Aspartame Side Effects - Depression & Aspartame

Does Depression Belong on the List of Aspartame Side Effects?

An examination of the Aspartame side effects you may not be aware of: depression.
An examination of the Aspartame side effects you may not be aware of: depression.

Aspartame Side Effects Lead Many Doctors to Advise Against Using Aspartame in Pregnancy

Back in 1991 when I was pregnant with my first child I recall my obstetrician telling me not to drink any products with the artificial sweetener aspartame in them, better known at the time by the brand-name NutraSweet. I was in fact already familiar with this artificial sweetener since the only soda I drank, Diet Coke, vividly displayed the NutraSweet swirl logo on its cans.

As a card-carrying member of what I call the Snackwell Generation, I was already all to eager to believe the promises made by corporate giants. Those of us in the Snackwell Generation basically believed we could have our low-fat cake and eat as much of it as we desired too -- oh, and without any consequences. For years we ate low-fat foods packed with not many fewer calories than their sugar/corn-syrup counterparts, and we drank zero-calorie sodas pumped with artificial sweeteners and became overweight and depressed.

Concerned about using Aspartame in pregnancy, I did in fact heed the advice of my obstetrician and gave up Diet Coke during both my pregnancies, as I was an otherwise healthy person and didn't want to put a chemical into my body, nor did I want to expose either of my unborn children to this newly-found chemical sweetener. A few years later my pediatrician also put out the warning to make sure the kids did not eat NutraSweet-filled foods and drinks. His advice about Aspartame dangers, I also followed. But as the years passed and the kids entered their teen years, I let aspartame sneak back into my household believing the danger had passed. But had it?

Aspartame Side Effects May Include Depression

I have always considered myself sort of chronically depressed, not clinically, but just an ongoing blah feeling. But thinking back over the span of my life, I didn't always feel that way. Trying to put a timeline to the beginnings of this blue mood led me straight back to Snackwells and Diet Coke.

Could in fact aspartame be linked to depression? I am not a medical professional, a mental health expert, a nutritionist or even a chemist, but I am pretty sure that for me anecdotally the answer to that question is a resounding, "Yes!" What I do know for a fact about the brain is that it produces a neurotransmitter serotonin, which in turn affects our moods and our sleep patterns. The SSRI class of anti-depressants are said to work by increasing serotonin. But interestingly, one component of aspartame blocks production of serotonin. Logically one could conclude then that depression and other altered mental states may result. Studies on a sugar-fed group of rats and a second aspartame-fed group of rats, revealed that the aspartame group of rats had lower brain serotonin levels. Other studies have shown that people with pre-existing mood disorders are very sensitive to this artificial sweetener.

What does NutraSweet say about the safety of its product? In the interest of being fair, NutraSweet claims that its product is safe for children; adults; and pregnant and lactating women. They state that it does not affect mood or cause other adverse health effects. See NutraSweet Safety Claims.

Like I said, I am not a medical. mental health, or chemical expert, but I do know myself. And at least anecdotally for me, I believe that aspartame is definitely linked to my chronic, blue mood.

What do you think about artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame, and Aspartame side effects?

If you have felt this way too, why not eliminate aspartame from your diet (which includes anything with the brand-names NutraSweet, Equal, or listed as aspartame in the ingredient lists on many sugar-free products, including gum) and see if you just don't feel happier!

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Comments 36 comments

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 5 years ago from Midwest

For me it was migraines with Asprartame! For years I had migraines and couldn't figure out the trigger. I ate healthy and the only indulgence I enjoyed was a diet soda every day for the most part. Two or three times a week I would get those blasted migraine headaches. I did some reading and found "anecdotal evidence" that others had relieved their migraines by taking artificial sweeteners out of their diets.

I gave up aspartame and the migraines went with it. I might get a couple of headaches a year now as opposed to weekly. I definitely believe artificial sweeteners are bad news!

Great Hub! :)


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks for your comments ChristinS. I have heard about migraines related to artificial sweeteners, as well, but have never experienced that side effect. I think sometimes solving things ourselves through process of elimination works best. I certainly am glad you found relief.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US

i had depression in the 80's. i am no longer on antidepressants and have successfully used aspartame products to help me lose weight with no recurrence of depression.

those rats were probably on the equivalent of dozens of packets per day. i would like to actually read the study you quote. can you tell me where to find it?

anecdotal evidence is poor evidence. it may point to something worth studying, but that is about all.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks for your thoughts. A good discussion always takes into consideration all viewpoints. I would never make any scientific claims based on the anecdotal experiences of anyone, including myself. So I am glad to see that you noticed that I did state that this was anecdotal, and that is why I twice mentioned that I did not have medical, mental health or scientific credentials, as well including a link to the NutraSweet website with links to all of their studies and claims.

But I did pose the question on this subject, as I probably will others in the future, in order to start a discussion based on people's experiences, which of course are all anecdotal experiences. Even when my doctors said not to use the product in the early 90s it was probably based on their beliefs or concerns, but there is nothing wrong with a "better safe than sorry" attitude when it comes to health, I believe anyway.

That being said, the actual 1985 study is on the JAMA website, but you probably can only get to the abstract. Here is the link: http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/254/3/400.abstrac... The fifth paragraph down on the website called, "Aspartame may be linked to depression" contains a quote from that study. Here is the link to that site: http://www.omplace.com/articles/Aspartame.html. In addition, you can read an abstract here about how aspartame may affect people with mood disorders. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8373935.

I hope you find this helpful and I appreciate your viewpoint. And I am certainly glad you have had no recurrence of depression. Best wishes.


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US

the jama page has several other articles on aspartame touting its safety, but not the article you cite. the omplace site tried to give me a virus but not info. the nih page no longer exists.

thank you for appreciating my viewpoint. i guess you haven't checked these pages recently. i appreciate that you reply to comments and don't "deny" ones that disagree with you. some people never come back once they've published. others deny their readers the full story by unapproving comments that might be useful to someone.

aspartame is the most tested and safest sweetener available. i don't work for a manufacturer. i'm a social worker and used to be a medical doctor. i get my info from "the medical letter", a source doctors rely on for prescribing recommendations. if you really want to engage in a crapshoot with your health, use the untested stevia.


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

That sweetener is made by Monsanto - the biotech company that makes EXCLUSIVELY products that are poisonous to humans. Monsanto does NOT make on SINGLE product that is safe for human use, or human consumption.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Hi again cathylynn99. I have in fact checked those sources recently, unfortunately in my previous comment to you the links to the last 2 sources included the periods at the end of my sentences, making them broken links. Since I cannot edit my previous comments here they are again, without periods :)

http://www.omplace.com/articles/Aspartame.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8373935

I know there have been numerous studies on aspartame, and I know many of those studies consider it safe, but in my opinion, even though something is deemed safe, it still may have adverse side effects in some individuals (i.e. headaches, insomnia, depression). Bottom line for me is that it is a chemical, not a food product, so it's not for me. I am glad it has helped you though in your weight loss efforts. Thanks for your comments.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks for commenting Wesman Todd Shaw. Aspartame was discovered at G.D. Searle and then that company along with the NutraSweet company was acquired by Monsanto in 1985. In 2000 Monsanto sold the NutraSweet Company to the private equity firm, J.W. Childs Equity Partners. It looks like Monsanto's products now are mostly seeds and weed control substances. I appreciate you taking the time to join in the conversation.


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 5 years ago from Midwest

I would just add that just because something is deemed "safe" doesn't make it so. How many drugs get pulled off the market after they have injured or killed people? There are a great many things that are touted as "safe" that are in fact not. Many "studies" are payed for, at least in part, by the very companies that are selling the products being tested. Profits drive everything in this country and things are not always what they seem. I am a big fan of free thought and doing what works for oneself. MANY people have had issues with artificial products of all kinds. Some of us are more sensitive to some things than others. :)


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

ChristinS - I couldn't agree more with your reply. Very well put. Thanks!


Marc Carillet 5 years ago

I have tried different types of antidepressants and Prozac is number 1 in my book. I love it! I have been on it for almost 2 years and my depression is very minimal. It makes me sleep good at night and I feel good all day long! I am on prozac 40mg of it and its awesome! I ordered it from www.cheapprozac.info I would recommend this to anyone that has depression and anixety and OCD.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks for your comment Marc. I am glad you have found something that helps your depression!


Erin 5 years ago

ChristinS: I also couldn't agree with you more--ESPECIALLY regarding aspartame!

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


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Erin - Thanks for joining in. Seems like you have some strong feelings about aspartame :)


Mark Sparks profile image

Mark Sparks 5 years ago from Charlottesville, Virginia

My mom is very hooked on diet cokes, try as I might to talk her out of them. I'll show her this, thanks!


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Hi Mark. Hopefully, you can get your mom "unhooked." There is also research now about how diet sodas can actually cause you to gain weight, but I've yet to look into that in detail yet, but the culprit is probably once again artificial sweeteners. Thanks for your comment.


manthy profile image

manthy 5 years ago from Alabama,USA

Hi Ktrapp - I loved this hub even though I don't use artificial sweeteners or eat anything they are in.

Thanks for all the awesome info

This is a HOT hub


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

I've never heard anything healthy about this sweetner. Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination


.josh. profile image

.josh. 5 years ago

Very interesting, ktrapp - I also chose to cut aspartame out of my diet, though I had no idea it could potentially be linked to depression (something I've also struggled with in the past). I suppose that's just one more reason to stay away from it.

Congrats on your nomination!!


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thank you Manthy, Flora, and Josh. There seem to be a lot of side effects with not only Aspartame, but other artificial sweeteners, so just as well to stay away from them as it sounds like you all have.


cardelean profile image

cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

The bottom line is that it is a chemical that people are choosing to put into their bodies. I try to use natural ingredients in our meals and avoid snack foods, etc. that have high fat, are highly processed and have a high sugar content, etc. Although I've never thought about depression related to aspartame, I think it's good to avoid all together. Why risk it? Congrats on your nomination and welcome to Hubpages!


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thank you Cardelean. I think so many people don't realize that aspartame is a chemical, and even if they do, I think many people believe that if something is approved by the FDA then it must be okay to consume. It sounds like you have the right idea with your diet! Thanks for your comment.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

This is really a very helpful hub. If one is not yet aware of the dangers of using aspartame, one has been awakened I am sure. In our household, we use mascovado sugar. This is organic brown sugar. :D

Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination from ripplemaker and the Hubnuggets team. To read and vote, this way please: http://enellelamb.hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub/A-H... Best of luck!


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thank you for the nomination. It certainly encourages me to continue writing.

I have not tried mascovado sugar, but I think I will try it, especially because I love using brown sugar.


GinaCPocan profile image

GinaCPocan 5 years ago from Chicago

Hi all, I have been watching Aspartame for a long time now. The first story I heard about it was baffling. I heard of a woman who lost use of her legs after years of consuming diet pop. When she quit drinking the pop, her legs regained their use. After I heard about her story, other people told me personal stories of their own.

Then I have watched Dr. Oz, an infamous nutrition Doctor who got his fame off of the Oprah Whimphrey Show; warn against it.

Then I have read articles claiming Aspartame being an active chemical in embalming fluid.

I have been on a campaign trying to eliminate it from my diet entirely.

I have only found one gum on the market that does not have it in it. Unfortunately my memory is currently failing me, but I will attempt to recall.

From where I sit, I see no use for this product in the area of nutrition. As for me and my family, I will continue the war against Aspartame in all edible products.

This article opened my eyes to other concerns I didn't know before. My daughter who is expecting will be reading this later today.

Thanks for this article Ktrapp.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Gina,

Thank you so much for sharing all of this information. The story about the woman with the issues with her legs was especially interesting. And embalming fluid - that makes me sick. If you recall the name of the gum, please let me know. My daughter likes to have gum, and I prefer it to be sugar-free, but I cannot find one that does not use aspartame. What really bothers me is that Aspartame is now in so many food products.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

So glad to see this posted for I think it's important to write about the various concerns regarding artificial sweeteners. Nothing beats personal experience!

I would like to link this to my hub on artificial sweeteners if you have no objection. Thanks!


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

RTalloni, Thank you for your comments and the link is appreciated. I read your article on aspartame and insomnia and posted a link to it, as well. As I think you conclude in your article, experiences should at least alert people to potential problems so they can do their own research or choose to refrain from a potentially harmful sweetener like Aspartame.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

Thinking about what your doctor said when you were pregnant - maybe we should all eat like we're pregnant. Maybe not as much, but we try to be so careful about what we eat in order to protect the baby. Why not protect ourselves in the same way.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Dolores, That is an excellent point. So many mothers-to-be take very good care of themselves in order to give the best of care to their unborn babies, yet so many of us don't continue good nutritional standards for our own health.


leann2800 5 years ago

Aspartame gave me vertigo and paranoia for 3 months. Once I stopped drinking soda that had aspartame, it all went away. It was shocking to me when the doctor told me it was the soda I was drinking everyday?


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Leann - That is really scary and shocking, but I believe it. Aspartame seems to have a lot of strange effects on people. It's just not worth the risk. Thanks for sharing your experiences.


skylergreene profile image

skylergreene 5 years ago

Aspartame gives me pretty bad headaches, so I never drink diet sodas. I'll have the occasional stick of gum, but that's about it.

I wasn't aware it was linked to any side effects so severe, though -- whether anecdotal or not, pretty scary.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

skylergreene - Aspartame and headaches seems to be a consistent theme running through the comments of this aspartame and depression hub. It certainly is great when we can figure out the triggers in our diets and eliminate them. I am curious as to how you determined aspartame was the trigger for your bad headaches.


skylergreene profile image

skylergreene 5 years ago

It was pretty simple, actually. I never had headaches... unless I'd had a diet soda that day.

After it happened a few times, I got the connection.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

That's great that it was such an obvious connection. So many times we attribute our symptoms, be it headaches, depression, or whatever to anything but the food or drinks we consume.

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