Sweet Misery Fact Check – Part 1

There is an HTML version available at http://tinyurl.com/sweetfact1

A PDF version is available at: http://whatdoesthesciencesay.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/sweetmiseryfactcheckpart1.pdf

Introduction

I have covered aspartame twice before, but I thought to finally get it out of my system I would cover the documentary “Sweet Misery” which essentially contains all of the claims I have seen previously (and some of which I’ve covered) as well as the cast of characters which frequently pop up with this topic. In this way I can address the whole gamut of aspartame claims and be done with it.

For the most part, the movie amounts to 90 minutes of anecdotal evidence of aspartame causing all manner of harm. A few of the guests in the documentary at least have medical degrees, but their statements frequently contradict the best scientific evidence we have and are often backed only by books that they themselves have written.

As you read this, you will notice a trend in my thinking that I want to make clear now. As a non-scientist, I am only “qualified” to trust consensus scientific evidence. While it may turn out in the future that a series of high quality, reproducible, studies will emerge which demonstrate a link between aspartame and a number of neurological disorders, this has not occurred yet. A large body of anecdotes do not count as studies. Individual studies do not really even count as evidence against the large amount of existing studies. Odds are, individual studies (no matter what they find, for or against aspartame) are wrong in some way. It takes a volume of studies to create that proper body of evidence that leads to a consensus.

So you may read this paper and find yourself thinking “he is just trusting scientists, he is just trusting the government, but they lie to us/are bought by industry/are biased”. I do not trust scientists, I trust science. And the current science shows no link between aspartame and all of these disorders. You should not trust me. And you certainly should not trust a few people in a documentary. But I firmly believe you should trust the large body of actual, peer-reviewed, studies that make of the evidence, especially in the form of reviews of multiple studies which can aggregate the results. I have no evidence of wide-spread corruption and fraud in the scientific community in this regard. Individual cases, sure. That’s why you go with the wide body of evidence.

If you are convinced that anything that comes from “mainstream” science is flawed, you may as well stop reading now.

Cast of Characters

The doctors and patients in the video are all people who are violently opposed to aspartame. The patients are not random people they found who had these issues, but are actively engaged in the idea that aspartame causes any number of issues.

The “Experts”

Russell Blaylock is a retired neurosurgeon who writes and speaks frequently about “excitotoxins” (which is not very prevalent in the scientific literature). He even manages to bring autism into the picture. He is also anti-fluoride.

Jim Bowen is a former medical doctor who appears to believe in all manner of other conspiracy theories, especially those related to the “Zionist Conspiracy”. You can easily find him searching for “Jim Bowen aspartame” on Google. He also wrote a pleasantly-titled article called “Aspartame Murders Infants”. He also appears as one of the sufferers in the video.

Arthur Evangelista is apparently a former FDA investigator (not sure how to confirm or deny this) who, ironically enough, runs a company that helps herbal supplement company “avert” oversight by the FDA. His PhD is in “Industrial and Occupational Safety”, not biochemistry, biology, chemistry, etc.

HJ Roberts appears to be/have been a doctor, but now writes books against apartame. One aspect, at least, where he seems to be “right” is in his criticism of taking vitamin E supplements in large doses. That criticism appears to be backed by real science. But otherwise his views do not appear to fit with mainstream consensus science.

Ralph Walton is psychiatrist who believes that aspartame leads to number of neurological disorders. I have covered [1]his supposed list of 97 “peer reviewed” articles against apartame previously (in short, while it is a list containing about 97 items… most are not peer-reviewed, about aspartame, or even against aspartame).

Many of the sufferers in the video have websites and and are in business related to anti-aspartame and “natural” industries. However I could not absolutely positively identify them (I would rather not link to sites that turn out not to be the same person) and so will leave that as an exercise for the reader. But as far as I could tell, these were not simply people they found off the street who were affected by aspartame, but rather fellow anti-aspartame crusaders.

The point is not to promote the genetic fallacy or perform an ad hominem attack, but rather to show that these are not necessarily “experts” who we should take at face value and that we should be extra sure to look into the evidence (or lack of) that they present for their claims. The claims must still stand or fall on their own grounds.

The Claims

Claim: Studies show a growing trend of multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, diabetes,etc in recent years linked to the introduction and usage of aspartame

Claim is made in first three minutes of video by the narrator, Russel Blaylock and HJ Roberts.

HJ Roberts says he noticed “conflicting” themes and that the rise was not due to lack of adequate scanning devices and that other cancers stayed the same while brain cancer incidence went up.

It’s not clear what studies are showing this trend (as the documentary doesn’t have a list of sources), but, at least for brain tumors, the incidence has bounced up and down and in fact started going up before aspartame was introduced, and went back down between 1990 and 2002.

Brain Tumors

According to the National Cancer Institute:

From 1990 to 2002, the overall age-adjusted incidence rates for brain cancer decreased slightly; from 7.0 cases to 6.4 cases for every 100,000 persons in the United States. The mortality rate from 1990 to 2002 also decreased slightly; from 4.9 deaths to 4.5 for every 100,000 persons in the United States.[2]

“Incidence” refers to the numbers of new cases.

NCI Continues, “However, aside from the small percentage of brain tumor cases that can be linked to exposure to high-dose ionizing radiation or to certain inherited genetic alterations, few specific risk factors have been convincingly linked to brain tumors.”

They do mention that they are looking at “sweeteners” (among many other things) as potential causes, but studies were initiated in 1994 and I think I can show that aspartame has been ruled out quite well.

The Olney Study

I suspect that their “source” for the information in the first place, as the documentary makes reference to it, is the infamous J.W. Olney (mentioned above) study brain tumor “study” which looked at brain tumor incidence. The study has been highly criticised for cherry-picking the data and its methodology.

The NCI addresses the study and mention the fact that brain tumor incidence rises (for the time in question for this documentary) started 8 years prior to the introduction of aspartame:

Questions regarding the safety of aspartame were renewed by a 1996 [the Olney study]  report suggesting that an increase in the number of people with brain tumors between 1975 and 1992 might be associated with the introduction and use of this sweetener in the United States. However, an analysis of then-current NCI statistics showed that the overall incidence of brain and central nervous system cancers began to rise in 1973, 8 years prior to the approval of aspartame, and continued to rise until 1985. Moreover, increases in overall brain cancer incidence occurred primarily in people age 70 and older, a group that was not exposed to the highest doses of aspartame since its introduction. These data do not establish a clear link between the consumption of aspartame and the development of brain tumors.  [3]

Additionally, from the French Food Safety (AFSSA) report on aspartame from 2002 (French 2011 [4]) (emphasis mine):

 In 1996, Olney et al. published an article.. the authors concluded that there was a significant increase in the frequency of brain tumours in the mid-1980s, that is to say the period following aspartame came onto the market.  The conclusions of this epidemiological  study have been criticised by a number of  scientists who questioned the methodology, the use of the data and their interpretation (Levy et al., 1996; Linet et al., 1999; Ross, 1998; Seife, 1999; Smith et al., 1998). One of the major criticism is that the authors  only took into account the frequency of brain tumours during a selected period (1975-1992). When all the epidemiological data are used (1973-1992) a different conclusion is reached, as the frequency of brain cancers began to increase in 1973 and stabilised from the mid-1980s (Levy  et al., 1996). Furthermore, Olney  et al. did not provide any quantitative or qualitative relationship between the exposure of the population to aspartame and the observed frequency of brain tumours.

Additionally, there was a case-control study that attempted to demonstrate any sort of link, and failed to do so (Gurney 1997). [5]

In short, except for the Olney statistical analysis, all actual studies of humans and the data demonstrate no link between brain cancer and aspartame usage.

Multiple Sclerosis

Even the National Multiple Sclerosis Society does not support the claim that aspartame has anything to do with it. On their “Old Theories That Have Been Disproved” page, they put aspartame in there with allergies and owning a dog as having no scientific evidence linking it with MS. (National [6])

Or if you’re not a fan of the National MS Society, how about the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation? On their page “Examining the Safety of Aspartame”, they call out the “Nancy Merkle” hoax which kick started a lot of this nonsense and state pragmatically [7]:

While nothing can be considered 100 percent safe, aspartame has undergone extensive testing. With the exception of a few very mild side effects, aspartame appears to be quite safe. Those individuals, who experience problems after consuming aspartame, should eliminate foods and beverages that contain this sweetener from their diet.

I think it would stretch credibility quite a bit to believe that both of these groups are somehow “in the pocket” of the NutraSweet company.

Diabetes

Jim Bowen makes the claim that Diabetes jumped 33% (not sure which years)

Since 1960 or so, diabetes incidence has grown by about 3% a year (Onkamo 1999 [8], Diabetes [9]).  So over any given 10 year period, it would grow ~30% from the start. So a very misleading statistic.

Claim Summary

Misleading and wrong. Brain tumor incidence did go up, but not from aspartame. And incidence actually dropped in subsequent years (while usage of apartame has probably gone up). Aspartame did not cause a rise in brain tumors or multiple sclerosis. Not only is there no evidence linking aspartame with brain tumors, but when anybody actually tries to find evidence for it, the studies demonstrate nothing. So this is not a case of there just not being enough/no testing. There is a wealth of testing which has led to negative evidence of a link between aspartame and these disorders.  So what opponents of aspartame mean when they say there hasn’t been “enough” testing is really that there hasn’t been enough that agrees with their view.

Claim: The components of aspartame break down into poisons and build up in the body over long periods of time to create toxic effects

Approximately minutes 4 to 7, with some later as well

Russell Blaylock – People say they take MSG, aspartame with no obvious effects. “Subtle toxic effects in those who don’t have obvious problems” Over long term will have disease.

… long term “Exposure to large amounts of the components of aspartame is toxicity”.

… “We know aspartame is a poison,it affects protein synthesis, and how the synapse operates in the brain. Affects DNA”

… “Sub-chronic level” … Slow build up of toxins. Disrupts endocrine system

“aspartame with carbohydrates, reduces availability of L-tryptophan, an precursor for seratonin”

… “methyl ester becomes free methyl alcohol.. a real poison”

… “made sense that aspartame would lower seizure threshold”

… “Poisonous effect of methyl alcohol and ester is well known”

Lorena: Drinking water.  “Searched for aspartame. Eyes lit up and started crying. I counted 79 of the 92 symptoms”

Methanol/Methyl Alcohol

I have a whole article essentially devoted to methanol/formaldehyde from aspartame that you can review, but I have looked a bit deeper for this current one[[10]]. While it is technically true that aspartame has methanol (and then formaldehyde) as one of its metabolic byproducts, it is also a bit of a red herring. Fruits break down into more methanol than numerous cans of soda. Meat contains much more phenylalanine than aspartame.

Kirchner found .8 mg/kg of fresh orange juice and 62 mg/kg stored and canned (Kirchner 1957 [11]). Assuming my math is right, this would equate to about 0.2mg in a fresh 8oz glass, and about 15mg stored. Compare this with a single 12oz can of soda, which has about 150mg (on the high end) of aspartame, 10% (15mg) of which metabolizes to methanol. Nobody seems to think the orange juice is going to kill you. On the low end of aspartame concentrations, juices and fruits are going to have much more. And anti-aspartame advocates are well of aware of this, and simply claim that there are “protective factors” in these fruits, juices and wines that make it not matter. This is special pleading. There is no evidence that methanol from aspartame in fact builds up.

The actual reason for the toxicity of methanol is from the build-up of formic acid/formate from high acute ingestion of methanol within a single exposure (good luck finding a study that finds evidence of long-term build up… they all refer to acute exposure). There is no evidence that it builds up indefinitely over years. In fact, the formic acid is able to leave the body faster than it is produced. Formaldehyde by itself appears to not contribute directly to the toxic effects of high doses of methanol (McMartin 1978 [12]).

Scientists have in fact looked at whether or not there might be build up of formic acid or methanol in the blood following ingestion of aspartame… and there simply is not.

Lewis Stegink performed a study finding no increased levels of formate after consumption if even “abuse” levels of aspartame (Stegink 1981 [13]). Stegink also has a larger review of the studies performed on the various components in aspartame, in which he discuses the results of that study and others which have looked into formic acid build-up:

blood and urine formate levels were determined in subjects administered the highest dose of aspartame (200 mg/kg body weight). No significant change in blood formate concentration was noted however, urinary formate excretion was increased significantly over preloading values in urine samples collected 0-4 h and 4-8 h after aspartame loading. Urinary formate excretion returned to preloading values in samples determined 8-24 h after loading. Because the rate of formate synthesis apparently did not exceed the rate of formate metabolism and excretion, blood formate levels were not detectably elevated. Thus, there appears to be little risk from aspartame’s methanol content at the doses studied (Stegink 1987 [14]).

In other words… the body easily gets rid of the byproducts via urination. When dri benking/eating products containing aspartame, you are not getting an acute dose of methanol that would cause harm. The normal metabolic processes of your body get rid of the methanol. If it didn’t, then you would have to avoid fruits and vegetables as well.

Phenylalanine

While people with the rare disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) should avoid products containing phenylalanine, diet soda and other “light” products are the least of their worries. A single can of soda is going to have ~150mg (0.150g) of aspartame. Let’s say 50% of that is phenylalanine, which would get you about 0.075g (75mg)  in a can of soda.

Using a tool available at http://www.bitelog.com/narrow-food-search.htm, you can calculate how much of a nutrient is contained in various food items.

An 8oz glass of milk contains 0.395g of phenylalanine.

An 8oz hamburger has 2.29g of phenylalanine.

1 medium banana has about .058g of phenylalanine.

So < 0.1g is well below many other foods that most people wouldn’t think twice about. Even if you drink 6 cans a day, you only get a little bit past the glass of milk but still nowhere near a hamburger.

Aspartic Acid

Aspartic acid is one of the “non-essential” amino acids, as our body is able to synthesize it on its own. In high doses, some would call it an “excitotoxin” but I can find little evidence of this being backed by scientific consensus. I have not seen too many specific claims against aspartic acid, so I don’t see any reason to talk too much about it.

Claim: There have been thousands of complaints to FDA about aspartame, more for neurological conditions

3:41 HJ Roberts – By 1988, “80% of complaints about food additives were for aspartame”. Where’s the evidence of this?

I covered this one a bit in my article entitle “Extraordinary Claims about Aspartame in the Huffington Post”. The fact of the matter is that there is no real evidence that the document shown in the documentary is legitimate. Even assuming it is, there are thousands of complaints about many additives submitted each year, but after investigation they are not reproducible. The list of 92 symptoms appears to come from yet another document by, not surprisingly, Betty Martini. As best I can tell, the scan of the document she (claims to have) received from the FDA is located on Scribd.  But, as I will discuss below, the FDA (and others) has looked into the various reports and found no real causation.

The FDA does in fact have an Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS), where you can go and report effects you believe you’ve had (and naturally people have reported aspartame). The FDA uses this to compile a list of “potential” dangers that consumers and health officials should be aware of (FDA 2010, Potential [15]). However, you won’t find Aspartame listed in that current set. Or for that matter on any of the warnings from 2008 to 2010.

I think it is useful to quote from the FDA here about what the AERS is and is not as it relates to causality (FDA AERS [16]):

AERS data do have limitations. First, there is no certainty that the reported event was actually due to the product. FDA does not require that a causal relationship between a product and event be proven, and reports do not always contain enough detail to properly evaluate an event. Further, FDA does not receive all adverse event reports that occur with a product. Many factors can influence whether or not an event will be reported, such as the time a product has been marketed and publicity about an event. Therefore, AERS cannot be used to calculate the incidence of an adverse event in the U.S. population.

If you would like to dive into the actual complaints available, there are data files you can download. If aspartame were such a danger, there should be at least a few references for aspartame, but I don’t find any. You will however find aspirin in there, which makes sense as it is a potent and effective drug [17].

This documentary (and list shown on screen) show various neurological disorders that aspartame apparently causes, but the majority of these are diseases and disorders for which the the medical community does not have a known cause or cure. So of course we cannot definitively say “aspartame did not cause this.” However, aspartame most definitely is not in the running by any established or credible research agency into any of these diseases.

Tollefson and Barnard did an analysis in 1992 of the 900 or so claims available at the time. They only looked into seizure related ones and found that the data “did not support the claim” of a linkage to seizures and aspartame consumption (Tollefson [18]).

A more overarching review was done by the CDC, and also found no reason to suspect a “widespread public health hazard” (but cautioned that were a small number that could be attributable to aspartame)  (Bradstock 1986 [19]).

Claim Summary

There is always a chance that a small number of people have side effects from aspartame. Like any chemical, it can react to the body. But when apparent claims are looked into broadly, they come to nothing. And in the case of these specific symptoms, they are generic ones that we all go through for random reasons and rarely have obvious causes (itching, headaches, etc). So, if you feel weird after consuming aspartame stop consuming it. But millions of us consume it without ill effects. Both sides are anecdotal evidence, not science. The science shows that there is no effect across a broad spectrum.

Claim: People who stop consuming aspartame have their symptoms go away, and re-intake causes symptoms to come back

Approximately minutes 9 to 25, with some gaps. Claim is made by Joan (Goodman), Ed Johnson, HJ Roberts,Jim Bowen, Lorena Murray

“When I got off of NutraSweet, the symptoms stopped” … “My doctors will not say it is aspartame in the official records, but say it to the side” … “She didn’t have lupus or MS.. her husband made her stop drinking the diet drinks and the symptoms went away” … “I put the diet drink down, Friday the 19th… within 24 hours” … “When aspartame removed, the symptoms go away. That’s what you call strong circumstantial evidence”

HJ Roberts: “after they re-challenge themselves with aspartame, the symptoms come back, sometimes within minutes. That’s more than anecodotal. “That’s reproducing the problem. Many of these ‘aspartame reacters’ have testing themselves multiple times”.

Jim Bowen says with his patients when they go off aspartame it goes away. Says he developed therapeutic outlooks working with experts on environmental toxicology.

Not “more than” anecdotal

First of all, these various claims are not “more than” anecdotal. They fit absolutely into the very definition of anecdotal. Having a lot of (supposed) people making a claim does not suddenly carry the weight of actual science. The claim must be tested.

Definitions of ‘anecdote’/’anecdotally’:

  • From dictionary.com: “non-scientific observations or studies, which do not provide proof but may assist research efforts
  • From oxforddictionaries.com: “(of an account) not necessarily true or reliable, because based on personal accounts rather than facts or research”

In other words, it stops being an anecdote when the claims are tested with an actual controlled study. For the case of multiple sclerosis, it does not appear that there is enough scientific plausibility to even warrant a study. As noted at the beginning, the various national MS foundations/groups absolutely do not support this claim. In the case of migraines controlled studies find no link (and sometimes a negative link!) [[20],[21]]. For brain tumors, no link. Seizures, very little link (except those with PKU). So, sure, start with anecdotes. But when the science shows no link, accept it and move on. Of course still follow the advice that applies for all food and drugs: If you get ill effects from using it, stop using it.

Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis

The most common form of MS — 85% of people are initially diagnosed with this, versus 15% of the progressive form — is what is known as relapsing-remitting MS where the sufferer has occasional relapses, sometimes coming on suddenly over a period of days or even hours. This is followed by long periods, months and often years, of remission with complete recovery. RRMS affects women at a 2:1 ratio to men and it usually occurs in the 20s and 30s. After approximately 10 years, but even up to 30 years, later it will usually progress to Secondary-Progressive MS in which there is less remission. [[22]]

There is no way to know whether or not the people in the video actually had MS, or if they had the “popular” RRMS early form. But based on the fact that there is simply no scientific evidence of a link between aspartame and MS along with the assumption that those appearing in the video are telling the truth, the way that RRMS shows itself is at least a potential explanation for the apparent ability to make the symptoms “disappear” and reappear very quickly… as this is exactly what RRMS does. Couple that with the belief that aspartame is the “only” thing that changed, and you have a recipe for strong correlation without causation. Depending on the person, RRMS can slowly cause permanent degeneration of function and ability, which seemed evident in some of those in the video.

Also, interestingly, incidence of multiple sclerosis appears to increase as you get further from the equator (though this trend has apparently gotten weaker) and the female to male ratio is actually growing.  I would definitely be very surprised if intake of aspartame also follows a distance-from-equator gradient. [[23]]

Conclusion

This article covered the first 30 minutes of the Sweet Misery documentary by Cori Brackett. This part looked at the initial claims that there has been a rising trend in various neurological disorders caused by the toxic byproducts of aspartame. I believe I have demonstrated that these claims are not backed by the scientific evidence. Not only does the scientific consensus not support claims that brain cancer and multiple sclerosis is related to aspartame intake, but the national public and private foundations for these ailments do not support the notion. Additionally, the individual parts of aspartame are contained in much larger quantities in foods that would be considered “harmless” such as fruit and meat.

If you feel weird after consuming aspartame stop consuming it. But millions of us consume it without ill effects. Both sides are anecdotal evidence, not science. The science shows that there is no effect across a broad spectrum.

I plan on doing two more additional articles to cover the full 90 minute movie so that I can be done with aspartame once and for all.


[1] DeWald, Joshua. “Aspartame and Formaldehyde: What does the science say?”. June 13, 2010.

[2] NCI. “National Cancer Institute Brain Tumor Study in Adults: Fact Sheet”. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/brain-tumor-study.Visited April 26, 2011

[3] NCI. “Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer”. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/artificial-sweeteners. Visited April 26, 2011

[4] French Food Safety Agency. “Assessment report: Opinion on a possible link between the exposition to aspartame and the incidence of brain tumors in humans”. May 7, 2002. http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/afssaeng.pdf

[5] Gurney JG, Pogoda JM. J Natl Cancer Inst. Aspartame consumption in relation to childhood brain tumor risk: results from a case-control study. 1997 Jul 16;89(14):1072-4

[6] National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “Old Theories That Have Been Disproved”. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/what-we-know-about-ms/what-causes-ms/disproved-theories/index.aspx. Visited April 26, 2011

[7] Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. “Examining the Safety of Aspartame”. http://www.msfacts.org/article-details.aspx?articleID=40. Visited April 26, 2011

[8] Onkamo P. “Worldwide Incidence of Type 1 Diabetes–the analysis of the data on published trends”. Diabetologia. 1999 Dec. 42(12).

[9] Diabetes and the Environment. “Type 1 Diabetes Incidence: Historical Trends”. Author includes source references http://www.diabetesandenvironment.org/home/incidence/historical

[10] DeWald, Joshua. What does the Science Say? (blog). “Aspartame and Formaldehyde (Or not…)”. http://wp.me/pH6F5-S

[11] Kirchner JG, Miller JM. Volatile water-soluble and oil constituents of Valencia orange juice. J Agric Food Chem 1957;5:283-91.

[12] McMartin, KE. “Lack of a role for formaldehyde in methanol poisoning in the monkey”. Biochemical Pharmacology. Volume 28, Issue 5. 1 March 1979. pp645-649

[13] Stegink LD, Brummel MC, McMartin K.. Blood methanol concentrations in normal adult subjects administered abuse doses of aspartame. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health 7: 281- 290. 1981.

[14] Stegink, LD. “The aspartame story: a model for the clinical testing of a food additive”. Am J Clinical Nutrition. July 1987. Vol 46:1. p207

[15] US Food and Drug Administration. “Potential Signals of Serious Risks/New Safety Information Identified by the Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS) between January – March 2010”. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Surveillance/AdverseDrugEffects/ucm216272.htm. Visited 7/12/2010

[16] US Food And Drug Administration. “Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS).” http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Surveillance/AdverseDrugEffects/ucm082196.htm. Visited 7/9/2010

[17] US Food And Drug Administration. “The Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS): Latest Quarterly Data Files”. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Surveillance/AdverseDrugEffects/ucm082193.htm. Visited 7/9/2010

[18] Tollefson L, Barnard RJ. An analysis of FDA passive surveillance reports of seizures associated with consumption of aspartame. J Am Diet Assoc. 1992 May;92(5):598-601.

[19] Bradstock MK, Serdula MK, Marks JS, Barnard RJ, Crane NT, Remington PL, Trowbridge FL. Evaluation of reactions to food additives: the aspartame experience. Am J Clin Nutr. 1986 Mar;43(3):464-9. PubMed PMID: 3953484.

[20] Schiffman, Susan S., et al., 1987. “Aspartame and Susceptibility to Headache,” The New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 317, No. 19, page 1181-1185.

[21] Garriga MM, Berkebile C, Metcalfe DD. A combined single-blind, double-blind,placebo-controlled study to determine the reproducibility of hypersensitivity reactions to aspartame. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1991 Apr;87(4):821-7.

[22] National MS Society. “How Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS) Differs from Progressive Courses of MS”. Visited May 10, 2011. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/relapsing-ms/relapsing-remitting-ms-rrms/how-rrms-differs-from-progressive-courses-of-ms/index.aspx

[23] Alonso A, Hernan M. “Temporal trends in the incidence of multiple sclerosis”. Neurology. July 2008. Vol 71, No 2.

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38 Responses

  1. why do you not have a “subscribe” link at the top of your wonderfully helpful blog? Or can one only subscribe b posting a comment?

    Whom do you work for yourself?
    –gk

  2. Here is the movie Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0UDeydlEDM Make up your own mind. Cori Brackett was in a wheelchair for years barely able to talk or walk. She read an article on aspartame and got off of it, and walked out of her wheelchair. She had one of the largest lesions ever seen in an MS victim which 8 months later all but disappeared. I work with the physicians in the film who have dedicated their life to exposing aspartame. Read the medical text: Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic, http://www.sunsentpress.com by H. J. Roberts, M.D. 1000 pages of the horrors that aspartame trigger or precipitate. Go to http://www.mpwhi.com, down to the banners and read Dr. Olney’s 49 pages to the Board of Inquiry to the FDA. They agreed with him. they have now admitted, the FDA, they made an agreement with G. D. Searle they would never allow the public to see the birth defect studies which explains the epidemic of autism. all in the new book by Dr. Woody Monte, “While Science Sleeps”, http://www.whilesciencesleeps.com He also tells you his house was blown up. I have talked to or taken at least 50,000 cases of aspartame vicitms.

    The Trocho Study shows the formaldehyde converted from the free methyl alcohol embalms living tissue and damages DNA. Turns the tissues to plastic. Read the Ecologist, 2005 on http://www.mpwhi.com on aspartame, cover story of how it got approved after the FDA tried to have the manufacturer indicted and revoked the petition for approval. It was once listed with the pentagon in an inventory of prospective biochemical warfare weapons submitted to Congress which is how the 17 page article starts out.

    Aspartame is an addictive, excitoneurotoxic, carcinogenic, genetically engineered drug and adjuvant that damages the mitochondria or powerhouse of the cell and interacts with drugs and vaccines. It is a deadly chemical poison. I have been taking cases for now over 20 years and working with world experts. I’m in Sweet Misery.

    • Betty –
      Nice to meet you! You are mentioned in my articles in fact (probably in multiple).

      However, I would appreciate if you would respond to the actual content of this article (and my others on the topic, there is a link at the topic for “Aspartame“). It seems you have just pasted content that you have written on other pages and on your own site. I have already responded to many of the claims you’ve put forth here.

      If you feel I have made specific inaccurate statements, feel free to respond (with relevant peer-reviewed or other authoritative references) and we can debate the points from there.

      Thanks

      • Dear Josh,

        I’m not quite sure exactly what you want me to answer. If you go to http://www.dorway.com – doctors speak out, on many there are CV’s. I haven’t asked Dr. John Olney for a current CV but if you read this one on DORway you will see he is a world expert, considered one of the most renowned neuroscientist in the world today. If you read his report to the Board of Inquiry of the FDA you will see birth defects he says are a given. It was through Dr. Madelon Price, a biochemist who worked with him for 38 years, that I got two of the aspartame birth defect studies. Jerome Bressler who authored the famous Bressler REport also on a banner on http://www.mpwhi.com asked me to find these two studies stricken from the record when the FDA made a deal with G. D. Searle never to let the public see the birth defect records. The FDA promised Dr. Olney that children would never ever have aspartame after Rumsfeld got it on the market through political chicanery. Now its in pediatric vitamins and many pediatric drugs.

        In Sweet Remedy which came after Sweet Misery they even interviewed Feingold who banned aspartame from their diet, the ADD people. They said before aspartame was approved they hardly even used the terms ADD and ADHD. Dr. Russell Blaylock is world renowned too. Just google Dr. Blaylock and aspartame.

        I spoke with Dr. James Bowen’s wife last night. He has Lou Gehrigs from aspartame and stomach cancer. Dr. Adrian Gross told Congress and you can read it for yourself that the FDA should not have even been able to set an allowable dose of aspartame because it caused brain tumors and brain cancer. Like I said, everything is a matter of public record and I have them on web including scientific peer reviewed research. Almost 100 per cent of all scientific peer reviewed research by independents all over the world show the problems with aspartame. Dr. Ralph Walton did the research for 60 Minutes. He is a psychiatrist. Knowing that aspartame triggers depression because of the depletion of serotonin (and there was just a new study a few days ago on that) he decided to do his own study to see what i would do to people who already had depression problems. Here is an honest study, not from industry defending their product. One got conjunctival bleeding and the administrator who took part in the study got a retinal detachment and lost his sight in one eye. The formaldehyde from the methyl alcohol destroys the optic nerve. The ones in the depression group said they were being poisoned so the institution stopped the study. That’s what happens when you do an honest study. Monsanto wouldn’t even sell him the aspartame because they couldn’t control the study.

        Dr. H J. Roberts authored the 1000 page medical text, “Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic,” http://www.sunsentpress. It’s dedicated to me. Dr. Roberts told me it would take another 200 pages to bring it up to date with all the new research on aspartame, proving everything from depression, cancer, heart attacks, strokes, raising fasting blood sugar, jumping preterm births 78%. Shall I go on. Actually when Dr. Roberts wrote the medical text it was 40% bigger but too big to publish. He is known all over the world and Order of St. George has knighted him for his humanitarism. He is corporate neutral and never taken money from industry.

        Arthur Evangelista did work for the FDA for three years but today FDA is simply Big Pharma’s Washington Branch Office. They get over half their funds from Big Pharma. They altered some reports in industry’s favor and Arthur Evangelista saw them do it, and left.

        The victims in “Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World” came through me as they have been doing for 20 years. Most of the MS victims have walked out of their wheelchairs like Cori Brackett once they get off aspartame. MS is on the front of Dr. Roberts medical text. In it he gives the mechanism by which aspartame triggers or precipitates symptoms and diseases, as does Dr. Blaylock in “Excitotocxins: The Taste That Kills”, http://www.russellblaylockmd.com

        Dr. Roberts now in his upper 80’s has now given me his 30 years of research on aspartame. As Dr. Bowen says it comes under Title 118 of the domestic genocide code. What a heinous crime.

        If there is anything else you would like to know just ask.

      • Betty –
        I don’t understand why you’re commenting if you don’t think there is anything specific to respond to? If you find specific inaccurate statements by me that you can back up with references, than I can look it. I am well aware of who the people are that you’ve just referenced, but I don’t see how any of that is relevant to specific claims about aspartame? It really doesn’t matter who they are, it matters if they can cite actual research to back their claims. This isn’t an argument about whether or not they are experts in their field or not. Experts make mistakes. Publishing a book does not make that the last word. Especially in today’s world, anybody can publish a book. Just provide studies that back up your (and their) claims. Not the theoretical discussions on excitotoxins.

        Please let me know:
        1 – What I have said that is incorrect
        2 – Your reference for why it is incorrect. If this is (as is most likely) a link to rense.com or dorway.com, please ensure the link contains references to actual relevant scientific studies.

        Anecdotal reports of individual people simply do not address the scientific question of whether aspartame should be considered dangerous to the general population. As I’ve stated multiple times on this blog, and in comments, if you think that aspartame has affected you, stop using it. But please stop there. I can bring up just as many (and much more) anecdotal reports of people not affected by aspartame.

        Is scientific truth going to be decided by who can bring the most personal testimonies?

        I appreciate that this topic matters a lot to you, but it matters to me to because I am tired of seeing people continue to cite the same information that has been repeatedly shown to be outright false or misleading. If there is new information, let’s go from there.

      • Dear Josh, Since I have written many posts to you now with documentation, and I do have to do some radio programs and other things planned today I can’t stay on email all day. It appeared you were talking about the physicians as if you weren’t sure who they were so I told you who they were and their bios are on http://www.dorway.com You wrote about the victims in Sweet Misery as if they worked for natural companies so their cases wouldn’t be valid. Most of them when they came to us couldn’t work at all because aspartame disabled them them like Bob Mehl with a brain tumor, lupus and other horrors. I seriously doubt if he would be alive today if we hadn’t gotten him off aspartame. I felt like the best thing was to let your audience see the documentary themselves and make up their own mind. Your forum has been going on for some time and I would have to go back and read everything.

        The FDA tried to have G. D. Searle indicted until Title 18, Section 1001 for FRAUD. They couldn’t get aspartame to show safety and they got caught with their shenanigans. So you want to know what science says? It says fraud and has been proven for years. You listen to James Turner, Attorney in Sweet Misery and how Rumsfeld got on the market you know what the deal is.

        To make comments like “anybody can write a book” means no matter how much proof there is you will try to say aspartame is safe. World renowned experts don’t write medical texts to just give an opinion. Dr. Roberts saw these aspartame victims in his practice until he retired. He testified before Congress. He did his own study. After researching it for 30 years he has a lot to say and has trained doctors everywhere on this subject. He gives the mechanism by which it causes the problems, he lists the research and the fraud. If you want to know something about the records its in that medical text.

        I haven’t read everything you have ever said but I picked a lot of it up today, and answered it with documents which I have. I have repeatedly told you everything is backed up. I even the scientific peer reviewed research on http://www.mpwhi.com It has the references. Nobody should be using aspartame. It’s a cumulative poison. As Dr. Blaylock said in a lecture, the reactions to aspartame are not allergic but toxic like arsenic and cyanide.

        In the Trocho Study you could see the formaldehyde in the tissues. In the Ramazzini Studies there was so much formaldehyde the rats hair turned yellow. I’ve been dealing with this, unpaid, for 20 years and read research constantly. What true and honest says is that aspartame is a chemical poison. Josh you keep making excuses for a poison. I would like to know why? Do you not think after actually 40 years we don’t know that it’s poison? If aspartame was safe independent researchers wouldn’t still be doing studies.

        Betty

      • I am traveling today, but I do want to respond more in full to your comments, especially as you have responded to actual comments rather than simply re-pasting content.

        But quickly, my point about “anybody can write books” is just that… just because you can put something into a book doesn’t make it true. I have no doubt about Roberts’ credentials, but it is still an argument from authority to cite him and his book as evidence. Especially one with the title “Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic”, which isn’t exactly going to be an unbiased medical textbook for general use. Presumably a school would have to accept the notion of “Aspartame Disease” in the first place. Or does he have a different book that a school uses as an actual medical textbook that you are referring to?. In any case, experts make mistakes. Citing, without backing it up with research, a doctor or other credentialed person is like citing Linus Pauling as evidence of Vitamin C supplementation merely because he won the Nobel Prize.

        Assuming your list of references is Walton’s “92 Independent Reviews of Evidence”, then I have covered that as well previously. It is in no sense a list of independent peer-reviewed studies showing aspartame to be harmful (I went through each and every one of them). The majority are letters to the editor, studies about methanol and/or formaldehyde, or studies that don’t even find a harmful effect. It appears to be merely a list of studies that reference the terms “aspartame”, “formaldehyde”, “phenylalanine” or “methanol” without any regards for what the study actually says, or if it even is a study.

        That said, I will see if you have identified separate new references that have not already been discussed ad nauseum.
        Aspartame isn’t a poison, so I don’t have any behavior to defend.

  3. […] This lists of “92 peer-reviewed studies” by Walton and “92 reactions” from FDA seem to have become a centerpiece of the anti-aspartame movement. I have already covered the Walton list and, long story short, most of the studies either have nothing to do with aspartame or aren’t even a peer-reviewed study at all. There’s also not actually 92 as some are duplicates. Being very generous, 5 of the entries are both peer-reviewed and potentially relate in some “negative” way to aspartame (but you can view the above link andy my spreadsheet to see the details). The FDA list has also been discussed (Extraordinary claims about aspartame and Sweet Misery Fact Check) […]

  4. I am a massage therapist and a nurse.
    I have a friend (also a nurse) who had chronic migranes 2-4 times a week and went off aspartame and he quit having headaches.
    I have a neighbor who was in a geat deal of pain , using a walker or wheel chair and was told by her Dr. it looked like MS. She did her research and went off aspartame and had a remarkable recovery and could walk again. She is about 60 years old now and went off aspartame 2 years ago. She is still walking without assistance.
    I have a degree in science, BSN .
    I believe in science
    I also believe in big money/cover ups and greed.
    To say it is OK for humans to consume large amounts of chemicals and call it food is just wrong and unnatural.
    Of course there will be problems.
    to say there are “no problems” with aspartame raises alert flags
    some people cannot eat strawberries – peanuts- milk…
    to say it is safe for all is folly

    The people I know are simple case studies.
    Real people, real information.

    I do not eat the stuff.

    • I actually completely agree that there can be problems for some people, and I’ve stated so many times in my articles. My issue with the anti-aspartame movement is in trying to generalize the small number of people who possibly have issues, and start calling aspartame a “poison”, cite utterly unsubstantiated claims about methanol build-up, etc.

      If aspartame affects you, or you believe it affects you, stop using it. But there is no reason for the millions of other people who consume it without any issues to stop using it until there is actual evidence of harm, which I certainly have not come across.

      In terms of headaches, it may be this article your commenting on or perhaps one of the others, but they have performed studies on people who self-reported headaches they believed were caused by aspartame. When blind tested versus a placebo, they were no more likely to get a headache with aspartame than with placebo. Doesn’t necessarily mean that applies to you, but point is that it is not accurate to claim that aspartame is dangerous across the board.

  5. Here is a recent independent study regaurding effects of aspartathe oxidative effects on the brain and in the study they also show the effects of methanol build up. Iyyaswamy, A., & Rathinasamy, S. (2012, September). Effect of chronic exposure to aspartame on oxidative stress in brain dicrete regions of albino rats. Journal Of Biosciences, 37(4), 679-688. http://dx.doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1007/s12038-012-9236-0

  6. […] å være en løgn. Man skal kanskje være litt skeptisk med å hente vitenskapelig informasjon fra en fyr som så åpenbart lyver om sine prestasjoner og […]

  7. Dear Josh, thank you for your great article. I was dreading all the research I was about to embark on after seeing the documentary. Your article has provided me with great resources for reading. Keep up the fantastic work!

    • Josh,

      Why didn’t my comment appear? I didn’t get it back? Do you really want the facts on this forum

      Betty

      • See my previous comment where I laid out specifically what comments would no longer be approved:http://whatdoesthesciencesay.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/aspartame-and-formaldehyde/#comment-445

        You managed to hit upon a good percentage of the specific points that I stated have already been done to death (Trocho, Sofritti, etc).

        You know that I have no problem approving comments that disagree with me, so it’s not clear to my way you continue to end comments with suggestions that I am attempting to hide the truth or censor or somesuch. Any readers of the comments here can EASILY find your site and the content you have there.

  8. “While nothing can be considered 100 percent safe, aspartame has undergone extensive testing. With the exception of a few very mild side effects, aspartame appears to be quite safe. ”

    Such a claim requires substantiation. I’m not aware of any study feeding aspartame to humans that has been executed over a long enough duration to rule out a link to diseases later in life.

    • Yes, aspartame has gone extensive testing, and failed. There is no way to take a deadly chemical poison that has a medical text, 1000 pages of horrors that aspartame causes (Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic, http://www.sunsentpress.com) and have it show safety. When G. D. Searle could not get aspartame to show safety they used fraud. Aspartame breaks down to DKP, a brain tumor agent and when the rats developed brain tumors they excised the tumors, put the rats back in the study and when they died they resurrected them on paper. The FDA for the first time in history tried to have the manufacturer indicted for fraud under Title 18, Section 1001. Both US prosecutors hired on with the defense team and the statute of limitations expired.

      Monsanto when they bought it had to answer the seizure complaints. Searle’s 52 week oral toxicity study on 7 infant monkeys showed 5 had grand mal seizures and 1 died. They actually used it as a pivotal study in the approval of aspartame. Monsanto did studies that would make anyone laugh. Mark Gold, http://www.holisticmed.com/aspartame shows on his web site how Monsanto did studies so people wouldn’t have seizures on it like putting them on anti-seizure medication without telling anyone and only using 1 capsule of aspartame for a 1 day study, sort of tantamount to smelling the bottle (Rowan Study). Then they got it peer reviewed. Power they have. Almost 100 per cent of scientific peer reviewed studies that are independent show the problems. Poisons will never show safety. See peer reviewed research on http://www.mpwhi.com

      Let me introduce you to the new book, “While Science Sleeps: A Sweetener Kills” by Dr. Woodrow Monte, http://www.whilesciencesleeps.com You can read the last chapter for free. G. D. Searle made a deal never to allow the public to see the teratology studies which showed neural tube defects – autism, cleft palate, spina bifida. Everybody involved should be put under the jail!!!!!!!!! Aspartame has free methyl alcohol. Dr. Alemany’s study, Trocho, showed the formaldehyde embalms living tissue and damages DNA. The tissues turn to plastic.

      There are over 5 million hits on the Internet on the horrors off aspartame. Obviously in over 30 years we know aspartame is deadly. FDA refuses to answer petitions for ban. They called me and when I said people are sick and dying all over the world I was told, “So what, we need to depopulate”.

      Dr. Betty Martini, D.Hum, Founder Mission Possible Intl, http://www.mpwhi.com

  9. “Fruits break down into more methanol than numerous cans of soda.”

    The methanol in fruits is firmly bound to the pectins, so this argument is invalid. Methanol bound to pectin passes through the digestive system without being absorbed.

    • The methanol in aspartame is not bound to pectin only the methanol in fruits and vegetables. It also is accompanied by ethanol, the classic antidote for methanol toxicity and takes it safely out of the body. No ethanol in aspartame. The methanol converts to formaldehyde and embalms living tissue. You need to read the medical books.

      Dr. Betty Martini, D.Hum, Founder Mission Possible Intl http://www.mpwhi.com

  10. “The actual reason for the toxicity of methanol is from the build-up of formic acid/formate from high acute ingestion of methanol”

    This finding has since been invalidated. It is actually quite logically obvious that this “theory” is totally false. If it were true, then animals would be equally prone to acute methanol poisoning as are humans. In fact, since human peroxisomes cannot convert formaldehyde into formic acid; while animals peroxisomes can, this theory is rendered absurd.

    • Where is your proof?

      Dr. Betty Martini, D.Hum,

      • The research of Dr. Woodrow C. Monte

      • Dr. Betty, your comments are absurd. Since methanol is far more dangerous to humans than to other species, you would think the above comment would be pretty clear to you, but since you are so heated-up over the topic of methanol, and since you automatically assume every commenter here agrees with the author, and disagrees with your stance, you fire off responses to me, without even reading my comments, which clearly substantiate your own view point. It just goes to show how some people care more about being right, than they do about finding the truth, regardless of the side they are on. If you actually read my comments before assuming that they are pro-methanol, your response would be very agreeable. Whether I’m on your side or not, it should not matter if you are actually open to the truth.

  11. “There is no evidence that it builds up indefinitely over years. In fact, the formic acid is able to leave the body faster than it is produced.”

    Since the theory on formic acid is clearly false, then formic acid build up is redundant.

  12. ” Formaldehyde by itself appears to not contribute directly to the toxic effects of high doses of methanol (McMartin 1978 [12]).”

    Since this study was done on a monkey, rather than a human, the study is invalidated. Methanol poisoning does not happen in a monkey in the same way that it happens in a human. A monkey can ingest as much methanol as it can ethanol before it becomes poisoned. A human can only handle a small fraction of the volume of tolerable ethanol as methanol; and a human peroxisomes cannot convert formaldehyde into formic acid they way a monkey’s can.

    • Here is a little fact for you: Humans suffer “toxic syndrome” at a minimum lethal dose of <1 g/kg, much less than that of monkeys, 3-6 g/kg

      • Correct…actuallt monkey’s are even more susceptinle to ethanol poisoning, and have a high resistance to methanol…which means that even in the amounts in aspartame, caused monkey’s to die or become ill.

    • This is so absurd it almost needs no comment. You can’t do a study on methanol on humans because a teaspoonful could kill you according to Merck.

      Betty

      • What is your point? Mine was simply that the results of a study on a monkey cannot be applied to humans due to the incompatibility in their physiology as it relates to methanol. The lethal dose of methanol in humans was not established through study, but through actual poisoning events over history.

  13. I love when people manipulate facts to make them fit into their argument. If you take one quote out of an article and squeeze it into the shape you want, of course it’s going to work out to your advantage. “Josh” it’s people like you that disgust me. You are propagating manipulated facts, also known as lies.

    • Dawn –
      Did you have a specific criticism about my article or are you happy to simply make an attack on me personally? Do you disagree with my usage of studies? Am I taking quotes from the movie out of context?

  14. The author of this article is a troll – sent by government cronies or pharmaceutical firms to discredit the hard work and investigative research that alerts the public to a serious health threat from artificial sweeteners and food toxins.

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