By now most people are aware that Aspartame is toxic but did you know it is currently found in over 6000 foods?
The following article from Natural Cures Not Medicine examines the far reaching effects that this artificial sweetener has on our brains.
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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved the use of aspartame in the early 80′s and has since set what they consider to be an acceptable daily intake of no more than 50 mg per kilogram of body weight. Which means that an adult weighing 165 pounds should consume no more than 3,750 mg of aspartame daily. Considering that an average can of diet soda typically contains approximately 180 mg of aspartame that means the FDA’s alleged “safe” limit is equivalent to about 21 cans of diet soda per day!
But is any level of aspartame actually safe for us? For decades now researchers have highlighted that aspartame can be responsible for headaches, memory loss, mood changes, and also depression. Many consumer complaints and annecdotal evidence back them up. For instance more than 75% of all the adverse reactions to the wide range of food additives reported to the FDA concern aspartame. Such reported problems include headaches, migraines, problems with vision, tinnitus, depression, joint pain, insomnia, heart palpitations, and muscle spasms.
Recent research from the University of North Dakota set out to test the safe limits of aspartame taken over just a short period of time. They discovered that at ingesting just half of the FDA’s “safe” acceptable daily intake, aspartame caused alarming neurobehavioral changes which included cognitive impairment, irritable moods, and depression. The research was undertaken by recruiting 28 healthy university students for a 4-week blinded trial with a four week duration. Participants were fed three meals and two snacks for 8 days. The food was measured to contain either high amounts of aspartame (25 mg/kg body weight/day) or a lower amount of aspartame (10 mg/kg body weight/day). After the initial 8 days the participants then entered a 2-week washout period and then switched over to the other treatment diet. Foods containing aspartame included yogurt, ice cream, jellies and syrups, gelatins, beverages, and desserts. Some of the conclusions are summarized below :
Aspartame Impairs Cognition. The researcher concluded that spatial orientation skills were significantly reduced for the participants after their high-aspartame diet when compared with their low aspartame period. Infact two participants also found to have clinically significant spatial orientation impairment after consuming high-aspartame diets. In addition two other students experienced a clinically significant impaired working memory. This is in line with an earlier study of 90 university students which found aspartame users reported longer memory lapses than the students who didn’t comsume the chemical.
Aspartame Triggers Depression and Irritable Mood In the North Dakota study, no students were found to have signs of depression after eating the low-aspartame diet. However the students became significantly more depressed following the high-aspartame diet. Furthermore after consuming the high-aspartame diet, 3 of the participants showed signs of mild to moderate clinical depression. The participants showed significantly more irritability after consuming the high-aspartame diet also. The researchers believed these results were consistent with an earlier double-blind, randomized, crossover trial which was found to show severe depression was related to aspartame. This study invloved 40 participants who had depression and 40 participants who did not have depression, and they were given even higher aspartame meals (30 mg/kg body weight/day) or confectioners’ sugar. Shockingly that study had to be halted early due to several severe adverse reactions suffered by the depressed participants who consumed aspartame.
So how does aspartame affect the brain? These researchers noted that it is actually the chemical makeup of aspartame that is partly responsible for its effects on the brain. Aspartame is metabolized to generating aspartic acid (known to be an excitatory neurotransmitter), phenylalanine, and methanol. Methanol, which is also known as wood alcohol, breaks down once in the body into formaldehyde. Other researchers have found a link between substantial increases in phenylalanine and aspartic acid, and reductions in dopamine and serotonin production following aspartame ingestion. These researchers point out that there are relatively few clinical studies up till now measuring the neurobehavioral effects of short-term aspartame consumption. More research is needed, especially on the long-term effects of daily aspartame use.
How can we avoid aspartame? Nowadays aspartame is found in so many common products it is increasingly difficult to avoid altogether. It is most commonly found in diet sodas, instant oatmeal, yogurt, sugar-free gums, candies, flavored waters, hot chocolate mixes, puddings, salad dressings, ice creams, even in children’s vitamins and thousands of other products. We have to meticulously read the labels on all packaged foods especially if you are one of the millions of people who are increasingly sensitive to aspartame. We need to avoid those little packets in restaurants. Aspartame is marketed under the names “NutraSweet,” “Equal,” and “Spoonful.” Instead try stevia. It is a completely natural sweetener made directly from the leaves of a plant native to South America. It is also known as “sweetleaf” or “sugarleaf.” Stevia is essentially calorie-free. We should choose the less processed green product which is stevia in its natural form, as opposed to its white powdered form. Honey and xylitol are other good natural alternatives.
Neurobehavioral effects of aspartame consumption from PubMed
(US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health)