This is the first in a series of responses to comments that were recently posted on my Aspartame and Formaldahyde entry, the bulk of them by Betty Martini. I am placing the responses here to create a new place for any comments that follow and also to allow the content to be more readily available when the same material comes up again (my blog is certainly not the only place that these comments have been placed, the bulk of it is material has been submitted to Usenet and any blogs discussing aspartame since the 90s). I am perhaps wasting my time responding to them, but I feel like so many of these claims have been left unchallenged for too many years.
Was the New Mexico Legislature “misled”?
ASPARTAME FLACK TRIES TO MISLEAD NEW MEXICO LEGISLATURE … http://rense.com/general75/flak.htm
This is a document that was essentially intended as a rebuttal to statements that John E. Garst (a frequent commenter here) made regarding aspartame as part of efforts to prevent the New Mexico legislature from banning its use. As best I can tell, the bills never even got out of committee.
Sidebar: NM legislature submitted bills on the banning of aspartame
It seems that one state senator, Gerald Ortiz y Pino, made it a practice to just keep submitting the “rescind aspartame approval” bills, even though they didn’t go anywhere (simply getting submitted and going to “action postponed indefinitely”, API, status. In other words, dying) – SB 250 (2006), SB 654 (2006) . But there were also attempts in the House, by one Irvin Harrison. In the failed API’d HB 202 (2006) and HB 391 (2007), its clear that whoever wrote these bills bought into the unscientific, and unsubstantiated, claims of the anti-aspartame movement. They seem to have the same text, so here’s the representative portion:
“The legislature finds it is imperative for the public health, safety and welfare to declare that aspartame and its derivative compounds, in all of their trade names, are poisonous and deleterious food additives due to their neurotoxic and carcinogenic metabolites.”
Simply read any of the articles from my “Aspartame” section to see that these claims are simply not credible. If you read the minutes of the sessions, in both cases it is newspaper editor/writer Stephen Fox who is the constituent asking for the ban of aspartame. The minutes said that he presented a document called “Report for Schools, OB-GYN and Pediatricians on Children and Aspartame/MSG”. I won’t leave the reader in suspense about who the authors of that “report” were: Ralph Walton, Russell Blaylock, and HJ Roberts, Joe Mercola, the Feingold Association, and “prepared” by Betty Martini. So the actions of the Ortiz, Harrison and Fox were not exactly chance occurences that our friends from wnho.net stumbled upon.
It’s clear that the attempt by two members of the New Mexico legislature did not introduce anything new to the case, and, even and they succeeded, would not have “proved” anything. One only look at the fact that the US Congress has Creationists as part of its Science and Technology Committee.
And now onto the claims
At the say so level: R G Walton M.D. Chairman, Center for Behavioral Medicine at NE Ohio College of Medicine analyzed 92 peer-reviewed studies not funded by aspartame industry. 92% found PROBLEMS!
In 95 the FDA listed 92 reactions from 10,000 volunteered complaints, including death.
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)
H. J. Roberts, M.D., FACP a diabetic specialist has produced 20 books and his first text on medical diagnosis was used by 60,000 doctors to prepare for their Board examinations.
As the name of the book is not mentioned, this claim is difficult to check. The closest thing I can find to a textbook from Roberts is “Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic”. But perhaps it is “Useful insights for diagnosis, treatment, and public health” ? If Betty Martini can clarify this statement, which she made multiple times in my blog comments, I can better track down the truth and/or relevance of this claim.
(from section quoting H.J. Roberts)
*The assertion that methanol concentrations never are very high after aspartame ingestion is erroneous. I devoted an entire chapter to methanol toxicity in my text, Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic (pp 668-685), and show in Figure XXI-1 the dose-related blood levels of methanollasting 8 or more hours.
This is a common tactic of the anti-aspartame folks, redirecting the reader to the dangers of methanol toxicity, which are well known and not disputed. The issue is that aspartame does not actually lead to a large amount of methanol in the body, so it’s not a relevant comparison.
There is another bullet point that addresses John E. Garst’s comments about folate deficiency, saying that its not as widespread and then saying the problem is really phenylalanine. I don’t really have any notes about folate deficiency, so will let John respond if he wants. However, bringing up phenylalanine as part of the “aspartame disease” is also a bit pointless given the low volumes of phenylalanine compared to other foods (bananas, eggs, milk, meat).
Remember that Dr. Alemanys study proved the formaldehyde converted from the free methyl alcohol embalms living tissue and damages DNA. As we know when you damage DNA you can destroy humanity
Appeal to emotion here… the Trocho study (not “Alemanys”, Alemany is the last name listed) did no such thing and a response to it (well, a citation to the actual response) can be found in the very article that was being commented on.
Even the FDA found many types of tumors and brain cancer on original studies and the Ramazzini Study in 2005 confirmed FDA findings reporting the study showed aspartame to be a multipotential carcinogen.
The Ramazzini study has been decimated by both the FDA and the European EFSA. In fact, in 2009 the EFSA reaffirmed their original 2006 response. Not sure what the “FDA found many types of tumors” is referring to exactly, as there is no citation. But the FDA is certainly ok with the safety of aspartame, so its a bit moot.
Mark Gold of the Aspartame Toxicity Center says this short document answers all of the aspartame industrys claims about aspartame and formaldehyde poisoning: http://www.holisticmed.com/aspartame/abuse/methanol.html
Believe it or not, the referenced link document is actually the one that kick-started my interest in aspartame and led to the writing of “Aspartame and Formaldehyde”. That article is essentially a direct response to the Mark Gold link.
Does a 1970 “Trade Secret” document from Searle reveal an intent to hide DKP dangers?
Yes, that’s FDA stationery in a letter to me.
Maybe the list would like to see the secret trade information which the manufacturer did give in congressional hearings. Even the hearings are on http://www.mpwhi.com/trade_secret_information_on_aspartame.htm. Notice the last paragraph where they admitted they had to conclude almost complete conversion to DKP, the brain tumor agent. What they are saying if they let the FDA they won’t get it approved.
This is a link to a page that refers to a memo from a “Mr. Helling” with a subject of “Food and Drug Sweetener Strategy” and dated December 28, 1970. Taking for granted that the document is legitimate, it discusses some admittedly shady-sounding ideas for getting “Food & Drug” to say “yes”. Having been around sales people, none of that is new nor, I’d argue, particularly relevant to the safety. More relevant is the section discussing DKP. In it they seem to look to get approval for products which would have the least change of breakdown to DKP, namely dry foods or ones which have an acid ingredient. Quoting the Hellig document itself: “If we select foods that have their storage in dry form particularly if they are formulated so there is an acid ingredient, then we would have confidence that the SC-18362 would not break down measurably during the usual maximum storage periods… [such as] a pre-sweetened cereal product that’s consumed cold.”
They go on to discuss other products in different categories, all with the goal of avoiding the breakdown to DKP, especially until they have more data about DKP.
They also note that they believe that “based on the toxicity data that we have in the feeding studies, we expect to get approvals”
Martini’s statement about the last paragraph is a complete misrepresentation. What the last paragraph actually says is that they should not try go for “spoon-for-spoon” (i.e. in place of sugar by consumers) use because they have no way of estimating maximum usage and therefore would need to assume a maximum conversion to DKP. This is just complementing the rest of the document discussing what they see as the safe usage based on their DKP studies.
I flew to Barcelona to see Dr. Maria Alemany who did the Trocho Study showing the formaldehyde from the free methyl alcohol embalms living tissue. The first thing he said to me was that aspartame will kill 200 million people.
There’s no real reason to address the Trocho, it has been covered here and within the scholarly community.
Is aspartame linked with sudden death?
People are even dropping dead from it. Go to http://www.mpwhi.com and read some of the doctor’s reports on sudden cardiac death. There are buttons at the top of the page.
As to the sudden death, this (appears to be) a reference to http://www.mpwhi.com/aspartame_and_sudden_death.htm, which has 6 links:
Link 1: http://www.wnho.net/heart_disease_links.htm – Despite Martini’s commentary about “why” diet soda is linked to heart disease, the article simply reports that researchers found that red meat and diet soda (Lutsey, 2008) were linked to higher risk of heart disease which they believed was most likely related to other behaviors correlated with drinking diet soda.
Link 2: http://www.wnho.net/aspartame_and_arrhythmias.htm
This is from H.J. Roberts discussing athlete deaths which they believe are related to aspartame. In the Roberts one is discusses a review of sudden athlete deaths which he believes are really because of aspartame (he notes that the study author makes no mention whatsoever of aspartame). He then links to a bunch of his own articles, not studies, on aspartame risks.
The closest thing to a study to his “Reactions to aspartame containing products: 551 cases”, which I was unable to find the actual content of. However it was responded to by Magnuson et al ((Magnuson, 2007):
No information on the actual amount or duration of aspartame consumption was provided. No details regarding the selection process of reactors were provided. The most common were neurological symptoms including headache,dizziness, confusion and convulsions. Other symptoms were psychiatric (depression, irritability, anxiety) or visual and auditory disturbances. No data were provided regarding whether symptoms were self-diagnosed or were ever conﬁrmed by a medical expert
.. Basically anecdotal data no better than what ends up in AERS (which I’ve discussed elsewhere).
Link 3: http://www.wnho.net/aspartame_msg_scd.htm
The Blaylock one is no better… just his opinion on the “real” cause of sudden athlete deaths. Even better, it’s from PRWeb, which is simply a self-submitted entry into “news” sources.
Link 4: http://rense.com/general82/gcar.htm
Discusses George Carlin’s death from heart attack, and then goes on to discuss the study from above which found a correlation between consumption of diet drinks and cardiovascular disease. It also contains the full body of Link 2.
Another article by Betty Martini, not a study of any sort.
Link 6: Limited-Edition Diet Coke Can For The Heart Truth Revealed!
Huffington Post link that actually 404s. The same article is on stylelist.com. In any case, this isn’t even a anti-aspartame article but actually was part of a promo campaign. Betty Martini’s instructions are to go and leave negative comments. Good times.
Also, if you read the United Press International 8 month investigation of aspartame you will see that it took Don Rumsfeld to get it on the market.
This is more of the same of the type of stuff from the Sweet Misery documentary… lots and lots of quotes from various people about how bad aspartame might be, or how it shouldn’t have been approved, and so on. What it does not have is citations for evidence linking aspartame to actual ills. The longer that aspartame is on the market, the more clear it becomes how much it is not leading to some crazy epidemic of… anything.
Lutsey, Pamela L., Lyn M. Steffen, and June Stevens. “Dietary Intake and the Development of the Metabolic Syndrome The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study.” Circulation 117, no. 6 (2008): 754-761.
Magnuson, B. A., et al. “Aspartame: a safety evaluation based on current use levels, regulations, and toxicological and epidemiological studies.” CRC Critical Reviews in Toxicology 37.8 (2007): 629-727.