Originally published June 27 2005
A nursing infant developed convulsions after his mother drank an aspartame-sweetened soft drink. A 19-year-old woman went into grand mal convulsions within minutes of chewing a piece of aspartame-flavored gum. A small amount of toxin can push the human body into near-fatal conditions, regardless of whether the toxin is considered "safe" and sold on grocery and convenience store shelves around the world. Aspartame, the artificial sweetener that often flavors sugar-free drinks and foods, has been known to induce convulsions and grand mal seizures in certain individuals. So why is it still on peoples' shopping lists?
In 1987, scientists and aspartame-sensitive seizure patients made the government aware of the link between the consumption of aspartame and the onset of seizures and convulsions, reports Dr. H.J. Roberts in Aspartame (NutraSweet): Is It Safe. On November 3, 1987, the U.S. Senate held a hearing entitled "'NutraSweet' -- Health and Safety Concerns." In this hearing, people from a wide variety of occupations, including an Air Force pilot, told the Senate about their aspartame-induced grand mal seizures. These individuals reported that their seizures disappeared after abstaining from aspartame consumption.
By all ethical standards, the testimonials provided during this 1987 hearing -- combined with the strong scientific evidence demonstrating the health dangers of aspartame -- should have led to the banishment of aspartame-sweetened products from grocery shelves forever; yet, aspartame products are still abundant in our grocery stores and restaurants.
Aspartame is a synthetic chemical composed of the amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid. Each time you drink a diet soft drink or chew sugarless gum, you are feeding unhealthy doses of these amino acids into your system, according to Dr. James Howenstine in A Physicians Guide to Natural Health Products that Work.
These amino acids can bypass the blood-brain barrier, enabling them both to directly alter your neurological function. Your brain naturally contains phenylalanine, but phenylalanine in its solitary form without its companion amino acids is not normally a part of the human diet. Debra Lynn Dadd, author of Home Safe Home, believes this is where the health problems posed by aspartame begin. Aspartame consumption provides phenylalanine in excess of your brain's normal level. According to James A. May in Miracle of Stevia, this state of excess phenylalanine lowers the seizure threshold, thereby making convulsions more likely.
Researchers know that a raise in brain phenylalanine levels ultimately increases the risk of seizures. This is true even for people without a history of non-aspartame induced seizures, such as the Air Force pilot who testified in the 1987 hearing. However, researchers are still debating the exact role of increased brain phenylalanine levels in inducing seizures. Although many researchers believe that increased brain phenylalanine levels directly cause seizures and convulsions, Dr. Blaylock writes in Excitotoxins that it is "more likely … the direct excitatory effect of the aspartate itself. Phenylalanine may act to potentiate this irritability." Regardless of the precise method, the combined neurological effects of excess phenylalanine and aspartic acid make aspartame a dangerous ingredient.
Advertisements for aspartame commonly portray aspartame as a "healthy" alternative to sugar. Such advertising makes aspartame even more dangerous to consumers who are ignorant of the artificial sweetener's potential side effects. Because of this deceptive advertising, people concerned about their health and the health of their families regularly use aspartame-sweetened products. Rather than switching to a truly healthy diet and exercising more often, people concerned with weight loss may use sugar-free foods sweetened with aspartame to refrain from extra calorie consumption.
True, they're "watching their calories," but they are also putting themselves at risk of suffering from several aspartame-associated health consequences, including insomnia, dehydration, migraines, seizures and brain tumors. Dr. Roberts illustrates with an anecdote about the malignant consequences suffered by consumers because of this deceptive advertising: "A two-year-old with fever suffered seizures within 10 minutes after chewing aspartame-sweetened acetaminophen … This consideration may be significant to health-conscious mothers who elect to give their infants health products containing aspartame rather than sugar (such as vitamins) in an effort to prevent tooth decay."
Imagine the guilt of a poor parent who gives his or her child aspartame-sweetened medication in an effort to make the child healthy or keep the child's teeth free of cavities only to have the child suffer or even die from a grand mal seizure. Aspartame's deceptive advertising is truly inexcusable.
If you've been drinking diet sodas and chewing sugarless gum for decades and you haven't been experiencing convulsions, then consider yourself lucky that you apparently lack the biological tendency that puts you at risk for aspartame-induced convulsions or grand mal seizures. Other individuals have not been so lucky. Seizures aside, however, you may not turn out to be as lucky in avoiding the other health problems commonly associated with aspartame. You can read about these other possible side effects along with stevia, an alternative to both aspartame and natural sugar, at NewsTarget's aspartame and stevia archives. Don't gamble with your body – you're only given one.
or Nutrasweet is composed of two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid.
The aspartic acid is as powerful as an exitotoxin as is glutamate.
Phenylalanine is known to produce seizures and act as a neurotoxin in the brain. … When a
sweetener contains high amounts of these isolated amino acids the brain level
may, after ingestion, become high enough to cause brain cell death, seizures
A Physicians Guide To Natural Health Products That Work By James Howenstine MD, page 33
A 35-year-old male
anesthetist had three grand mal seizures, severe headaches and visual
difficulty while drinking 4-6 diet colas daily, but none for two years after
stopping aspartame. He told the U. S. Senate hearing on
"NutraSweet"—Health and Safety Concerns, held on November 3, 1987:
Aspartame - Is It Safe by H J Roberts MD, page 14
To test this, scientists
used chemicals that are known to precipitate seizures in animals, such as
pentylenetetrazol and flurothyl. Pinto and Maher found that aspartame, when
given orally in doses of 1000 to 2000 milligram per kilogram, did potentiate
the convulsant action of these two chemicals.They also found that aspartame
decreases the time of onset of seizures and increases the number of animals
showing tonic-clonic convulsions when exposed to pentylenetetrazol.
Excitotoxins by Russell L Blaylock MD, page 197
CONVULSIONS ARE AMONG THE
most serious reactions attributable to aspartame products. There are various
classifications of convulsions—also referred to as epilepsy, seizures and
"fits." In this series of 551 persons with adverse reactions to
aspartame products, 80 (14.5 percent) suffered typical generalized (grand mal)
convulsions, and 18 (3.3 percent) experienced so-called temporal lobe seizures.
Aspartame - Is It Safe by H J Roberts MD, page 81
The problem with
aspartame lies in overconsumption and the fact that phenylalanine alone
(without its companion amino acids) is not a normal part of the diet. Large
doses of phenylalanine are toxic to the brain and can cause mental retardation
and seizures in people with phenylketonuria (PKU), a genetic disorder...
Home Safe Home by Debra Lynn Dadd, page 249
Aspartame products may
render young children more vulnerable to seizures. For example, a two-year-old
with fever suffered seizures within ten minutes after chewing
aspartame-sweetened acetaminophen (a commonly used substitute for aspirin).
This consideration may be significant to health-conscious mothers who elect to
give their infants health products containing aspartame rather than sugar (such
as vitamins) in an effort to prevent tooth decay.
Aspartame - Is It Safe by H J Roberts MD, page 85
Aspartic acid acts as an
"excitatory" neurotransmitter in the brain. It functions as a
chemical messenger, stimulating the neurons in the brain to "fire."
Too much aspartic acid, as well as too much phenylalanine, entering the brain
will cause the brain to get out of balance with the inhibitory amino acids,
therefore interfering with normal brain function and possibly causing severe
brain damage. Dr. Julian Whitaker suggests, "This is a likely reason why
aspartame lowers the threshold of seizures, mood disorders, and other nervous
system problems. This altered brain chemistry may
also be responsible for the addictive nature of aspartame.
Miracle Of Stevia by James A May, page 160
The unknowing consumption
of aspartame, whether by in-gestion or the chewing of gum, predictably
triggered subsequent grand mal seizures. The amount of aspartame ingested in
some patients was remarkably small. This is illustrated by an infant who
developed convulsions when his nursing mother drank an aspartame soft drink...
aspartame - Is It Safe by H J Roberts MD, page 83
Aspartame has been proven
to cause seizures in research studies on human subjects. The simultaneous
ingestion of Crystal Light and NutraSweet has often caused seizures. One man
who had an abnormal vein deep in his brain stopped having seizures when he
stopped using aspartame and Crystal Light. The lowering of the seizure
threshold seen with aspartame may permit seizures to appear in persons with
small brain scars from a difficult childbirth or brain injury who would have
lived their lives seizure free without the aspartame usage.
A Physicians Guide To Natural Health Products That Work By James Howenstine MD, page 34
...In addition, the two
amino acids that comprise aspartame, phenyl-alanine and aspartic acid, can
bypass the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain, upsetting the balance of
neurotransmitters and brain chemistry. High intake of aspartame has been linked
with a number of adverse effects, including headache, vision loss, seizures,
mood disorders, and other nervous system problems.
Reversing Diabetes by Julian Whitaker MD, page 126
Those who oppose excitotoxins used as
food additives frequently cite that they can either precipitate seizures in
persons known to have a history of seizures, or they can actually cause
seizures. This became especially prevalent with the introduction of the
artificial sweetener aspartame or, as it is better known, NutraSweet(R).
Excitotoxins by Russell L Blaylock MD, page 191
informed me about a commercial pilot who had lost his license because of unexplained
convulsions. Deducing they probably were triggered by aspartame beverages, he
abstained from such products... and became seizure-free. In an attempt to
document such specific intolerance and regain his pilot's license, he
purposefully rechallenged himself with an aspartame soft drink. Another seizure
Aspartame - Is It Safe by H J Roberts MD, page 90
A study was performed at
the University of Wisconsin on the affects of aspartame on rhesus monkeys
Monkeys, being close in their physiologies to humans, are excellent subjects
for study. These monkeys, treated with aspartame, all experienced grand mal
epileptic seizures after day 200 of a 52-week study. Blood samples from these
primates revealed extremely high levels of phenylalanine in their blood serum.
The researchers, noting that 50 percent of aspartame consisted of
phenylalanine, attributed those seizures to aspartame ingestion. After the
study ended and the aspartame was removed from the animal's diets, no further
seizure activity was observed.
Milk The Deadly Poison by Robert Cohen, page 264
A 29-year-old businessman
sought consultation because of recurrent grand mal seizures over an 18-month
period. He had begun drinking considerable amounts of diet soft drinks and
eating other aspartame products six months before the first convulsion. He
suffered five major attacks even while on relatively large doses of phenytoin
and carbama-zepine. The patient had no further seizures for six months after
stopping all aspartame products.
Aspartame - Is It Safe by H J Roberts MD, page 87
Seizures occur in 15% of
people sensitive to aspartame, most of whom suffered their first convulsions
after consuming a diet product. A single dose of aspartame can trigger a
seizure in susceptible patients. Children who have unexplained seizures should
be questioned regarding their ingestion of aspartame and glutamates.
The Enzyme Cure by Lita Lee with Lisa Turner & Burton Goldberg, page 210
A 19-year-old woman had
convulsions that were finally attributed to aspartame. She remained
seizure-free for 11 months by avoiding such products. She then was handed a
piece of "sugar-free" gum at a ball game. Multiple grand mal
convulsions recurred within minutes after chewing it.
Aspartame - Is It Safe by H J Roberts MD, page 77
No other underlying cause
could be found in most of these patients, despite extensive tests such as CT
(computerized tomography, formerly CAT) scan, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging),
EEG (electroencephalogram), and even an angiogram of the cerebral blood
vessels. Aspartame-caused seizures disappear or dramatically decrease when
aspartame is avoided, even without antiepileptic drugs.
The Enzyme Cure by Lita Lee with Lisa Turner & Burton Goldberg, page 210
A young Air Force pilot
told the Senate hearing held on November 3, 1987 that he suffered a grand mal
seizure while consuming up to one gallon of an aspartame beverage daily. There
had been no recurrence over the ensuing two years of abstinence.
aspartame - Is It Safe by H J Roberts MD, page 14
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