Why Aspartame is Perfectly Safe

There are a lot of people who say that aspartame is bad for you.  You can find people saying that a lot of things, in general, are bad for you.  However, I want to focus on aspartame without delving into the ridiculous details, origins, conspiracy, and what not.  Let’s just look at what it is accused of and the evidence.  After all, you should not just accept someones opinion, right?  It is always best to research yourself and check the evidence, including this very article.  This is why I provide references, so that you can check that what I am saying is not unsupported.  I am going to draw upon several online sources to share.

Claims

1) Aspartame is e. coli excrement

2) Aspartame is metabolized into aspartic acid, phenylalanine, methanol, formaldehyde, and formic acid.

3) Aspartame accounts for a significant portion of adverse reactions in food, as reported by the FDA

4) Aspartame causes cancer

5) Aspartame makes you fat

6) Aspartame makes children retarded

Responses

1) Aspartame is e. coli excrement

In some markets, aspartame manufacture takes advantage of modern genetic laboratory processes.  A plasmid introduces genes into E.coli bacteria; the genes are incorporated into the bacterial DNA and they increase production of enzymes that enhance the production of phenylalanine.  The bacteria produce more phenylalanine service as little living factories.  The phenylalanine these workhorses produce for us is exactly the same as phenylalanine from any other source.

~ Harriet Hall, M.D.

2) Aspartame is metabolized into aspartic acid, phenylalanine, methanol, formaldehyde, and formic acid.

It is the case that aspartame is metabolized into aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol.  There are certain amino acids that humans need to survive and aspartic acid and phenylalanie are included in those.

+ What are the essential elements needed for the determination of amino acids requirements in humans?

Methanol is something that is regularly produced in several foods that we already eat and are unharmed by.  In fact, a cup of tomato juice has six times as much methanol as a cup of diet soda.

+ Proton high-field NMR study of tomato juice

+ Chronic ingestion of lycopene-rich tomato juice or lycopene supplements significant increases plasma concentrations of lycopene and related tomato carotenoids in humans

Formaldehyde is metabolized by the methanol leaving no formaldehyde behind.

Methanol toxicity in humans and monkeys is characterized by a latent period of many hours followed by a metabolic acidosis and ocular toxicity. This is not observed in most lower animals. The metabolic acidosis and blindness is apparently due to formic acid accumulation in humans and monkeys, a feature not seen in lower animals. The accumulation of formate is due to a deficiency in formate metabolism which is, in turn, related, in part, to low hepatic tetrahydrofolate (H4folate). An excellent correlation between hepatic H4folate and formute oxidation rates has been shown within and across species. Thus, humans and monkeys possess low hepatic H4folate levels, low rates of formate oxidation and accumulation of formate after methanol. Formate, itself, produces blindness in monkeys in the absence of metabolic acidosis. In addition to low hepatic H4folate concentrations, monkeys and humans also have low hepatic 10-formyl H4folate dehydrogenase levels, the enzyme which is the ultimate catalyst for conversion of formate to carbon dioxide. This review presents the basis for the role of folic acid-dependent reactions in the regulation of methanol toxicity.

+ The toxicity of methanol

To further evince the properties of methanol and formaldehyde..

Formaldehyde biodegradation by a strain of Pseudomonas putida has been studied. The results indicate that this biodegradation is initiated by a dismutation reaction, yielding as products formic acid and methanol. The degradation of methanol and formic acid begins after exhaustion of formaldehyde in the medium, and presents a diauxic pattern: first formic acid is consumed followed by methanol. Moreover, cell viability, which is affected by the amount of added formaldehyde, has been determined.

+ Mechanism of Formaldehyde Biodegradation

Formic acid is metabolized into water and carbon dioxide.  While high levels can manifest symptoms of toxicity (not severe), they must be high and accumulated.

+ Methanol and Formic Acid Toxicity: Biochemical Mechanisms

+ Acid levels control formic acid metabolism in bacterium

Aspartame, at the end of the day, is metabolized perfectly normally by the human body.

Aspartame is a dipeptide (L-aspartyl-L-phenylalanyl-methyl ester) with a sweeting potential 180 to 200 times that of sucrose. Questions have been raised about potential toxic effects of its constituent amino acids, aspartate and phenylalanine when the compound is ingested in large amounts. Plasma and erythrocyte amino acid levels were measured in 12 normal subjects after administration of either Aspartame (34 mg/kg) or equimolar quantities of aspartate (13 mg/kg) in a crossover design. No changes in either plasma or erythrocyte aspartate levels were noted at any time after either Aspartame or aspartate ingestion. Plasma phenylalanine levels decrease slightly after aspartate loading, and increased from fasting levels (4.9 +/- 1 mumoles/100 ml) to 10.7 +/- 1.9 mumoles/100 ml about 45 to 60 minutes after Aspartame loading. Phenylalanine levels returned to baseline by 4 hours. Erythrocyte phenylalanine levels showed similar changes.

+ Effect of aspartame and aspartate loading upon plasma and erythrocyte free amino acid levels in normal adult volunteers

3) Aspartame accounts for a significant portion of adverse reactions in food, as reported by the FDA

Here is a link to a search function at the FDA.  You may notice that the first result is a statement dictating that it is safe to consume aspartame.. nothing more about aspartame causing adverse food reactions:

http://google2.fda.gov/search?q=aspartame&x=0&y=0&client=FDAgov&site=FDAgov&lr=&proxystylesheet=FDAgov&output=xml_no_dtd&getfields=*

4) Aspartame causes cancer

Let us have the evidence speak for itself:

In 2005, ERF published new findings of a long-term feeding study on aspartame conducted in rats. Scientists from ERF concluded from their study that aspartame causes cancer and that current uses and consumption of the sweetener should be re-evaluated.

EFSA’s review of ERF’s study concluded, among other things, that on the basis of all evidence currently available to EFSA:

  • ERF’s conclusion that aspartame is a carcinogen is not supported by the data; and
  • EFSA sees no need to further review its earlier scientific opinion on the safety of aspartame or to revise the Acceptable Daily Intake.

Upon learning of the ERF study results, FDA requested the study data from ERF to evaluate the findings. On February 28, 2006, the agency received a portion of the data requested. We are actively reviewing the data provided by ERF and will complete our review of those data as soon as possible. When FDA completes its review of the ERF study data, it will announce its conclusion.

Since it was first approved for use in the United States, the safety of aspartame has been questioned by some. To date, however, the agency has not been presented with scientific information that would support a change in our conclusions about the safety of aspartame. Those conclusions are based on a detailed review of a large body of information, including more than 100 toxicological and clinical studies regarding the sweetener’s safety.

http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/2006/ucm108650.htm

Considering results from the large number of studies on aspartame’s safety, including five previously conducted negative chronic carcinogenicity studies, a recently reported large epidemiology study with negative associations between the use of aspartame and the occurrence of tumors, and negative findings from a series of three transgenic mouse assays, FDA finds no reason to alter its previous conclusion that aspartame is safe as a general purpose sweetener in food.

http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodIngredientsPackaging/FoodAdditives/ucm208580.htm

…In the present study, we analyzed these data from 197S to 1992 and found that the brain tumor increases in the United States occurred in two distinct phases, an early modest increase that may primarily reflect improved diagnostic technology, and a more recent sustained increase in the incidence and shift toward greater malignancy that must be explained by some other factor(s). Compared to other environmental factors putatively linked to brain tumors, the artificial sweetener aspartame is a promising candidate to explain the recent increase in incidence and degree of malignancy of brain tumors. Evidence potentially implicating aspartame includes an early animal study revealing an exceedingly high incidence of brain tumors in aspartame-fed rats compared to no brain tumors in concurrent controls, the recent finding that the aspartame molecule has mutagenic potential, and the close temporal association (aspartame was introduced into US food and beverage markets several years prior to the sharp increase in brain tumor incidence and malignancy). We conclude that there is need for reassessing the carcinogenic potential of aspartame.

+ Increasing Brain Tumor Rates: Is there a link to Aspartame?

There are some good reasons why people ought to have speculated carcinogenic potential in aspartame.  Take, for example, this article:

….In the present study, we analyzed these data from 197S to 1992 and found that the brain tumor increases in the United States occurred in two distinct phases, an early modest increase that may primarily reflect improved diagnostic technology, and a more recent sustained increase in the incidence and shift toward greater malignancy that must be explained by some other factor(s). Compared to other environmental factors putatively linked to brain tumors, the artificial sweetener aspartame is a promising candidate to explain the recent increase in incidence and degree of malignancy of brain tumors. Evidence potentially implicating aspartame includes an early animal study revealing an exceedingly high incidence of brain tumors in aspartame-fed rats compared to no brain tumors in concurrent controls, the recent finding that the aspartame molecule has mutagenic potential, and the close temporal association (aspartame was introduced into US food and beverage markets several years prior to the sharp increase in brain tumor incidence and malignancy). We conclude that there is need for reassessing the carcinogenic potential of aspartame.

http://journals.lww.com/jneuropath/Abstract/1996/11000/Increasing_Brain_Tumor_Rates__Is_There_a_Link_to.2.aspx

However, this is simply correlative data and is not enough to prove causation (as anyone ought to know about correlative data).  Because of this, there have been extensive research done.  If anyone is to be susceptible to bias research, it would be cancer organizations so that they could justify asking for more money, right?  Well, here is an extensive study by the National Cancer Institute:

Researchers examined the consumption of aspartame-containing beverages among the participants of the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study and reported that, in a comparison of people who drank aspartame-containing beverages with those who did not, increasing levels of consumption were not associated with an increased risk of lymphomas, leukemias, or brain cancers in men or women.

An increase in cancer risk was not found for the main subtypes of lymphoid cancers (Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and multiple myeloma), non-Hodgkin lymphoma subtypes (including small lymphocytic lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, immunoblastic lymphoma and lymphoblastic lymphoma/leukemia), or non-lymphoid leukemias. 

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/aspartame

5) Aspartame makes you fat

To examine whether artificial sweeteners aid in the control of long- term food intake and body weight, we gave free-living, normal-weight subjects 1150 g soda sweetened with aspartame (APM) or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) per day. Relative to when no soda was given, drinking APM-sweetened soda for 3 wk significantly reduced calorie intake of both females (n = 9) and males (n = 21) and decreased the body weight of males but not of females. However, drinking HFCS-sweetened soda for 3 wk significantly increased the calorie intake and body weight of both sexes. Ingesting either type of soda reduced intake of sugar from the diet without affecting intake of other nutrients. Drinking large volumes of APM-sweetened soda, in contrast to drinking HFCS-sweetened soda, reduces sugar intake and thus may facilitate the control of calorie intake and body weight.

+ Effect of drinking soda sweetened with aspartame or high-fructose corn syrup on food intake and body weight

Diet soda’s actually work.

6) Aspartame makes children retarded

The preschool children ingested a mean (±SD) of 5600 ±2100 mg of sucrose per kilogram of body weight per day while on the sucrose diet, 38 ±13 mg of aspartame per kilogram per day while on the aspartame diet, and 12 ±4.5 mg of saccharin per kilogram per day while on the saccharin diet. The school-age children considered to be sensitive to sugar ingested 4500 ±1200 mg of sucrose per kilogram, 32 ±8.9 mg of aspartame per kilogram, and 9.9 ±3.9 mg of saccharin per kilogram, respectively. For the children described as sugar-sensitive, there were no significant differences among the three diets in any of 39 behavioral and cognitive variables. For the preschool children, only 4 of the 31 measures differed significantly among the three diets, and there was no consistent pattern in the differences that were observed.

+ Effects of diets high in sucrose or aspartame on the behavior and cognitive performance of children

Aspartame isn’t responsible for faulty genes.

Conclusion and the Real Threat

Those with phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot process phenylalanine fast enough to deter the accumulation of detrimental levels of amino acids.  This is why it is required, by law, to show that aspartame is added to any foods.  Those without PKU metabolize aspartame perfectly normally and science has demonstrated this time and time again.  However, the real problem is people committing hoaxes and lies in order to persuade people to join a certain cause or group.  All that this accomplishes, in the end, is a waste of time and money to spend on consoling these paranoid people.  While it is good to prove the security and safe consumption of food, aspartame has been the subject to repeated testing with consistent results.  Regardless of countless scientific evidence, it seems that post hoc ergo propter hoc is far more convincing to people; because one thing happened after another thing, it must have caused it.  This is simply illogical and I cannot express how often people are easily convinced by this reasoning.  If you drink a diet soda, and then later on get a headache, you should not immediately jump to the conclusion that it was the diet soda.  What about the heat of the day?  Or the food you ate?  Or the cavity in your mouth?  Or your heightened blood pressure?  There are countless reasons why anything can happen but humans are drawn to what is most salient.  Whatever seems the most obvious and convenient to observe is often what humans attribute things to.

I would like to think that the majority of people are smart enough to be aware of the flaws in their reasoning.  After all, the reason I am blogging is to make sure that I, myself, am educated in these matters and have a thorough understanding as opposed to pontificating my opinion as though it were objective truth.

What do you think..?

~

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5 thoughts on “Why Aspartame is Perfectly Safe

  1. Oh my goodness! a tremendous article dude. Thank you However I’m experiencing challenge with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting similar rss problem? Anybody who is aware of kindly respond. Thnkx

  2. I didn’t finish reading the whole article because I saw some problems or mistakes. There are many online sources that refute the ones you provided.

    Anyway, methanol may be other foods but any adverse reactions are blocked by a natural antidote, which is why in this form it is not harmful. However, in isolation and in combination with phenylalanine and asparttic acid, it forms a combo the body is not really equipped to handle. The fact is, methanol, or wood alcohol is a well-known neuro-toxin, a poison, and at about 86 degrees F it does convert to formaldehyde. Phenylalanine and aspartic acid are also in natural foods we eat, but not in the high concentrations in aspartame. For example, aspartame is a whopping 50% phenylalanine, while in other foods phenylalanine is only about 4%. True, people with Phenylketonuria may be harmed with mental retardation, which is why there must be a warning on the packaging, but because of the astronomical amount of phenylalanine in aspartame it can effect others as well, although probably not to the same extent.

    The truth is, about 92 different adverse effects have been attributed to aspartame. Please don’t just blindly accept whatever the FDA says as gospel truth. Do some research on how aspartame was approved, and you’ll understand what I mean. Aspartame was not approved based on science, but due to money and politics.

    This link gives information in a chart from The Department of Health and Human Services: Symptoms attributed to aspartame in complaints to the FDA. Note the number of complaints for each symptom listed and that this is from 1995.
    http://www.sweetpoison.com/articles/92-aspartame-symptoms-FDA.gif

    I am well-aware that the FDA says aspartame is safe, and that there are no reasons to worry about any adverse effects, but I also know that they have lots of green reasons to say that in the form of lobbying. Money talks.

    (I am employed by Wisdom Natural Brands, the makers of SweetLeaf Stevia)

  3. Firstly, thank you for taking the time to respond. I appreciate any discussion and especially if offers refutation of the evidence I provide. I have no doubt that there are online sources refuting what I am saying, considering that is a conspiracy over the matter. However, the credibility, time, and reliability of the sources is what I want to compare and look carefully at, as you would understand. You have not provided any of these sources…?

    You make note of methanol affecting others without PKU, but the evidence I provided shows that people without PKU will naturally breakdown any methanol levels, as they do in other foods. While you don’t provide any article supporting your claims, I won’t doubt that phenylalanine is a function part of aspartames compound. However, I have already provided evidence showing that phenylalanine is an essential amino acid to humans.

    I understand not blindly accepting FDA approval. Though, my point was showing what the FDA does currently say about it. In addition, I provided a lot more approving evidence than just from the FDA to provide compounding evidence. I again have no doubt that people have reported many adverse effects, the point is to demonstrate whether or not the adverse effects are genuinely being produced by the aspartame or by the people involved.

    I tried finding the source of that chart to see the entire submission, but I cannot. Are you able to provide it? You make the, correct, note that you ought to research into the reasons behind why things are said. By this, I suspect you mean their credibility. In this case, you are referencing a chart, with not citation, by a website whose premise is that aspartame is unsafe (ie., “Sweet poison”). I think you can understand the skepticism to the credibility of the site to begin with. While it can certainly provide evidence, it hasn’t in this case.

    For someone who is a proponent of Stevia, you have to be careful of being actually guilty of what you are accusing. Stevia is certainly a new and possible replacement sweetener. However, it has less research done than aspartame. Stevia itself was banned in 1991 as a food additive and reintroduced in 1994 as a nutrition supplement. Furthermore, when you speak of green reasons, I find Stevia to be a much more likely subject to this suspicion. Stevia plants are also refined with ethanol, methanol, and various glycoside molecules. Coca-cola sells it as Truvia while Pepsi sells it as PureVia. Stevia retains chemical compounding as well, yet it has little comparison in the amount of research done for aspartame.

    I would love to continue the discussion. However, I think you will agree that it does feel very restrictive to the science provided as there is much conjecture. I am personally willing to change the title of my article in itself but only once I see the appropriate evidence.

    ~

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