bionet.neuroscience.not.aspartame

Andrew K. Groves grovesa at starbase1.caltech.edu
Fri Aug 25 00:14:19 EST 1995


In article <Pine.SUN.3.91.950824203805.17588H-100000 at noel.pd.org>, Betty
Martini <betty at noel.pd.org> wrote:

>  However, there are case histories you can access 
> that show the elimination of MS symptoms after the diagnosis of multiple 
> sclerosis was made.  I know these patients have cases of remission but no 
> one I've ever seen on NutraSweet with MS has ever returned to these MS 
> symptoms.  In fact, it's incredible how quickly they disappear off aspartame.
> 

MS is a demyelinating disease. Is there any case history that you are
aware of in which patients have :

a) been *shown* to have demyelinating lesions (say, by Gd-MRI imaging of
plaques) or by the presence of autoantibodies against myelin proteins in
their cerebrospinal fluid

and

b) subsequently been free of any further demyelination following aspartame
withdrawal?

I make this distinction to avoid confusion over exactly what a "diagnosis
of MS" actually means. 

Are there any studies that show demyelinating conditions (such as EAE) in
lab animals treated with aspartame? I checked my literature database back
to 1982, and could find none.

Interestingly, I came across a fair number of papers on aspartame as I was
scanning. Two papers I found showed that aspartame does not increase brain
amino acid levels any more than sucrose does. Further to your report of
airline pilots, I also found two studies that examined the effect of
aspartame and alcohol on pilot cognitive function. Aspartame had no
effect. Several studies showed no correlation between aspartame intake and
seizures in children (or in susceptible adults) or increased activity in
children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. 

The best claim that the studies that I scanned could make is that *certain
groups* within a population may have some sensitivity to aspartame. For
example, in one study of patients who attributed their headaches to
aspartame, only a subset of these patients showed sensitivity to aspartame
in a double blind study. However, the concluding sentence in another paper
read

"In summary, we found that it is difficult to recruit study subjects with a
    history of hypersensitivity reactions to aspartame and that subjects who
    believed themselves allergic to aspartame did not have reproducible
    reactions."


I am not suggesting for a moment that aspartame is perfectly safe in all
humans at all doses, but the brief scan through the literature over the
last 7 years would suggest that at best, only a small group of people
demonstrate any sensitivity to aspartame in controlled conditions. And
that, really, is the key word. The key is to distinguish between anecdotal
attribution of a reaction to aspartame, and a controlled test of such a
reaction.

I realise that you will probably post back with myriad references and
anecdotal information, but the facts seem to me to suggest that the
concept of aspartame being a "poison" is a dubious one, and that only a
small group of people who are exposed to this dipeptide show any reaction
at all in controlled studies.

-- 
Andy Groves
Division of Biology, 216-76
California Institute of Technology



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