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Why you shouldn't have it or anything containing aspartame

by Chris Wheeler

Several weeks ago the Wrigley's Corporation mailed me a sample of their latest product, X.Cite - "40 sugarfree crunch pearls in a resealable package". Its on TV ads and supermarket checkout counters with Airwaves and Extra gum. The artificial sweetener, they all contain, aspartame, has been described as "a Pandora's box of chameleon-like toxins and tumour agents that have 92 FDA (the US food regulatory body) acknowledged ways to ruin your life, death being one of them".

Aspartame is 180 times as sweet as sugar, with fewer calories and it's a 100 per cent certain bet that most New Zealand dieters and diabetics are consuming aspartame in some form with the full approval of their doctors and local diabetic club.

Animals and insects have a lot more natural intelligence than human beings when it comes down to food and they all avoid aspartame - cockroaches won't eat it, cats and dogs won't eat it, ants won't eat it and flies won't eat it - but politicians and food regulators worldwide consider it safe enough for us.

Aspartame, that synthetic, genetically engineered sweetener, is now found in everything from Coke and Pepsi diet drinks, Wrigley's sugarless chewing gum and Weight Watchers products to common drugs and dietary supplements available at your local pharmacy and "health food" shop. Labelled as additive 951 it has been available to the Western diet as a sweetener since 1981 under various brand names - Nutrasweet, Equal, Spoonful, Benevia or Equal Measure.

On food items in New Zealand, usually the only mention of aspartame you'll get is that the item "contains additive 951" or the warning label "PHENYLKETONURICS: Contains phenylalanine", which has to be included for the sake of a small population group of people who suffer permanent brain damage if exposed to any excess phenylalanine in their diet. Medicines do not have to be labelled.

Aspartame is a chemical combination of wood alcohol, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Wood alcohol chemical name methanol is a cousin of ethanol, the alcohol in alcoholic drinks. Methanol, a very poisonous clear liquid, is mixed with a purple dye to make methylated spirits, used as a cleaner or fuel. In their natural, non-synthetic form both aspartic acid and phenylalanine are present in the human body in minute amounts as essential amino-acids involved in vital body functions. Their presence in these vital functions is carefully monitored by the body's self-correcting mechanisms.

Guzzling Diet Coke or chewing Wrigley's sugarless gum, however, releases excess amounts of these critical chemicals. At temperatures reached in sunbaked drinks seen outside service stations or in the human body, aspartame breaks down into its hazardous components that further degrade into even more dangerous byproducts. Methanol produces poisonous, carcinogenic formaldehyde (embalming fluid) and formic acid (ant sting poison). Phenylalanine converts to diketopiperazine (DKP), a tumour agent. Aspartic acid, though essential to normal brain function, in excess stimulates nerve cells to death, ultimately making holes in the brain.

Most aspartame poisoning victims go on for years getting gradually sicker and plaguing their doctors with symptoms which imitate a host of more easily named conditions. Hardly anyone thinks to query an additive approved by government, regulators and health authorities.

The supporters of aspartame safety including our Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA now called Food Standards Australia New Zealand FSANZ) admit to the 10% methanol content, but state that fruit has more methanol, which is untrue. Recent studies (e.g. Monte [l984] and Nisperos-Carriedo and Shaw [l990]) using gas chromatography demonstrate that methanol concentrations in fruit are extremely low and are outweighed by an abundance of ethanol, the natural antidote.  Aspartame has no ethanol to counter its methanol toxicity.

Ah, but what's the evidence for all these assertions I hear you say?

Aspartame has been one of the most widely investigated food poisons in the past 50 years.  It outranks monosodium glutamate (MSG), another popular food additive, in the sheer volume of adverse reactions listed in the over 100 scientific papers now listing aspartame health problems. In a recent survey of aspartame research the pro-aspartame group of scientists - who all asserted aspartame's safety - were all connected with Monsanto or Nutrasweet Corporation either by direct employment or as contractors or consultants.

Aspartame has been documented as causing headaches, numbness, fatigue, blurred vision and blindness, heart palpitations, brain lesions and tumours, memory loss, dizziness, muscle spasms, miscarriages, sexual dysfunction, irritability, anxiety attacks, vertigo, epileptic seizures, rashes, tachycardia, tinnitus, joint pain, nausea, mood alterations and depression, hearing loss, slurred speech, loss of taste, and insomnia, as well as eroding intelligence and short-term memory.  It also helps trigger multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, Epstein Barr, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, diabetes, mental retardation, lymphoma, and birth defects.

Aspartame survivor story

I would hope that my story might save others going through what I went through, or help them make a recovery - and to stay away from "diet" products that contain aspartame (NutraSweet). They have ruined the last 10 years of my life, and now I am in the position of having to thoroughly detox - and fast - to try and repair the damage, and to reassemble what is left of my life.

I have been diagnosed as having chronic fatigue syndrome (CFIDS/ME). It began with glandular fever and I believe this would have healed itself, but has been severely compounded by a subsequent lack of judgment in my choice of soft drinks which intensified when I started work as a fashion writer and stylist.

I was not overweight, but the pressure to be Kate Moss-thin was enormous. I began drinking Diet Coke. I began having cognitive and memory problems, mood swings, muscle problems, fatigue, weight problems (which is ironic given the fact I was drinking the stuff in the first place to stay slim!), bloating, uncontrollable carbohydrate cravings, blood sugar swings, depression, "brain fog", etc. Compounding this I began taking soluble vitamins containing aspartame, IN my diet coke! A double dose!!!

My problems have gone on for 10 years, and only now have I connected the dots. Yesterday was the last day I will ever have anything with aspartame in it.

I am now off all aspartame and MSG type products forever, which probably means most processed foods as one never really knows what is in them. I am beginning to make a recovery already but it will take time.
Trish J.

There is growing evidence to suggest that aspartame may be a causative factor in the growing incidence of irrational and anti-social behaviour - road and air travel rage, hospital and ambulance officer assaults, school playground incidents, teenage and adult suicides and the almost endemic depression now being widely discussed in the media.

We really have no excuses when it comes to the obvious dangers of this product. It was reviewed as a biochemical weapon by the Pentagon in a list submitted to Congress prior to the accidental discovery of its sweetener action.  In 1969, Dr. Harry Waisman studied the effects on infant monkeys that were fed aspartame in milk. One died and five others had major epileptic seizures. These findings were deleted from the report to the FDA. MIT researchers surveyed 80 people who suffered brain seizures after eating or drinking products with aspartame. The US Community Nutrition Institute states: "These 80 cases meet the FDA's own definition of an imminent hazard to the public health, which requires the FDA to expeditiously remove a product from the market."

Despite all this, by 1985 G.D.Searle and Monsanto's Nutrasweet Corporation had cranked out over 400,000 tonnes of aspartame. NutraSweet was in over 9,000 foods by 1997 and on nearly every restaurant table even in New Zealand.  The irony is that the two things aspartame is most often marketed for, diabetes and weight loss, are actually made significantly worse by ingesting the substance. 

Dr. H. J. Roberts (a leading US critic of the product and author of the recently released medical text, Aspartame Disease - An Ignored Epidemic) says, after summarising 58 diabetic aspartame reactors, "I now advise ALL patients with diabetes and hypoglycaemia to avoid aspartame products."

Further, aspartame triggers a craving for carbohydrates, hardly the reaction wanted for those trying to lose kilos.  The FDA has received more than 10,000 consumer complaints over aspartame, approximately 80% of all complaints about food additives since being introduced to the market. 

Former FDA Commissioner Arthur Hayes, President Ronnie Reagan's political appointee to the post, overruled his own board of inquiry to approve aspartame (claiming, falsely, that criticism was "anecdotal") then went to work for Burson-Marsteller, a public relations firm retained by G.D. Searle (the company which introduced the product that was acquired by Monsanto in 1985.)  Federal attorney Sam Skinner was assigned to prosecute Searle for fraudulent tests in their application, but switched sides and went to work for Searle's lawyers instead, giving rise to the criticism that US federal authorities have a "revolving door" relationship with the chemical industry.

Recently, ANZFA/FSANZ has finalised approval of neotame, a derivative from aspartame which Monsanto/Nutrasweet say is safer for phenylketonurics. However, Roberts et al say the clinical effects from neotame will be the same as aspartame and the only reason Monsanto/Nutrasweet are changing the formulation is aspartame's patent expiry. The neotame formulation restores patent control, monopoly and price control. ANZFA in this case have done one better than the FDA by giving their rubber stamp ahead of time to yet one more Monsanto industrial poison. 

The irony in all this deceit and corruption in high places is that apart from the statements and scientific papers from a relatively small number of reputable scientists around the world, the battle to remove this dangerous poison from the food chain is being led by an unassuming lay activist in Georgia, USA, Betty Martini, Email:, website: See also and links to over 120 sites on aspartame. Also note covering every aspect of aspartame science.

Notably lacking from the fray is the medical profession itself, which should be the group in the front line opposing aspartame.  In fact the profession hardly appears to know aspartame exists, least of all recognising that the long list of symptoms presenting in their consulting rooms around New Zealand tally remarkably closely with the list we presented earlier.

This is where Safe Food supporters come into their own. Tell your health professionals about aspartame.  Contact the health regulators and politicians and let them know your concerns.  Complain at supermarkets, pharmacies and "health food" shops about their aspartame-containing products.  Above all, tell your friends to stop consuming this poison - remember, diet drinks are among the top-selling items in New Zealand supermarkets.  Remember also the words of Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good people do nothing."


January 2003

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