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Aspartame May Kill Brain Cells

Updated on April 21, 2013

Aspartame may have the potential to kill brain cells through excitotoxicity. Aspartame is an artificial sweentener sometimes found in certain diet sodas and some 6000 food and beverages items. In 2003, aspartame accounted for over half of all non-sugar sweeteners.[1] For example, if you see the ingredient Nutrasweet, that's aspartame.

Something that can kill a brain cells is called a "neurotoxin". And that was what Dr. Mark Hyman said it was in his talk at Google (YouTube video here)...

"aspertame is a neurotoxin. It actually increases what we call excitotoxicity, that increases something called glutamate which over excites your brain cells which cause cell death." [at 45 minutes into video]

He also writes in his book ...

"Many things -- toxic foods such as aspartame and MSG, environmental toxins, infections, allergens, and even psychological stress -- can trigger this overexcitement and stimulate the NMDA receptors to open the floodgates, damaging and killing brain cells." [page 251 The UltraMind Solution]

Magnesium happens to be a natural guard against this over excitement. [page 252]

Excitotoxicity is discussed on Wikipedia. John Ratey talked about how excitotoxic stress can kill brain cells in his book Spark:

"Excitotoxic stress occurs when there is so much glutamate activity that there isn't enough ATP to keep up with the energy demand of the increased information flow. If this continues for too long without recovery, there's a problem. The cell is on a death march -- forced to work without food or resources to repair the damage. The dendrites begin to shrink back and eventually cause the cell to die." [page 72]

Aspartame is a Neurotoxin

Neurosurgeon Dr. Russell Blaylock writes on page 38 of his book Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills that ...

"The neurotoxin aspartate is a major component in the artificial sweetener aspartame."

A few pages later, it shows drawings of how excitotoxins can kill neurons ...

"When a neuron is exposed to a massive does of MSG, the cell immediately begins to swell and dies within one hour. At two hours the macrophages begin to dlear the remains of the dead neuron away. When a lower dose of MSG is used, nothing appears to happen immediately. But after the second hour the neuron suddenly undergoes rapid death. This delayed death of neurons is characteristic of MSG, aspartate and other excitotoxins. There is some evidence that subtoxic doses of excitotoxins can alter the cells physiology."

Yes, MSG is a neurotoxin too, but that is another story. By the way, it does mention on page 50 that magnesium may to some extent offer protection again overloads of excitotoxins.

Even if while in low doses, aspartame may not be so harmful, it does counters the effects of the calming neurotransmitter serotonin -- as noted in page 29 The Mood Cure. And on page 134, the book writes this about aspartame...

"... is one of the most complained-about substances on the market. The FDA received 4,000 complaints in one year alone."

Dr. Joseph Mercola in 2010 says in his HuffingtonPost article that aspartame is "The Deadly Neurotoxin Nearly EVERYONE Uses Daily".[1] He too has a book (Sweet Deception) and talks about aspartame on his site where he explains similarly.

Dr. Douglass says ...

"Aspartame is one of the most dangerous substances ever added to food. Not only has aspartame been proven to make you fatter, it's been proven to cause some pretty serious diseases, not the least of which are cancer and neurological diseases."[2]

Is Aspartame Safe?

Some people say aspartame is safe in normal dosage. Others say aspartame is dangerous. But what is "normal dosage"? It all depends on how much you consume and over how long you have been consuming it and how sensitive you are to aspartame.

We do not know how many brain cells it kills and at what amount of aspartame is needed to do that. And of course, we do lose brain cells over the course of our lives due to other factors such as cortisol and toxins, etc. With 100 billion brain cells, it is possible for us to lose a few brain cells without any effect.

It is possible that when taken in limited amounts, the neurotoxic effects of aspartame are so slight that it should not be a concern for most people.

And as such, many other people have said that aspartame is safe in the dosage that we normally consume. However, many people are quite sensitive to aspartame and can be quite negatively affected by aspartame.

Here is CNN article where Dr. Gupta says ...

"The fact is, current evidence does not support this idea that aspartame could cause cancer, or that it is unsafe. According to the American Dietetic Association, aspartame’s safety is documented in more than 200 objective scientific studies. The Food and Drug Administration has concluded that aspartame is safe, and there are no strong data out there to refute that."[3]

What is that "normal dosage"? The CNN article says ...

"The FDA recommends a daily intake of no more than 50 mg of aspartame per kilogram of body weight. That amounts to 22 cans of diet soda for a 175-pound man, and 15 cans for a 120 pound woman."[3]

DVD documentary on aspartame

Aspartame and Brain Cancer and Seizures

To learn about the harmful effects of aspartame, watch the documentary Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World. You will hear testimonials from many individuals about how aspartame had harmed them. You will hear experts explaining why aspartame is harmful. Some of the cases involved brain cancer and brain seizures.

If aspartame was so harmful, how did it pass FDA approval? Well, you will hear about that debacle in the documentary. It is simply shocking. After watching the documentary, one would no longer want to just rely on FDA to keep our food safe. Always read food labels and research things on the web on your own.

Technical writer Victoria Inness-Brown documented her experiments with aspartame-feed rats in her book "Are Your Diet Sodas Killing You?" What she found was the aspartame group of rats developed tumors and grew fat and generally less healthy than the controlled non-aspartame group. Book contains photos of her rats in the experiments.

It may be possible that Aspartame has the same effect as sugar. And we know that sugar is very bad for us, causes obesity, and that cancer cells thrive on sugar.

You might want to hear what David Getoff has to say about aspartame in the Ask the Low Carb Expert podcast episode titled The Truth About Sweeteners. He is against all artificial sweeteners, including aspartame. In fact, if you see the word "diet" or "zero" (as in zero-calories), do not drink it as it most likely contain artificial sweeteners.

To learn more about aspartame, visit

Methanol is the problem with Aspartame

Dr. Woodrow Monte wrote a whole book on the dangers of aspartame. The book is called While Science Sleeps: A Sweetener Kills in which he explains that methanol is the toxic component of aspartame. He wrote ...

"When you take a sip of aspartame-sweetened diet soda, you are consuming as much methanol as you would if you took an average puff of cigarette smoke."

And he explains the biochemistry in the below video...

Dr. Woody Monte Explains the Problem of Aspartame

Aspartame Used As Ant Poison?

Since ants are much smaller than humans, you would think that you can use aspartame to kill ants. And in fact there are organic remedies out there that claims just that.

However, performed a simple experiment that suggests that aspartame did not kill ants.[5] If ants did disappeared with the application of aspartame, it could be that other non-toxic substance sprinkled on their scent trails would deter ants equally well.

If you see circulating on the Internet that aspartame was developed originally as an ant poison and then later repurposed as an artificial sweetener, then that is clearly false.

Aspartame Controversy

Aspartame is one of the most complained about additive that FDA receives -- over 10,000 consumer complaints. The approval of aspartame is one of the most contested approval in FDA's history. For the reasons mentioned above, many people have said that aspartame should not have even been approved by the FDA in the first place.

Some people say aspartame is dangerous and others say it is safe. You have to do your own research and decide for yourself.

Start with Wikipedia's entry on "Aspartame Controversy" and then drill down. As you will note, there are some Internet hoaxes and email scares out there. So you have to have a critical eye on what you find on the internet and always ask how reliable is the particular source that you are reading.

There is a website devoted to information about the safety of aspartame and it does present evidence from scientific journals. It's footer discloses the fact that the site is by Ajinomoto Food Ingredients LLC which does make aspartame.

You can also watch "60 Minutes" which did a big news segment on aspartame that was broadcasted in December 1996.

Keep in mind that not all studies indicate a conclusive result. There often may very well be conflicting studies that reach different conclusions.

To be safe, it is best to avoid aspartame whenever possible. But when thirsty and there is nothing around but diet soda with aspartame, it should not be a problem for most people to drink it occasionally -- unless you are among a small percentage of people that has a particular sensitivity to aspartame. (BBC says aspartame generally safe, but some people might have unusual sensitivity to it.[4])

I am not a medical professional and this article is opinion at the time of writing (April 2011).


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