Aspartame: Sweet Poison for the Brain
The market is flooded with thousands of products labeled “low-calorie” or “light” that contain the artificial sweetener aspartame. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it is safe, but is it really? A new study shows it can cause serious detrimental changes in brain function.
For decades, research has found troubling side effects associated with aspartame such as headaches, memory loss and depression. In addition, many consumers who have eaten products containing the sweetener have reported to the FDA an array of adverse reactions that include heart palpitations, joint pain and insomnia as well as other maladies.
Now, scientists from the University of North Dakota have discovered that only half of the FDA’s safe acceptable daily intake can produce depression, irritable moods and impaired spatial orientation. While the FDA has established 50 mg/kg body weight per day as the safe intake, the symptoms in the study were manifested after the ingestion of only 25 mg/kg body weight per day.
These results are in line with an earlier study that found aspartame consumption was linked to marked depression. In this research, the participants’ dose of the sweetener was 30 mg/kg body weight per day, a quantity still well below the 50mg/kg limit. Because of the severity of the depression, the study had to be ended early.
How Does Aspartame Harm the Brain?
After aspartame is consumed, it is metabolized to aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol, a substance that further breaks down to form formaldehyde. According to Dr. Woody Monte of the University of Arizona, an expert on the toxic effects of methanol from aspartame, formaldehyde may play a significant role in the development of chronic illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease.
Aside from the harmful effects of formaldehyde, other research shows that a substantial increase in aspartic acid and phenylalanine may cause a reduction in serotonin and dopamine, brain neurotransmitters responsible for many beneficial brain actions. When these chemicals aren’t present in certain amounts, problems will ensue.
Children Are at Greater Risk
The small bodies of children make them particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of aspartame, which can contribute to the development of learning impairments, anxiety disorders and depression. Another problem is that some babies are born with phenylketonuria or PKU, a condition that prevents them from breaking down phenylalanine. Aspartame can cause impaired intellect, delayed mental skills, seizures and other adverse effects in these children.
Check Labels to Avoid Aspartame
Any food labeled “diet,” “sugar-free,” “low-calorie” or “light” is likely to contain aspartame or other equally harmful artificial sweeteners. A few of the products made with aspartame include gelatin, yogurt and pudding along with ice cream, hot chocolate and salad dressings. Since the sweetener is in thousands of other products, check the label for aspartame and avoid packets of sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal or Spoonful.