Feb. 24, 1999 Aspartame toxicity studies
I am writing this as a simple summary of the complex and bitter
aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, Canderel, Benevia) toxicity debate.
As an M.I.T. (physics and history, BA, 1964) and Boston U. Graduate
School (psychology, MA, 1967) graduate, I, as a layman and citizen, am
debate on this public health issue.
In the USA alone, about a 100 million use this product of a
billion-dollar industry, first approved by the FDA in 1981. In 1985,
Monsanto purchased G.D. Searle and made Searle Pharmaceuticals and The
NutraSweet Company separate subsidiaries.
If 1% of users have a problem with aspartame, that is a million.
I am grateful to Ralph G. Walton, M.D., for promptly mailing me four of
his papers, some 76 pages, which make it easy to sketch the main
outlines of the case.
rwalton193 at aol.com
Prof. of Clinical Psychology, Northeastern Ohio Universities,
College of Medicine, Dept. of Psychiatry, Youngstown, OH 44501
Chairman, The Center for Behavioral Medicine, Northside Medical Center,
500 Gypsy Lane, P.O. Box 240 Youngstown, OH 44501 330-740-3621
"Seizure and mania after high intake of aspartame," 1986,
Psychosomatics, 27: 218-20:
An age 54 woman with 20 years of depression had been stable for 11
years with medication. She had a grand mal seizure, followed by mania,
insomnia, flight of ideas, and irritability. A brief hospitalization
and CT scan found no apparent cause. After three weeks, this led to
psychiatric hospitalization. Two days later, it was found that during
the several weeks before the seizure and onset of mania, she had
started using aspartame in place of sugar in her iced tea, a gallon
daily, her habit during the summer. Four days later, the mania
13 months later she continued to function well, using her usual
medicine, imipramine, and enjoying her large amounts of iced tea, with
sugar, not aspartame.
"The possible role of aspartame in seizure induction," 1987,
Proceedings of the First International Conference on Phenylalanine and
the Brain, Wortman, RJ, Walker E (eds.), Center for Brain Sciences and
Metabolism Charitable Trust, Cambridge, England:
Nine cases, ages 19 to 91, briefly summarized: "Case 4: A 61 year-old
woman had been in excellent health until she began consuming an average
of half a gallon per day of sugar-free beverages prepared with "Crystal
Light" mixes. She experienced the onset of headaches, in the absence
of a previous headache history. After three months of daily headaches,
she experienced a generalized seizure and was hospitalized. CAT scan
and EEG were normal. After discontinuing the use of all
aspartame-containing products, she has been headache- and
seizure-free." Walton cites reports that suggest specific toxic
These two reports are clinical anecdotes, hospital observations, not
controlled scientific experiments. The necessary next step is a
double-blind study, in which neither the researcher nor the subjects
know when there is an inert placebo or the active drug.
Koehler, SM, A. Glaros, 1988. "The Effect of Aspartame on Migraine
Headache," Headache, Volume 28 (1) , 10-14.
[Abstract by Mark D. Gold]
They conducted a double-blind study of patients who had a medical
diagnosis of migraines, who were not on medications (other than
analgesics) and who suspected that aspartame had a negative effect on
their migraine headaches. Following a baseline period where the
subjects tracked their headaches and their diets, the subjects were
given 300 mg of aspartame or placebo, 4 times daily, for four weeks. The
group had no increase in headaches over the baseline levels.
Approximately half of the subjects who took aspartame had a large
increase in headaches.
Koehler was principle investigator for three later published studies,
listed in PubMed. In 1996 he was at Plant Molecular Biology Lab,
USDA/ARS, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA.
Walton, RG, "Adverse reactions to aspartame: double-blind challenge in
patients from a vulnerable population," 1993, with Robert Hudak and
Ruth J. Green-Waite, Biological Psychiatry, 34 (1), 13-17:
Eight depressed patients and five non-depressed controls were given for
7 days either aspartame or a placebo, and then after a 3 day break,
given the opposite. After each week, each filled out a checklist of
symptoms, rating each symptom from 0 to 3, null to mild to moderate to
severe. Each got seven 300 mg capules daily, for a dose of 30 mg/kg
body weight, equal to 10-12 cans of diet soda daily, about a gallon.
Despite the very small number of subjects, the results were dramatic
and statistically significant. The eight depressed patients reported
with aspartame, compared to placebo, much higher levels of nervousness,
trouble remembering, nausea, depression, temper, and malaise. The
five normals did not report strong enough differences between aspartame
and placebo to be significant.
Mark D. Gold maintains a website that contains intelligent, lucid,
thorough, and reasonably fair information and discussion, including
about 250 pages of reports from posts on the Internet.
Aspartame Toxicity Information Center Mark D. Gold
mgold at holisticmed.com
35 Inman St., Cambridge, MA 02139 617-497-7843
Aspartame / NutraSweet Toxicity Reaction Samples
[from the Internet, part of a 857K file]
Aspartame / NutraSweet / Equal / Neotame
Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998 15:52:36 -0400
To: xxxxx at xxxxxxx.xxx
Subject: Re: Aspartame Victim
I would like to tell you about my personal experiences with
aspartame and what I feel that it has done to me.....
In the last two years I have become a *heavy* Diet Pepsi drinker
(approximately 2 two liters a day, plus NutraSweet in my coffee,
and many so called "diet" products once my weight gain began....
and I the more NutraSweet I consumed the more weight I put
on....), hearing things about how NutraSweet was bad for you,
but never really knowing the facts. I don't know exactly how
long after starting to drink that much of the soda my symptoms
started to appear, but I would say that it was about six to
eight months. For a little over a year now I have had to deal
with *tremendous* weight gain. I always had a little bit of
extra meat on my body, but I was always active enough to keep
it level. I never changed weight much, but in the last year I
have put on approximately 70 pounds, all in my thighs and hips.
(This may or may not be all from aspartame, obviously, but I
In addition to the weight gain, I have had AWFUL mood problems.
I have been diagnosed as manic depressive, and have started to
have anxiety attacks. I don't know how much of my other physical
ailments were caused by aspartame, but before I list them let me
say that previous to my drinking the soda all the time, I didn't
have any of the symptoms. I was an average, mostly healthy 19
year old girl. I have always had very very minor arthritis (since
I was a child) and very light asthma (never "attacks", but it made
normal colds worse)...... the rest of these things, I never had
ever had wrong with me until I started drinking the soda all the
anxiety attacks/panic attacks
breathing difficulties/chronic cough
VERY CHRONIC FATIGUE
depression (Very Badly)
EXTREMELY EXCESSIVE THIRST AND HUNGER
extreme loss of sexual feelings (has caused huge problems with my
fiancee and I)
inability to concentrate
VERY marked personality changes
memory loss/poor memory/not as good as it used to be
EXTREMELY MESSED UP menstrual cycles
numbless/tingling of extremities
EXTREME WEIGHT GAIN
I am now 21 years old, and I honestly feel like I'm an 85 year
old. (No offense to anyone older, but I think you get what I
mean...) I just don't feel young and full of life the way I used
to. I thought these things were all wrong with me because of my
"manic depression" that the doctor said I had. I thought that all
of it was in my head.... I have spent time actively thinking
that I am an awful human being, fat and lazy and worthless.
Tracing these emotions backwards, I realize that they all
started after my HEAVY consumption of Diet Pepsi started. I
used to be vibrant, full of confidence and able to spend a day
being physically active with the best of them.
Now I can't do any of those things.
Date: Wed, 10 Jun 1998
To: xxxxx at xxxxxxx.xxx
Subject: Re: My 60 days is over!!
I am just writing to update my personal aspartame story. ;)
Sometime a little over 60 days ago I wrote to you with my horror
story about aspartame. I am the 21 year old who felt as though I
were 95. I had a list of symptoms as long as my arm, and was
convinced that my entire life was on a downward spiral into
60 days later and I swear to God I feel like a new person. My
personality has just changed so much!! I feel like I did years
ago, before I started putting that poison into my body. The
panic/anxiety and depression and nastiness has just faded away.
My sleeping patterns have returned to normal. I eat and drink
like a normal person now, without the excessive consumption.
I can move like I used to, without the pains and aches.... Just
so many things about me have returned to how they should be.
I'm 21 again and just so happy I could scream!!
I just wanted to write to you and thank you for all the
information you have out there about aspartame. I have told
friends and family, I have taken the flyer to the supermarkets
and other local places and I think that people who I have
talked to about it have started to listen! It's wonderful.
I am a tribute to the values of keeping that junk out of your
body. It's an awful good thing my boyfriend loved me enough to
stay with me through all the horrible mood swings and things
I put him through.... He's getting quite the benefits also,
from the me he used to know before I started to become a
bitter old person.
Thank you xxxxxx, for spreading the word about this. I appreciate
it more than I can say.
This report is much like the case histories cited by Walton, and has
many of the same symtoms, at a gallon daily of diet soda, as reported
in his experimental study with a similar dose level.
One would hope that all experts involved would focus on identifying all
vulnerable populations and the exact toxic biochemistry, and,
of course, act to eliminate aspartame, but, sadly enough, entrenched
interests, just as in the case of tobacco, lead to corruption of the
scientific process, as Walton elucidates in this 66 page report:
"Survey of aspartame studies: correlation of outcome and funding
sources," 1998, unpublished as yet:
Walton found 166 separate published studies in the peer reviewed
medical literature, which had relevance for questions of human safety.
The 74 studies funded by industry all (100 %) attested to aspartame's
whereas of the 91 non-industry funded studies, 84 ( 92 % ) identified
a problem. Six of the seven non-industry funded studies that were
favorable to aspartame safety were from the FDA, which has a public
record that shows a strong pro-industry bias. Moreover, 33
pro-aspartame studies were, with slight changes, published repeatedly
in different journals from 2 to 6 times each. Walton comments,
"Virtually all journals require that an affidavit be signed by all
authors to the
effect that neither the manuscript nor the data it contains have been
previously published or concurrently submitted elsewhere for
publication. Violation of this policy may have a detrimental impact on
scientific progress and ethics."
It could be so easy to elimanate a major public health hazard. After
all, apartame is not a drug that is essential for individual health,
nor is it very addicting.
You may search among 9 million medical citations on PubMed for any
topic or author, and for half the studies get an abstract summary:
A passionate discussion group for aspartame can be subscribed to at
www.onelist.com. Personal stories are given almost daily by identified
writers. Getting permission to talk with their doctors could cast
light on these cases.
The herbal sweetener, stevia, used for centuries, costs about $ 9 per
100 packets. A packet can flavor two cups of drink.
Rich Murray, MA (Psychology, 1967, Boston University Graduate School)
Room For All
1943 Otowi Drive
Santa Fe, NM 87505
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