I am a real researcher, but I don't work in the area of aspartame and health
problems. However, I am somewhat familiar with the literature on this, so
I can make some comments regarding some of the claims Mark has made.
Most of the concerns about aspartame have come from the fact that it is
made from the combination of phenylalinine and aspartic acid, the latter of
which can be made highly epileptogenic (e.g., as in NMDA, methylated
aspatic acid). Thus the hypothesis that aspartame would lead to seizures
was borne since it was supposedly to be converted to NMDA or a similar
compound in some unknown reaction in the brain. There were extensive
safety studies of this sweetener prior to its use, and the FDA indeed
was extremely scrutinous of this chemical because they had failed so
miserably on examination of prior artificial sweeteners (the first ones,
introduced in the 50s caused many many cancer deaths; reports about
saccharin use unrealistic doses because of the panic over earlier
sweeteners). It was found that this sweetener was entirely safe on a
variety of scales. Moreover, the post-marketing reviews which Mark
claims support the view that aspartame causes serious concerns actually
do not. Indeed, Aspartame is commonly used as the example of how
post-marketing review of anecdotal clinical reports can actually show how
untrue they are. For most reports of aspartame-related seizures there
is no evidence to support the claim that aspartame was linked to the
seizures. Moreover, the FDA and WHO organization have set "maximum
safe consumption levels" of aspartame based on a small proportion of the
doses that are unsafe in rats. These doses are 40-50 mg/kg/d. Recent
examinations of use show that 90% of users fall below 2 mg/kg/d and
nearly all fall below 10 mg/kg/d, indicating that the actual use of
the sweetener is even safer than what is reported by the FDA, which assumes
much higher consumption levels.
You might try examining some of these reviews, e.g.:
Tollefson L; Barnard RJ.
An analysis of FDA passive surveillance reports of seizures
associated with consumption of aspartame.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 1992 May, 92(5):598-601.
Butchko HH; Kotsonis FN.
Acceptable daily intake vs actual intake: the aspartame example.
Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 1991 Jun, 10(3):258-66.
Butchko HH; Tschanz C; Kotsonis FN.
Postmarketing surveillance of food additives.
Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 1994 Aug, 20(1 Pt 1):105-18.
You should be especially critical of reports which come as case reports,
since most of the time, the disorder is not actually causally linked
to the problem the person reports (this is the case for most side effects
reported at less than 2-3%). Most of the studies are published in
established refereed journals, and they generally do not publish
reports by a company about their own product (although there are avenues
for this kind of report too). In any case, I would trust any double-blind
report above any case report even if it was done by the company. Finally,
the company which developed Nutrasweet (GD Searle) is an experienced
and respected pharmaceutical company, not a tobacco company, and definitely
does not have the political ties to hide something as scandalous as you
In article <3to16j$ojg at ixnews5.ix.netcom.com>, rrogoff at ix.netcom.com
(Robert Rogoff) wrote:
>mgold at max.tiac.net (Mark Gold) wrote:
>>> >Hi Todd.
>> >I am not a "real" researcher, but I can assure you that the aspartame
> >issue has been studied by experienced neuroscientists. The "anecdotal"
> >evidence of the dangers from long-term use of aspartame has been
> >piling up for many years. I have received a large number of case
> >histories on the Net concerning serious illnesses triggered or
> >worsened by aspartame (only to have many or all of the symtpoms
> >disappear after it is removed from the diet). Of course, like many
> >substances, individual susceptibility varies considerably.
>> >Virtual all independent studies and reviews of aspartame has shown
> >problems or serious concerns. Some of what you may see on MEDLINE
> >is written by researchers for NutraSweet (although they do not always
> >note their close ties to the industry). Just as you would probably not
> >automatically assume that studies and reviews done for the tobacco
> >industry are totally above-board (although many scientists did make this
> >assumption in the 1950s, you may find it beneficial to read NutraSweet
> >studies and reviews very critically.
>> >I am somewhat familiar with the science of this subject and the studies.
> >I would be happy to help anyone who is really interested in finding out
> >more about the issue by discussing each specific point or by providing
> >whatever references you like.
>> >Best regards,
>> >- Mark
> >mgold at tiac.net>> Well, I am not a "real" researcher either, if by that you mean someone
> who does applied or theoretical scientific research as my primary or
> secondary occupation. However, a reason for me to read these groups
> is to learn what is actually considered to be consensus thinking among
> scientists today. If I wanted to read hyperbolic exaggerations based
> upon fringe research I can find that ad nauseum in the alt.hierarchy.
>> Not realizing the possibility that aspartame, an FDA-approved
> non-nutritive sweetener, approved because trials indicated it was
> safer than sodium cyclamate, could cause people to "literally drop
> like flies," [see attribution below], I made some tongue-in-cheek
> comments about aspartame in the groups alt.mindcontrol and
> alt.folklore.urban. Nobody seems to have paid much attention to them
> except for a few people emailing me, but only one of the emails had
> anything to say negative about aspartame. The solitary email from
> someone claiming an aspartame-related death never responded to my
> inquiry asking if his allusion to a wasted-away sister suggested
> anorexia, and a lifestyle of drinking diet soda (perhaps also smoking
> tobacco) corrolary to that.
>> Apparently my sophostricated expose' re aspartame was lost in the
> noise of those groups. I would hazard to speculate the heavy traffic
> and high noise ratio in those groups were what drove Watts/Martini to
> proselytize her cause in [often] serious groups such as this one.
> Another good one for propagation of this kind of urgent secret
> knowledge might be alt.conspiracy. I think Betty Martini, aka "A.R.
> Watts" is playing to the wrong crowd here if she wants attention for
> her sophostricated analyses of why aspartame is Satanic, that HGH and
> bovine somatotropin are "the same" and how her mentor(?) Dr. Whittaker
> has discovered aspartame to cause diabetic retinopathy and
>> Here is a direct quote from <betty at noel.pd.org> writing under the
> alias "A.R. Watts" on 13 June 1995 in the newsgroup
> soc.culture.african.american apparently related to drinking aspartame:
> "People are literally dropping like flies." Although it is common
> consensus aspartame can lower the convulsant threshold for susceptible
> individuals, and I have heard anecdotal claims it causes more frequent
> headaches to migraine sufferers, note that a random reading of
> Watts/Martini's posts to such newsgroups as alt.support.diabetes
> indicates she is in reality not crusading =against= NutraSweet, but
> =for= the FDA to approve a competing non-nutritive sweetener she
> suggests was once used by the organic tea company Celestial Seasonings
> but subject to "seizure" by the FDA.
>> Betty/A.R. may be on to something in the grand tradition of Kepler,
> Galileo, Tesla, and Crick--but this isn't playing to the right
> audience in bionet.neuroscience, sci.med.psychobiology, or any other
> group outside the alt. hierarchy.
>> BTW, it does stand to reason the inventors of aspartame would
> construct the research to downplay any "anecdotal" evidence that would
> tend to negate the stringency required to get FDA approval--but it has
> been well over a decade now since its US approval. If aspartame is
> indeed all that harmful, then the one thing that's wrong with this
> picture is in the country known for frivolous lawsuits, I have never
> even heard of any out-of-court settlement stemming from aspartame
> injury or death that might prove embarrassing to Monsanto or the FDA.
>>> I believe there can be anecdotal evidence of almost anything however.
> I do know if I drink too much diet soda I feel symptoms I attribute to
> electrolyte imbalance. For awhile there I was hitting it really hard
> and it even caused polyuria!
STEPHAN ANAGNOSTARAS UCLA BEHAVIORAL NEUROSCIENCE
STEPHAN at PSYCH.UCLA.EDU