sweeter tastes.  

According to Consumer's Research Magazine: "refined sugars and chemical sugar substitutes benefit the corporations manufacturing and marketing them, but do not benefit the consumers." They write: Are such foods truly beneficial and desirable? Diabetics, weight watchers, and the general public might make better food choices by selecting basic, rather than highly processed foods; for example, apples rather than turnovers; or plain dairy foods rather than sweetened.

As early as 1990, Americans were consuming an average of twenty pounds of artificial sweeteners a year. Interestingly, as the consumption of sugar-substitutes rises, so too has the consumption of sugar.

Here are some amazing stats: Seventy-five years ago, the average American ate a mere three pounds of sugar per year.   Ten years ago, this level rose to seventy-five pounds per person per year.   Each year, Americans consume over 150 pounds of refined sugar per person. This converts to over thirty-five teaspoons per person per day.   Added sugars make up over twenty-five to forty percent of a typical American's daily caloric intake - empty calories providing no nutritional benefit. USDA surveys indicate that the average teenage boy eats at least 109 pounds sugar per year, while the average American eats upwards of sixty-four pounds. 1

Mistakenly believing artificial sweeteners are the solution to this problem, Americans now consume over twenty pounds of artificial chemical sweeteners per person per year, but increasing health symptoms ranging from allergies and mood swings to obesity and cancer are on the rise and increasingly the end result.

As I write in my article Dying To Be Thin, sugar-free foods play a role in the nation's current obesity epidemic.Twenty years ago, Dr. Russell Blaylock predicted that excess phenylalanine in the brain from using aspartame blocks the normal production of serotonin to the point of weight gain due to an increase craving for carbohydrates and sugar. The result: epidemic weight gain.

Over 200 -documented research studies performed by both corporations and independent researchers have been performed on aspartame over the years. But, don't be fooled by the numbers. In my opinion, a large number of studies usually imply negative results that require more scrutiny. I am suspicious of a product that claims to be safe yet brags about an inordinate number of tests run to prove its safety.   When I'm in the lab, this implies negative results that must be retested.

As I wrote in my first book, Sweet Poison , no corporate studies on humans have ever been done questioning aspartame's long-term health effects; corporate pay rolled researchers were the ones responsible for the NutraSweet safety results submitted to the FDA, to the media, and to scientific journals; only selective research results were reported (out of the hundreds of experiments performed); and "government/corporate involvement" is now clearly documented behind the approval of aspartame. 2

We must remember to value independent research results as being just as valid as those funded by the corporations, and examine the increase in illness, disease, and obesity since aspartame came on the market twenty years ago .

"While there are a lot of industry-sponsored safety studies on these substances, I don't believe there is enough independent research to tell us whether we should be using them in moderation or at all," said Dr. Jeanette Newton Keith, a gastroenterologist and an assistant professor of medicine at The University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine.

In the absence of independent data, she advises patients to avoid the

non-nutritive sweeteners entirely. She accredits anecdotal reports linking aspartame (Equal®) to memory loss, seizures, chronic headaches and neurological disorders. After years of personally working with hundreds of patients suffering from aspartame poisoning, I agree with Dr. Keith and encourage all practitioners to consider artificial sweeteners as a contributing cause of illness and obesity, especially when their doctor cannot offer any known cause for observable health symptoms.

The Ant And The Cola Can

Karen and Harry conducted an experiment one hot Texas afternoon. They placed on their backyard table one can of diet cola next to a can of regular cola. They watched what happened over the next two days. A determined line of ants marched steadily in and out of the regular cola can, but no ants moved in or out of the diet can. A few ants made their way to its opened ring-top, but each quickly turned about and joined the line steadily trailing up to the regular cola.

What does that tell you?

The dangers of aspartame poisoning have been a well-guarded secret since the 1970s. However, the research and history of aspartame as a cause of illness and toxic reactions in the human body is conclusive. Aspartame is a dangerous chemical food additive, and its use during pregnancy and by children is one of the greatest modern tragedies in human history. Aspartame is 180 to 200 times sweeter than sugar and contains about four calories per gram. It's synthesized from the two amino acids L-aspartic acid and L-phenylalanine, which are bonded by methanol. Aspartame breaks down easily and loses its sweetness when heated.

PKU: One of the most deadly reactions to aspartame is by phenylketonurics (PKU). One out of 20,000 babies is born without the ability to metabolize the amino acid phenylalanine, which makes up fifty percent of aspartame. Toxic levels of this substance in the blood can result in mental retardation. Beyond PKU, scientists believe aspartame alters brain function and prompts behavior changes in humans. And many people have reported the following side effects from aspartame taken from the FDA's 1991 list of 92 complaints filed against NutraSweet:

  • Fibromyalgia syndrome and fibromyalgia symptoms
  • Multiple sclerosis symptoms
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches (migraines)
  • Menstrual problems
  • Weight gain
  • Death

According to research scientist Russell Blaylock, M.D., a current review of recent scientific studies has disclosed a connection between aspartame and multiple sclerosis (MS) 3. In 1996, according to Blaylock, it was shown that the lesions produced in the myelin sheath of axons in cases of multiple sclerosis were related to excitatory receptors on primary brain cells, called oligodendroglia. Recent studies have now confirmed what was suspected-the loss of myelin sheath on the nerve fibers characteristic of MS are due to the death of these oligodendroglial cells at the site of lesions (called plaques). Further, these studies show that the death of these important cells is a result of excessive exposure to excitotoxins at the site of the lesions. Aspartame is an excitotoxin, a chemical that enters the brain and activates the brain cells until they "burn out." Brain cell death occurs.

Aspartame's Blueprint: The design of aspartame seems simple, but what a complicated structure aspartame really is. As previously mentioned, two isolated amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, are fused together by a third component, methanol. Methanol bonds the two amino acids, but when released at a mere eighty-six degrees Fahrenheit, the methanol becomes a poisonous free radical, breaking down into formic acid and formaldehyde (embalming fluid). Methanol is proven to be a dangerous neurotoxin, a known carcinogen that causes retinal damage in the eye, interferes with DNA replication and causes birth defects.

Aspartic acid makes up forty percent of aspartame. Aspartic acid is a neuroexcitor, which means it negatively affects the central nervous system. Under excessive conditions, aspartic acid can cause endocrine (hormone) disorders and vision problems. Hyperactivity is stimulated by aspartic acid, so aspartame is not recommended for ADD/ADHD conditions and should be avoided during pregnancy .

Adverse reactions to aspartic acid are:

  • Headaches/migraines
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain      
  • Fatigue   
  • Sleep disorders   
  • Vision problems  
  • Anxiety attacks  
  • Depression  
  • Asthma/chest tightness

The second isolated amino acid in aspartame's chemical blueprint is phenylalanine, fifty percent of aspartame. Too much phenylalanine in the diet causes:

  • Seizures
  • Elevated blood plasma
  • Negative effects during pregnancy that could result in retardation
  • Increased PMS symptoms due to the blockage of serotonin
  • Insomnia
  • Severe mood swings

WARNING: The amino acid L-phenylalanine should not be used by pregnant women or by those who suffer anxiety attacks, have high blood pressure or by those with pre-existing pigmented melanoma (form of cancer). The amino acid DL-phenylalanine should be used with caution if you are pregnant or diabetic, if you have high blood pressure or suffer anxiety attacks.

1 Center for Science in the Public Interest. Press Release. Sugar Intake Hit All-time High in 1999. May 18, 2000. Release accessible at

2 Hull, JS. Sweet Poison: How The World's Most Popular Artificial Sweetener Is Killing Us-My Story. New Horizon Press, 1997 .

3 Blaylock RL. Connection between MS and aspartame.

Posted on April 21, 2006 in History | Link

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