My column last week discussed the dangers of consuming MSG and its related products. There is another excitotoxin on the market that is even more dangerous than MSG, and that is Aspartame – also known as NutriSweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal Measure – one of the most dangerous neurotoxins on the market, and the most widely used artificial sweetener.
Aspartame is found in diet sodas, chewing gum, candies, desserts listed as “sugar-free”, yogurt, vitamins and pharmaceuticals, almost any food listed as “diet”, and now there is talk of putting it in milk. Although it is many times sweeter than regular sugar, there is nothing nutritious about it.
The molecule known as aspartame is made of two amino acids: aspartic acid and phenylalanine, and methanol. The first two are the building blocks of proteins and a necessary part of our diets. However, these two amino acids do not occur together in nature, and certainly not in the concentrations that one gets when ingesting these diet foods.
Aspartic acid, like the glutamate in MSG, is an excitotoxin, meaning that it over-stimulates nerve cells to the point that they fatigue and die. The exact mechanism of how this happens is being debated, but aspartic acid poisoning can manifest as headaches, nausea, abdominal cramps, fatigue, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, and difficulty in breathing.
Phenylalanine is normally found in the brain, but excessive levels interfere with serotonin production,which can cause depression and mood problems. Some have even reported seizures and schizophrenia from phenylalanine poisoning.
Methanol is used in the chemical reaction that binds these two amino acids together since they are not found this way in nature. This is an industrial solvent used as a fuel and antifreeze, and is a main ingredient in paints and varnish removers. The EPA warns that methanol ingestion causes neurological damage, specifically permanent motor dysfunction, and visual disturbances leading to blurred or dimmed vision and eventually blindness.
Other symptoms of methanol poisoning include: headaches, ear buzzing, dizziness, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, weakness, vertigo, chills, memory lapses, numbness and shooting pains in the extremities, behavioral disturbances, and neuritis. And if that weren’t bad enough, metabolism of methanol by the body creates formic acid and formaldehyde, which are also known neurotoxins. It should also be mentioned that when diet sodas are sitting in the delivery trucks on a hot summer day the levels of methanol increases!
Diketpiperazine (DPK) is a fourth chemical associated with Aspartame which may be created from prolonged storage or created in the body after it is ingested. Either way, DPK is implicated in the creation of brain tumors.
Clearly, the consumption of aspartame causes havoc with one’s health. It has been linked to the onset of Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, hearing problems, epilepsy, hypoglycemia, Parkinson’s disease, brain lesions, and neuroendocrine disorders after long-term use. And although people are mistakenly using this to lose weight, it actually causes people to gain weight because the brain is sensing sweetness but not getting any sugar leading people to eat more.
If you truly wish to avoid sugar for better health, Stevia is a natural sweetener that is not toxic. Since it is derived from plants it provides a natural sweetness that won’t make you sick.
Once again, eating healthy takes time and effort. But a little diligence and doing your homework as to what you are putting in your body can lead to tremendous health benefits. Just remember one rule of thumb: If it was made in a lab, it’s not going to be good for you!