The Aspartame Epidemic

The Aspartame Epidemic

A worldwide epidemic is raging. The cause is a poisonous chemical sweetener, aspartame (marketed as NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful), the most controversial food additive ever approved. In reality it is a drug which interacts with other drugs and changes brain chemistry.

H.J. Roberts, M.D., describes interactions with drugs such as Coumadin, Dilantin, Inderal, methyldopa or Aldomet, insulin, and lidocaine in <em>Aspartame (NutraSweet): Is It Safe?</em> [1]

From the paper <em>Effects of Aspartame on the Brain: Neurologic Effects of Aspartame?</em> by Richard J. Wurtman and Timothy J. Maher: “Compounds that do affect physiological systems are classified as drugs by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are subject to considerably more demanding regulatory procedures than food constituents. However, and perhaps paradoxically because food additives must be shown to be physiologically inert in order to win initial FDA approval, once they have obtained this approval they are thereafter exempted from the requirement (imposed on all drugs) that their safety continue to be monitored. The companies that manufacture and use them are not obligated to monitor adverse reactions associated with their product, nor to submit to the FDA reports of such adverse reactions; they also are not required to carry out additional government-mandated research programs to affirm their product’s safety.”[2]

So the question is, should aspartame be considered inert? The National Soft Drink Association (NSDA) reported in l983: “Aspartame is inherently, markedly and uniquely unstable in aqueous media. In a liquid, such as a soft drink, aspartame will degrade as a function of temperature and pH. Higher temperatures and more acidic liquids increase the rate of degradation.” The NSDA also knew the use of such an unstable chemical sweetener is illegal and said under Section 402 of the FDC Act 21 U.S.C. 342: “a food is adulterated if it contains in whole or in part . . . a decomposed substance or if it is otherwise unfit for food.” [3] This report became part of the Congressional Record in l985.

The reason aspartame is so dangerous is that it is a molecule composed of three components, all of which are neurotoxic: aspartic acid (40 percent), methanol (10 percent), and phenylalanine (50 percent). Aspartic acid and phenylalanine are neurotoxic as isolates, unaccompanied by other amino acids in food to block them from going directly into the brain. Methanol or wood alcohol is a severe metabolic poison. <em>Sax’s Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials</em> states that methanol is “a human poison by ingestion.” It’s also classified as a narcotic. [4] Aspartame breaks down to diketopiperazine, a brain-tumor agent. A confidential internal memo at Searle (the company that developed aspartame) indicated concern over lack of complete toxicological data on DKP. [5]

FDA Commissioner Alexander Schmidt, M.D., approved aspartame only for dry foods on July 26, l974,[6] and the following month consumer attorney James Turner and Washington University researcher Dr. John Olney filed objections to the FDA’s approval, citing evidence of brain lesions and neuroendocrine disorders in animal studies and concerns the substance may cause brain damage and mental retardation in humans. They also requested a hearing on the safety of aspartame. [7] In December l975 Turner and Olney waived their right to a public hearing and agreed to a Public Board of Inquiry. On March 24, l976, the FDA’s task force reported: “At the heart of the FDA’s regulatory process is its ability to rely upon the integrity of the basic safety data submitted by sponsors of regulated products. Our investigation clearly demonstrates that, in the G.D. Searle Co., we have no basis for such reliance now . . . Some of our findings suggest an attitude of disregard for FDA’s mission of protection of the public health by selectively reporting the results of studies in a manner which allays the concerns of questions of an FDA reviewer.”[8]

On January 10, l977, in a 33-page letter, FDA Chief Counsel Richard Merrill recommended to US Attorney Sam Skinner that a grand jury investigate Searle for “apparent violations of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 331 (e), and the False Reports to the Government Act, l8 U.S.C. 355 (i) and for concealing material facts and making false statements in reports of animal studies conducted to establish the safety of aspartame.” The FDA called special attention to studies investigating the effect of NutraSweet on monkeys and hamsters. [9] Searle was never indicted because the statute of limitations expired.

In l981 President Ronald Reagan appointed Arthur Hull Hayes “who overruled a Public Board of Inquiry in order to approve aspartame” as FDA Commissioner. On July 1, l983, the National Soft Drink Association urged the FDA to delay approval of aspartame for carbonated beverages pending further testing, but on July 8, l983, it was approved anyway.

Disregarding the protests and outcry by physicians and scientists, a chemical poison was blessed for human consumption. Poisoned consumers were outraged, and three congressional hearings were held. Senator Howard Metzenbaum sponsored bill S. 1557 (99th Congress), requiring independent studies on five of aspartame reported toxic effects: on brain chemistry, on pregnant women and fetuses, on increased probability of seizures, its behavioral and neurological effects (especially in children), and its interactions with drugs, including monoamine oxidase inhibitors.

The bill called for a moratorium on aspartame, but because of heavy lobbying by Monsanto (the corporation that acquired Searle in l985), it never got out of committee. Senator Orrin Hatch protected Monsanto as we see in a press release (February 11, 1986) from Labor and Human Resources titled <em>Hatch Says No to Committee Hearings on Aspartame</em>. He said: “[I]t would serve no useful purpose to commit Committee resources to this issue at this time.”

Consumers were going blind due to the wood alcohol from aspartame. Many were diagnosed by Morgan Raiford, M.D., a methanol toxicity specialist. The <em>Chicago Sun Times</em> (October 17, 1986) announced <em>Consumer Group Links NutraSweet to Blindness</em>. “Charging that aspartame, the widely used artificial sweetener marketed as NutraSweetcauses blindness, a consumer group yesterday petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to ban it. The petition was another step in a long and so far fruitless campaign by the Washington based Community Nutrition Institute against aspartame.

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