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Aspartame – the sweet poison

Nutrition & Diet

Aspartame – the sweet poison

Be it tabloids, America’s next top models or clothing catalogs – the slimming fantasy has long since found its way into our everyday lives. Nobody wants to have a pound too much on their ribs. Rather emaciated rather than healthy-looking young women search frantically for every ounce of fat, which could still be too much.

A low-sugar diet, it is said, help with weight loss or while keeping your own feel-good weight. So it is not surprising that in recent years so-called “light products”, ie products without sugar or added sugars, enjoy ever greater popularity. From sodas to yoghurt to sweets and chewing gum – the range of sugar-free foods has grown enormously. But since no one really wants to give up a sweet taste, there has to be an alternative to ordinary sugar.

In 1965, James M. Schlatter (a chemist from the pharmaceutical company G.D. Searle & Company) accidentally discovered a synthetic sweetener known worldwide today as aspartame. However, after a number of investigative findings regarding the harmfulness of aspartame, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initially refused approval, it was eventually granted by various researchers in 1981, despite massive criticism. In Germany, aspartame was released in 1990.

Since aspartame is about 200 times sweeter than ordinary table sugar, only very small amounts are needed to sweeten food. This lowers the production costs and increases the profit. In combination with the great demand for light and wellness products, this is a win-win situation for the producers.

But how harmless is aspartame? Aspartame consists of the basic substances phenylalanine and aspartic acid as well as of the alcohol methanol, into which the substance disintegrates again in the human body. At least for people who suffer from the metabolic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU), the consumption of aspartame can be life-threatening. Because these people can not break down phenylalanine, it accumulates in the brain. Stunted body growth and “nonsense” are then consequences of aspartame consumption.


But even in people who are largely healthy, phenylalanine accumulates regularly in the brain and can lead to headaches or depression, including memory loss. But the list of side effects from aspartame use is huge. Those affected suffer from anxiety, chronic fatigue, dizziness, impotence, difficulty seeing, or gaining weight, just to name a few. Especially the latter seems downright ridiculous, considering that many consumers are consciously using aspartame-containing products because they want to lose weight.

However, it is not just phenylalanine, which has a deleterious effect on the human body. Especially for children, aspartic acid represents a major health risk. If it breaks through the blood-brain barrier (the smaller the children, the less developed), it systematically destroys the nerve cells, which can lead, for example, to memory loss, epilepsy or multiple sclerosis. If an expectant mother consume aspartame in large quantities, the risk of developing an unborn child increases massively. Brain damage and various permanent disabilities are possible consequences for the baby.

Methanol also develops its harmful effect when it breaks down in the human body. The cleavage produces, among other things, formaldehyde. The use of formaldehyde can lead to allergies, respiratory irritation, memory loss, sleep problems to the destruction of the retina with the result of blindness. In 2014, formaldehyde was officially classified as carcinogenic and mutagenic. A ban on use in food, however, remained.

Given this information, a closer look at the ingredients list of foods appears to be needed to avoid targeted aspartame-containing products. Aspartame is also known by the names “NutraSweet”, “Canderel” or as additive E 951. If read on the label of the product “Contains phenylalanine” or “Contains a source of phenylalanine”, this should also be read as a warning.

Important: The information does not replace professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized physicians. The contents of can not and should not be used to independently diagnose or start treatment.

Important: The information does not replace professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized physicians. The contents of can not and should not be used to independently diagnose or start treatment.    

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