critique of 12.4.2 EU SCF aspartame report by Gold 2.3.3: Murray 12.14.3 rmforall
critique of 12.4.2 EU SCF aspartame report by Gold 2.3.3:
Murray 12.15.3 rmforall
summary of 59-page critique by Gold of 12.4.2 EC SCF report on aspartame:
Murray 2.16.3 rmforall
Mark D. Gold for years has provided informed, referenced, balanced, and
civil critiques on aspartame toxicity and related issues on the Net
as a layman expert. I here provide a plain text version of his critique, so
it can conveniently be posted, copied, printed and used in other documents.
Only minor typos have been edited. At the end of his critique, I add a few
recent research listings.
EP, FSA AND SCF WEBSITES
1. The Explanatory Statement and Draft Report by Anne Ferreira, the
Rapporteur, relating to the Amendments to the Sweeteners Directive 94/35/EC
2. The Opinion of Aspartame by the Scientific Committee on Food given
4th December 2002 http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/aspartamereview
3. SCF website http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/sc/scf/out155_en.pdf
On April 10, 2003 the European Union Parliament voted 440 to 20 to
approve sucralose, limit cyclamates & reevaluate aspartame & stevia:
Murray 4.12.3 rmforall
Persons ingesting aspartame are being exposure
to significant amounts of formaldehyde that has been shown by
independent research to accumulate throughout the body.
Chronic, low-level exposure to formaldehyde (even without accumulation)
has been shown in human research to cause irreversible genetic damage,
headaches, seizures, neurobehavioral problems, gastrointestinal and
cardiovascular problems, fatigue, chest pains, dizziness, etc.
Exposure to a free-form excitotoxic amino acid from aspartame would be
expected to worsen the adverse effects from chronic formaldehyde
Aspartame manufacturer-sponsored studies are designed in a way as to
avoid the possibility of finding adverse effects, yet the Committee
accepted these studies without any question.
In contrast, nearly all independent research on aspartame in animals or
humans has found that aspartame can cause problems.
Human studies and clinical reports published in the medical literature
linking aspartame use to fibromyalgia, seizures, panic attacks, mania,
brain cancer, migraines / headaches, vertigo, symptoms related to
depression, memory loss, hives, irregular heart beats, vision loss, and
numerous of symptoms were largely ignored by the Committee.
It appears that the Committee obtained most of its information from
aspartame industry public relations books that they repeatedly cited
(Stegink 1984, Tschanz 1996),
published reviews by manufacturer employees (Butchko 1994, Butchko 2001),
a report from the French Food Agency (AFSSA 2002) written by some unknown
individual(s), and perhaps
the occasional published study, primarily manufacturer-sponsored studies.
A significant amount of independent research was ignored, and when
independent studies were mentioned, they were quickly labeled as flawed.
There is evidence that the Committee did not read some or most of the
research they cited and is only familiar with aspartame-related research
from the aspartame manufacturer's perspective.
It appears that there is far too much food industry influence on the
Scientific Committee on Food.
In fact, it would be unlikely that an unbiased review could be performed
on aspartame, stevia or any other controversial food related subjects
without refilling the Committee positions from scratch.
New Committee members should meet the following criteria:
1. No food industry ties. Disclosure of past and current ties to the food
2. History of ability to stand up to food industry interests when necessary.
3. Expertise in various specialties (e.g., neuroscience, toxicology,
4. Willingness to read all of the relevant research and hear both
independent and food industry testimony.
Independent Analysis of the "Opinion of the European Commission,
Scientific Committee on Food: Update on the Safety of Aspartame / E951"
[Dec. 4, 2002] MS Word (Rich Text Format) Version and
HTML Version: 59 pages, 230 references.
Independent Analysis of the
"Opinion of the European Commission, Scientific Committee on Food:
Update on the Safety of Aspartame / E951" (SCF 2002) [Dec 4, 2002]
[ The EC SCF report is also available at [23 pages in 2 parts, references]:
safety of aspartame Part 1/2 12.4.2: EC HCPD-G SCF:
Murray 1.12.3 rmforall
safety of aspartame Part 2/2 12.4.2: EC HCPD-G SCF:
Murray 1.12.3 rmforall ]
by Mark D. Gold Aspartame Toxicity Information Center*
12 East Side Dr., Suite 2-18 mgold@...
Concord, New Hampshire, 02139 USA 1-603-225-2110
Draft Version 4a: February 3, 2003
*The Aspartame Toxicity Information Center is funded by Mark D. Gold. No
funding has been received from the food industry for any work performed by
the author or by the Aspartame Toxicity Information Center.
Table of Contents
Aspartame Industry Influence and the Scientific Committee on Food *
Scientific Committee on Food Does Not Read the Research *
Aspartame and Formaldehyde Poisoning *
Aspartame and Migraines / Headaches *
Aspartame and Seizures *
Aspartame and Brain Cancer *
Aspartame and Reproductive Effects *
Aspartame and Behavior, Cognition, Mood *
Aspartame and Other Effects *
In 2001, the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency requested that the
European Commission Scientific Committee on Food conduct an updated
review of the artificial sweetener, aspartame / E951 (FSA 2001a).
The Scientific Committee on Food was asked to look at more than 500
scientific papers published between 1988 and 2000 and any other new
scientific research not examined previously by the Committee (FSA 2001b).
On December 10, 2002, the Scientific Committee on Food published its
final report (SCF 2002).
This response will demonstrate that:
1. Members of the European Commission Scientific Committee on Food
have ethical and financial conflicts of interest with the food industry
that should have disqualified them from participation on the Committee.
2. Members of the Scientific Committee on Food did not read
some or most of the research papers they cited.
3. The report ignored independent research related to
aspartame and instead relied heavily on and frequently cited articles in
books and reviews put together by employees or consultants of the
aspartame manufacturers (Monsanto and Ajinomoto).
4. Persons ingesting aspartame are being exposed to significant
amounts of formaldehyde that has been shown by independent research to
accumulate throughout the body.
5. Aspartame manufacturer-sponsored studies are designed in a way
as to avoid the possibility of finding adverse effects, yet the
Committee accepted these studies without any question.
In contrast, nearly all independent research on aspartame in humans and
animals has found that it can cause problems.
6. Human studies and clinical reports published in the medical
literature linking aspartame use to fibromyalgia, seizures, panic
attacks, mania, brain cancer, migraines / headaches, vertigo, symptoms
related to depression, memory loss, hives, irregular heart beats, and
numerous other symptoms were largely ignored by the Committee.
In addition to the analysis of the Scientific Committee on Food report,
there will be numerous sample aspartame poisoning case reports within
the text to give the reader an idea of the clinical effects being
reported. The reports will be taken from
the medical literature and from the Aspartame Toxicity Information
Center listing of cases (ATIC 1997, 1998). [marked with ***]
References [230 listed] for this analysis appear at the end of the report.
***January 27, 1995 Dear Dr. Roberts:
The purpose of this letter is to thank you for saving me from the clutches
of aspartame. I admire your courage in standing up to the F.D.A. and other
organizations and individuals who make the public believe this substance is
For several years I had been hearing about your book, papers, and public
appearances regarding the dangers of aspartame, but, like so many others,
thought I could trust that the F.D.A. wouldn't approve anything for human
consumption which wasn't safe. I had to be brought to my knees before I
finally purchased and read your book last month. It was out of desperation,
as over a period of 8 years I have had one ailment after another, most of
which the doctors and specialists could not diagnose or treat. I have been
to all of them mentioned in your book and had all the tests as well.
I have had most all of the symptoms as those you surveyed: petit mal
seizures, headaches (felt like my brain was going to come out of my heat),
loss of vision, dry eyes, dry mouth, dry skin, disorientation, dizziness,
sleeplessness, diarrhea, sensitivity to noise and bright light, stomach
bloat and gas, inability to lose weight on what had previously been a
successful diet and might have gained weight, shortness of breath, chest
pains, irregular heart beat. I always had the feeling I was seeing the world
through a clouded lens.
I took myself off aspartame about a month ago. The above symptoms are either
gone or are greatly reduced at this point. Thank you, thank you.
I do have a question - you mention rheumatic disorders in your book - I was
diagnosed as having Polymyalgia Rheumatica about 8 years ago and was treated
for almost 3 years with prednisone. I had gone from perfect health to almost
being crippled at age 53 for no apparent reason. Could that have also been
brought on by the consumption of aspartame? That would have been about the
time that substance was first appearing on the market.
Another purpose of this letter is to let you know I am an activist type and
am willing to fight for causes I believe in. If I can help you in any way,
please let me know. I'll write letters. I'll speak. It would be good therapy
for me. Right now I have a mountain of resentment about the years of pain
and suffering needlessly caused by ingesting something harmful into my boy
without even being warned. When you consider that I drive a lot, it could
have cost me my life.
Sincerely, Gwenne Allen (ATIC 1997)
Date: Sun, 04 Feb 96 21:27:15 0600
Sir I am reading the postings on the internet about aspertame with great
intrest and anger.
I had been drinking Diet Coke for the past 12 years. This was the only form
of liquid I consumed, with the very odd glass of water or even less often a
glass of milk. The quantity of consumption varied between 2 and 5 litres a
day. Every day for almost 12 years.
In March of 1995 I saw part of a TV program that was about aspertame. The
interviewer was talking to a representative from the company that makes
aspertame. The representative said that the company had received 6,000
written complaints about the product, everything from strokes to liver and
kidney failure to joint problems. He sat there and said that their doctors
and scientists could not confirm even one of the complaints. My
understanding of the American ratio of actual complaints to written
complaints is in the neighbourhood of 5,000 to 1 and may be as high as
10,000 to 1. This would mean that between 30,000,000 and 60,000,000 million
people were having problems with this product. I quit drinking diet coke
Problems that I had attributed to stress of running my own business included
high blood pressure, gout, kidney stones, joint problems had been with me
for several years. Other problems that were present, but masked included;
burn out and depression, confussion in decision making, general lack of
drive and loss of feeling in my hands. The withdrawl process was not easy,
but I have been off aspertame for approximately 10 months now and many of my
problems are going away. I understand that it make take a long time to perge
the body of the residual toxins, but it is happening. (ATIC 1998)***
Aspartame Industry Influence and the Scientific Committee on Food
A. Food Industry Conflict of Interest and Corruption - United States
"Science is losing credibility. Conflicts of interest, biased studies, and
secrecy are undermining science's reputation and its truth-seeking
"Scientist-consultants who are paid by industries but who serve as faculty
professors frequently testify before Congress and federal regulatory
agencies without pausing to reveal their industry connections. Science
departments in public universities enter into multi-million-dollar contracts
with private corporations, yet few details are revealed about the nature of
such agreements. Medical and other science journals all too frequently
publish articles without adequately disclosing even major conflicts of
interest." [Collins (2000) - Director of the Integrity in Science Project at
the Center for Science in the Public Interest].
In the United States, corruption of governmental and scientific committees
by the food industry was disclosed in the late 1960's and early 1970's. In
an article in the journal Science (1972), it was revealed that the National
Academy of Sciences (NAS) Food Protection Committee was being funded by the
food, chemical and packaging industries. The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) was relying on the NAS Committee for "independent"
information. The Chairman of the NAS Subcommittee investigating monosodium
glutamate (MSG) had recently taken part in research partially funded by the
MSG manufacturer. Another member of the Subcommittee became a spokesperson
for the MSG industry. (Science 1972). Other members of the Subcommittee had
ties to the MSG industry. Since that time numerous governmental committees
have been corrupted by the placement of food industry-funded consultants on
these committees (Samuels 1999, Collins 2000).
B. Food Industry Conflict of Interest and Corruption - Worldwide
On January 9, 2003, The Guardian reported that they obtained a confidential
report relating to the food industry experts "infiltrating" the World Health
Organization (WHO) Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) committees
(Guardian 2003). The report found that:
- Food companies attempted to place scientists favourable to their views on
WHO and Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) committies.
- They financially supported non-governmental organisations which were
invited to formal discussions on key issues with the United Nations (UN)
- They financed research and policy groups that supported their views.
- They financed individuals who would promote "anti-regulation ideology" to
the public, for instance in newspaper articles.
"One industry-led organization, International Life Sciences Institute
(ILSI), has positioned its experts and expertise across the who spectrum of
food and tobacco policies: at conferences, on FAO/WHO food policy committees
and within WHO, and with monographs, journals and technical briefs."
The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) is an industry group
founded in 1978 by Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Heinz Foundation, General Foods,
Kraft Foods (owned by Philip Morris), and Proctor & Gamble. Manufacturers of
aspartame, Monsanto and Ajinomoto, have branches in various parts of the
world that have separate memberships in the ILSI. Holland Sweetener Company,
another company that sells aspartame, is a member of ILSI (ILSI 2003,
Guardian 2003). The ILSI funds research on aspartame and other industry
concerns. The ILSI Aspartame Committee is made up of the NutraSweet Company,
Ajinomoto Co., Coca Cola Co., Pepsico, Inc., Royal Crown Co., Seven-Up,
Inc., and other manufacturers of aspartame-containing products [Gordon
1987]. The manufacturer of aspartame threatened to have the ILSI research
funding vetoed for one scientist who said negative things about aspartame in
public (Wurtman 1987).
Governmental committees are often corrupted by companies and industry trade
organizations that are able to get paid consultants or other biased persons
on the committee. Monsanto and Ajinomoto of Japan marketed aspartame in
Europe in the 1980's and 1990's. A confidential memo obtained by GeneWatch
demonstrates that Monsanto tries to influence who is put on scientific
committees with "scientific outreach":
"Scientific outreach and Ag Regulatory was instrumental in assuring that key
internationally recognized scientific experts were nominated to the FAO/WHO
expert consultation on food safety which was held in Geneva this past month.
The consultation and final report were very supportive of plant
biotechnology, including support for the critical role of substantial
equivalence in food safety assessments, antibiotic resistance markers used
in these products, and the reservation of animal feeding studies to address
specific questions rather than for routine safety" (Monsanto 2000)
Ajinomoto of Japan has benefited tremendously by having key committees
corrupted by biased, industry-paid consultants (Samuels 1999)
C. Conflict of Interest on the Scientific Committee on Food
Members of the European Commission Scientific Committee on Food have
admitted to a conflict of interest:
According to Baby Milk Action, the UK partner of the International Baby Food
Action Network, four members of the committee -- Professor Ablert Flynn
(Ireland), Professor Ronald Walker (United Kingdom), Wim H M Saris (the
Netherlands), and Professor Anna Ferro Luzzi (Italy) -- have declared
"economic or ethical interests which might be considered prejudicial" to
their independence. (BMJ 2000)
One member of the European Commission Scientific Committee on Food, Ronald
Walker, spent seven (7) years as the ILSI's Chairman of their Scientific
Committee on Toxicology/Food Safety in Europe (Walker 2001). Another member
of the Committee, W.H.M. Saris, is the chairman of the ILSI Scientific
Committee on Nutrition (NUTRIM 2000). At least half of the Committee members
have been involved in ILSI projects and/or participated in ILSI workshops
The Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) documents are presented without any
information as to the past or current financial ties between the Committee
members and the food industry. Despite the efforts by independent
organizations, the members of the Scientific Committee on Food do not
provide a detailed accounting of their food industry ties even after such
ties are discovered (BMA 1997)
***April 16, 1995
I had used Equal/NutraSweet/aspartame for 4 or 5 years with no idea that
it's poisonous, as I assumed that FDA approval means it's perfectly safe for
us. I Used about 12 paks of Equal in hot coffe each day.
The first symptoms were depression and vertigo, but I didn't connect them
with Equal. My legs cramped constantly and pained at night, and I had
insomnia and terrible nightmares and memory loss. My vision deteriorated
until I expected to go blind, but my eye doctor couldn't explain why. My
life became a nightmare, and I turned to prayer.
It worked! I received a NUTRASWEET IS A NEUROTOXIN flyer listing all my
symptoms, so I abandoned aspartame in any form. My vision returned, the
cramps disappeared, and I could sleep without nightmares. The depression and
vertigo vanished. It was a miracle because I had thought I was dying and had
If you have a serious problem, it's natural to investigate it. Often the
Experts are publicity mills funded by the pirates that make the stuff. It's
like asking the Mafia about the crime rate. Both the American Dietetics and
American Diabetic Associations get big bucks from NutraSweet. Such
organizations propagandize physicians on how safe it is, so doctors are
often [not] aware of the danger.
Much research confirms aspartame toxicity as do 80% of complaints the FDA
has received on food additives. Heated aspartame is the most hazardous. My
12 packs/day in coffee almost cost my health, sanity and life. Now FDA has
approved its use in baked goods, 350 degrees! Before Equal I used saccharin
without a problem. It looks like we have no protector, so we must warn each
other. In this spirit I attest to the nightmare Equal made of my life. I
urge you to take the no aspartame test and discover if your health problems
are the results of continuous daily poisoning.
Mrs. Gloria Collins (ATIC 1997)***
D. Scientific Committee on Food and Obvious Bias
Almost all aspartame studies conducted and funded independently of the
aspartame manufacturer (and related trade groups) have linked aspartame to
adverse effects or adverse biochemical changes. This includes numerous human
studies (e.g., clinical, double-blind) and animal studies (Walton 1996). As
discussed throughout this document, the Scientific Committee on Food either
ignored many of these independent studies or had negative things to say
about almost all of the independent studies that they did mention. An
enormous number of reports of serious adverse effects from aspartame are
being sent to governmental agencies, scientists, clinicians, and independent
organizations (DHHS 1993, Roberts 1988a, Food 1986, Walton 1988, ATIC 1998,
ATIC 1997, ACSN 1997, AVSG 2003, NM 2003).
On the other hand, the Committee accepted almost all of the aspartame
industry-funded studies without any negative comment. In fact, the Committee
relied heavily on and repeatedly cited parts of books and reviews written
and compiled by employees of the aspartame manufacturer (e.g., Stegink 1984,
Tschanz 1996, Butchko 1994, Butchko 2001).
In contrast, the Scientific Committee on Food succeeded in banning the sale
of the natural sweetener, stevia throughout parts of Europe (SCF 1999).
Stevia has been used for centuries in South America and for many decades in
Japan and South Korea (AHPA 1991). No adverse reactions have been reported
from stevia use (in contrast to an endless flow of adverse reactions from
aspartame use). Since stevia is low calorie and diabetic-safe, it would be
competition to the manufacturers of aspartame and other artificial
sweeteners. A large number of animal studies have been conducted adding to
the clinical evidence that demonstrates that stevia is safe (AHPA, 1991,
Stevia 2003, HRF 1993, Kinghorn 1988, Kinghorn 1992). Despite the contrast
in independent research and clinical reports between stevia and aspartame,
the Committee focused on a tiny subset of the stevia animal studies where
adverse effects were seen at tremendously-large doses and made a decision
that banned the sale of stevia in parts of Europe.
E. Scientific Committee on Food -- Solutions to the Bias
Some medical journals require authors to submit conflict of interest
statements and some of those journals will print the relevant conflicts of
interest along with the journal article (Krimsky 2001). Scientists who read
the article and see a conflict of interest can read it very carefully to see
if there are flaws in the experimental design, compare the results with
independent research, or even choose to ignore such articles. The Scientific
Committee of Food appears to avoid admitting to conflict of interest even
after it is discovered (BMA 1997).
Appropriate immediate changes would be as follows:
1. Require that members of the Scientific Committee on Food submit (and keep
updated) a detailed conflict of interest statement detailing:
- Whether the individual members or their laboratories have received money
from food companies manufacturing or selling aspartame or other
products/ingredients they are reviewing.
- Whether the individual members or their laboratories have received money
from food industry trade groups such as ILSI or the International Glutamate
Technical Committee (IGTC).
- Whether the members have had a professional relationship with relevant
companies or trade groups such as working on their committees, testifying as
an expert witness, etc.
2. Appropriate conflict of interest statements should be placed on the
Internet and attached to each report published by the Scientific Committee
on Food. Press releases related to report findings should have attached
conflict of interest statements.
The immediate changes will not solve the main problem, however, as the
Committee reports can still be heavily tainted with food industry bias. The
second- step in fixing the problem would be to replace all of the Committee
members with scientists who have proven independence, a proven track record
of standing up to food industry pressure, and a willingness to thoroughly
investigate the matters being studied.
***Date: Mon, 28 Jul 1997 13:13:35 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Welcome Back To Life, Aspartame Free
I wanted to write to let you know that I have now been completely off of
aspartame for one month and I can feel the results!
First, for two years I have had fibromyalgia-like symptoms. I hurt all over.
Shoulders, legs, back, neck ankles, all were painful most of the time. I had
chronic insomnia and could hardly sleep at night. My vision was getting
worse all of the time. In the single month that I eliminated aspartame, I
feel 100% better. I don't hurt. The carpal tunnel in my wrist and shoulder
has finally subsided. My memory seems to be improving. I have more energy
and I don't get as hungry.
I found that I was drinking 3-4 diet Cokes everyday. Fortunately, I did not
use Equal in my tea or coffee. I use either sugar or sweet n low. I don't
know much about saccharin testing but I cannot believe that it is as bad as
aspartame. I am going to get some stevia and try that.
I have made copies of some of the articles and sent them to a number of
people who have also "sworn off" of aspartame.
Obviously the FDA does not care one bit about product safety. If a company
is as big as Monsanto, they can market any kind of poison they please
without a whimper from the FDA. And, it appears that Congress is powerless
to stop them. Or, that Congress is too busy with their "in-fighting" to do
anything for the people who voted them into office. (ATIC 1998)***
Scientific Committee on Food Does Not Read the Research
Throughout the Committee's report on aspartame, there is evidence that the
Committee members do not read some or most of the research that they cite.
One example will be given in this section.
The Committee cites as evidence that aspartame does not cause seizures two
aspartame industry-funded human studies (Rowan 1995, Shaywitz 1994). Had
they read these studies, the Committee would know that nearly 100% of the
subjects in these studies were taking anti-seizure medication while the
studies were being conducted! Obviously, anti-seizure medication will reduce
or eliminate seizures during the study. But the Committee report presented
these aspartame industry-funded studies as if they provided legitimate
evidence about aspartame use and seizures in the general population. The
Committee did not have a negative word to say about these two studies!
There are three possible reasons that the Committee cited these two studies
and had nothing negative to say about them:
1. The Committee did not read the studies.
2. The Committee is so biased that they will cite any aspartame
industry-funded study no matter how irrelevant or absurd it is.
3. The Committee actually believes that anti-seizure medication doesn't
reduce or prevent seizures, has no effect on the studies, and therefore the
studies apply to the general population not taking anti-seizure medication.
It is unlikely that the Committee is completely ignorant about anti-seizure
medication. Even though members of the Committee have a conflict of
interest, it is hoped that their bias is not so extreme that they would know
about the use of anti-seizure medication and still cite these studies as
evidence. It is more likely that some or all of the Committee members did
not read these studies. There are numerous instances in the report where it
becomes clear that the Committee members did not read the research they were
reviewing and have only marginal familiarity with aspartame research in
***Date: Thu, 25 Jan 1996 00:50:00 GMT
Subject: Not getting Your Mail
LA>Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996 23:06:08 GMT
LA>Subject: Request (help) LA>Organization: The Source BBS
LA panic-attacks Lancet article: Aspartame triggers panic
I am very eager to get all the info you have, but for now do not have WEB
access and only have an Internet E-Mail drop. I have personally experienced
temporary blindness, panic attacks, and many other unpleasant side effects
from Aspartame. I have given literature to all my family members and many of
my friends, and ALL that I have given the info to have eliminated aspartame
from their diet. Is there some way that I can get all your help files by
downloading them somehow?
Date: Tue, 27 Feb 1996 20:52:00 GMT
Subject: Re: Not getting Your Mail
My last bout with NutraSweet was over a year ago now, thank goodness! I live
in fear that it will sneak into food or a drink and I check labels very
carefully. The near-blindness episode combined with a panic attack and heart
arythmia and a frightening drop in blood pressure were all triggered by *a
single stick* of Trident sugarless gum! Maybe if we started suing the
companies that use aspartame in their products they'll show a little more
moral responsibility than the greed-driven Monsanto moguls.***
Aspartame and Formaldehyde Poisoning
"These are indeed extremely high levels for adducts of formaldehyde, a
substance responsible for chronic deleterious effects that has also been
"It is concluded that aspartame consumption may constitute a hazard because
of its contribution to the formation of formaldehyde adducts." (Trocho 1998)
A. Aspartame & Formaldehyde Research Ignored by the Scientific Committee on
The Scientific Committee on Food appears to be completely unfamiliar with
the current research and reviews related to aspartame, formaldehyde, and
methanol. The Committee cited and relied solely on a commentary by an
aspartame industry researcher (Tephly 1999) and an article in a book put
together by aspartame industry researchers (Stegink 1984a) as evidence of
safety. In fact, the Committee appears to shy away from the use of the term
"formaldehyde" in the report, mentioning it only once when they quote
another review (AFSSA 2002). Since the Committee largely ignored the
formaldehyde issue, some of the relevant research will be summarized below.
B. Aspartame & Formaldehyde Summary of Research
Methanol is quickly absorbed from aspartame ingestion (Davoli 1986).
Methanol is converted into formaldehyde in the body (Kavet 1990). Some of
the formaldehyde is converted into formic acid and eliminated by the body
(Kavet 1990). However, Trocho (1998) demonstrated that aspartame ingestion
at low levels by rodents: 10 mg/kg body weight, lead to formaldehyde
accumulation in the liver, brain, kidneys and other parts of the body. The
formaldehyde was bound as "adducts" to proteins and DNA. Research in humans
demonstrates that adduct formation can occur from formaldehyde exposure
(Carraro 1997, 1999).
Setting aside the very serious issue of formaldehyde accumulation from
aspartame ingestion and just considering the proven formaldehyde exposure
from aspartame, one can see numerous human studies where adverse effects
have been reported from chronic, low-level formaldehyde exposure:
- Irreversible genetic damage from long-term, low-level exposure (Shaham
- Headaches, fatigue, chest tightness (Main 1983)
- Sleeping problems, burning skin, fatigue, chest pain, dizziness (Liu 1991)
- Headaches, fatigue, IgE-mediated sensitization (Wantke 1996)
- Musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular symptoms (Srivastava
- Headaches, tiredness (Olsen 1982)
- Headaches, dizziness, nausea, lack of concentration ability (Burdach 1980)
- Cytogenic effects of blood lymphocytes (Suruda 1993)
- Fertility (adverse effects) (Taskinen 1999)
- Cognitive adverse effects (Kilburn 2000)
- Seizures and neurobehavioral impairment (Kilburn 1994)
- Headaches, skin problems (Proietti 2002)
- Low birth weight (Maroziene 2002)
- Neurobehavioral symptoms (Kilburn 1985)
- Memory problems, equilibrium and dexterity impairment.(Kilburn 1987)
Formaldehyde exposure estimates have been calculated previously by this
author based on the intake of aspartame, percentage of methanol derived from
aspartame, and the molecular weights of formaldehyde and methanol (ATIC
C. Public Relations, Aspartame, Methanol, and Formaldehyde
Before we discuss what little the Committee did say related to aspartame and
formaldehyde, it is important to answer all of the typical public relations
statements from the manufacturer and their consultants who claim there is no
problem with aspartame and formaldehyde. The answers provided below will be
brief. Much more detailed and referenced answers can be found at ATIC (2001)
on the Internet at: [
Chart of Aspartame Manufacturer Public Relations Statements
Related to Methanol and Formaldehyde
Manufacturer Claim --- Independent Response
Methanol is found in fruits and alcoholic beverages at higher levels than in
aspartame products. --- Alcoholic beverages contain large amounts of
ethanol (a protective factor) which allows methanol to be excreted before
much of it is converted into formaldehyde (Leaf 1952, Liesivuori 1991, Roe
Fruit juices have protective factors as well that prevent formaldehyde
poisoning. Fruit juices produce enough methanol to "qualify as significantly
methanol-contaminated liquor" (Lindinger 1997) -- more methanol than what
causes chronic health problems in occupational exposure (Kazeniac 1970,
Kavet 1990, Frederick 1984, Kingsley 1954-55). Since we do not see chronic
poisoning from fruit juices, they must contain protective factors as well.
Fruit juices have ethanol as well as other possible protective factors.
Blood methanol levels do not increase when aspartame is ingested. --- In
every study cited by the aspartame manufacturer, they used a very old
methanol measuring method (Baker 1969) that is incapable of registering
increases that are less than ~500%. Appropriate methanol testing techniques
show as much as a doubling of blood methanol levels when ingesting
relatively small quantities of aspartame (Davoli 1986).
The level of methanol ingested from aspartame is not enough to cause
poisoning. --- The manufacturer is referring to levels of methanol that
cause death or near-death in one dose. It is the formaldehyde and formic
acid (metabolites of methanol) that cause the poisoning from low-level,
chronic exposure as described earlier.
The manufacturer sometimes cites Reynolds (1984) where monkeys were given
the equivalent of 300 mg/kg of methanol per day for nine months without
adverse effects. --- Methanol and its metabolites are much more toxic in
humans than in other animals (Roe 1982). One dose of 300 mg/kg of methanol
is potentially lethal
in humans (Kavet 1991).
Formaldehyde and methanol is found in the body. --- The levels of
formaldehyde and methanol in the body are very tightly controlled so that
even very small exposures cause adverse health effects. Exposure to
formaldehyde at levels of only ~0.75 mg/day caused adverse health effects
Significant levels of formate (methanol metabolite) are not seen in the
blood and urine of persons ingesting moderate doses of aspartame. --- For
chronic formaldehyde poisoning "formic acid in urine is not an appropriate
parameter for biological-monitoring of low level exposure to formaldehyde."
(Heinzow 1992). Blood formate measurements are not appropriate for chronic,
low-level formaldehyde exposure (Osterloh 1996, d'Alessandro 1994)
Higher levels of formaldehyde can be found in some foods. --- Formaldehyde
is produced in the body after the methanol from aspartame is absorbed.
However, unlike methanol, formaldehyde in foods is not well absorbed:
"Ingestion represents a minor route of [formaldehyde] exposure because the
dilution factor and the binding to the macromolecules present in food reduce
substantially the [formaldehyde] concentration that enters into contact with
the gastrointestinal mucos." (Restani 1991)
***Aspartame Consumer Safety Questionnaire
Age: 39 Sex: Male
British Columbia, Canada
I have had many medical problems as the result of Aspartame (Sweet Death).
Q. Why do you believe aspartame caused these problems?
A. The problems presented themselves after only a few months of consuming
food products with aspartame.
Q. Did the symptoms go away when you stopped using the products?
A. Yes, but it took some time for the symptoms to subside.
Q. Did you see a Doctor?
Q. Did the Doctor think it related to aspartame?
A. No, he related it to stress, caffeine, etc. Aspartame never entered the
Q. Did you report problems to FDA?
A. No. I only reported the problem to my Doctor. He displayed a lot of
interest in my findings and wanted to know where he could find more
Q. What specific products were you consuming?
A. Gum (One pack per day) and diet drinks (about one per day).
Q. How long have you been consuming these products?
A. About 5-6 months. As time marched on, I consumed more products.
2. Severe headaches
4. Numbness and tingling of extremities
5. Chronic fatigue
7. Rapid heart beat, Tachycardia
10. Burning urination
11. Burning of eyes
I hope this gives you an idea of what this stuff does to the poor
consumer... (ATIC 1998)***
D. Scientific Committee on Food and Formaldehyde Poisoning
The Committee made two comments related to methanol and formaldehyde
poisoning in their report:
1. Referring to the methanol absorbed from aspartame, the Committee stated:
"Methanol is also rapidly metabolised and blood levels are usually not
detectable unless large bolus doses of aspartame (>50 mg/kg bw) are
They cite Stegink (1984a) as evidence. The second item listed in the chart
above details how the manufacturer funded numerous studies using an outdated
methanol measuring test (Baker 1969) that was incapable of registering
increases that were less than ~ 500%. Why is the Committee relying on an
aspartame industry public relations book (Stegink 1984a) when millions of
people are getting accurate information from independent sources in the
medical literature or on the Internet?
2. Referring to Trocho (1998) where formaldehyde adducts were found to
accumulate in the liver, brain, kidneys and other parts of the body after
aspartame ingestion, the Committee stated:
"...radiolabelled methanol will be split off and enter the body's one-carbon
pool, with the potential to appear anywhere there is methylation. The
Committee therefore agrees with the analysis of Tephly (1999) that formation
of DNA adducts has not been demonstrated."
Formaldehyde is difficult to measure directly. What Trocho (1998) did was
radiolabel the methanol portion of aspartame so that it could be tracked in
the body. As methanol travels through the body, it is converted into
formaldehyde and then at least some of it is converted into formic acid
(formate). Trocho (1998) demonstrated with the data that the buildup of
radiolabelled material in the brain, liver, kidneys of could not be methanol
or formic acid or any other metabolite of methanol -- other than
formaldehyde bound to protein.
Trocho (1998) gave a relatively small dose of aspartame to rodents and
discovered that formaldehyde from aspartame was binding to protein and DNA
(as "adducts") and accumulating in the brain, liver and other organs and
".... The "alternative" point expressed by Tephly [(1999}], suggesting that
aspartame methanol-label goes all the way into formic acid and the C1
pathway was thoroughly refuted by us, using experimental data. There was no
labelled methionine nor thymine in protein and DNA respectively in the rat
protein we recovered from rats treated with aspartame. This
means--unequivocally-- that the label present in DNA and protein adducts was
NOT incorporated into amino acids or nucleic acid bases. The only
explanation for our data was that the label was in the form of formaldehyde
adducts. ...." (Alemany 2002)
If we assume that the Committee read the Trocho (1998) study and actually
believes (without any alternate explanation) that it was not formaldehyde
accumulating from aspartame ingestion, then the following questions are
a. Why did the Committee choose not focus on formaldehyde exposure issues if
it was unsure about formaldehyde accumulating from aspartame use? After all,
a large number of studies of formaldehyde exposure in humans have shown it
causes adverse effects.
b. Why did the Committee show absolutely no concern about what was
accumulating in the body from aspartame ingestion in the Trocho (1998)
experiment even if they were not sure it was formaldehyde?
c. Why didn't the Committee bring in the researchers from the Trocho (1998)
experiment or independent experts on chronic formaldehyde and methanol
poisoning to advise them on this issue?
***Date: Wed, 17 Jun 1998 06:07:05 GMT
My story? I was drinking a lot of Ribena light (a reduced sugar blackcurrant
drink) and using a lot of low sugar chewing gum in January this year. I
started getting severe heart rhythm abnormalities (known as "ectopic" beats)
which have stopped since I removed all Aspartame products from my diet.
I feel I have a duty to let more people know about this poison. Do you have
an info pack you can send? Is Monsanto likely to take legal action (or have
they done so) against people campaigning against Aspartame? I'd be
interested to take this one to court...***
E. Formaldehyde and Excitotoxins: Synergistic Poisoning
The Committee discounted health issues relating to the free-form (unbound to
protein) excitotoxic amino acid obtained from aspartame by relying on and
citing old and inaccurate information from an aspartame industry book
(Stegink 1984a). Because they relied on aspartame industry research (Stegink
1984a) (or perhaps MSG industry research (Walker 2000)) for information
about food-based excitotoxins, the Committee was unaware of the need to
discuss potential synergistic adverse effects from exposure to formaldehyde
and a free-form excitotoxic amino acid.
It is not the goal of this report to provide details about the effects of
food-based excitotoxins. Excellent information about both acute and chronic
effects from food-based excitotoxins can be obtained from Samuels (1999,
2002), Blaylock (1994), Olney (1984, 1988, 1990, 1994), Science (1972).
Samuels (1999) (which is available on the Internet) is a particularly
important paper for information about the manipulation of research by the
After aspartame is ingested, approximately 40% of it breaks down into a
free-form excitotoxic amino acid which is quickly-absorbed (as long as it is
not given in slow-dissolving capsules) (Stegink 1987a). The sudden
absorption can cause a dramatic spike in blood plasma levels of this
excitotoxin (Stegink 1987a). It is well known that free-form excitotoxin
exposure can cause irreversible damage to brain cells (in areas such as the
retina, hypothalamus, etc.) in rodents and primates (Olney 1980, 1994). In
order to remove excess, cell-destroying excitotoxic amino acids from
extracellular space, glial cells surround the neurons and supply them with
energy (Blaylock 1994, page 39, Izumi 2002). This takes large amounts of
ATP. However, formate, a formaldehyde metabolite, is an ATP inhibitor
It appears that methanol is converted to formate in the eye (Eells 1996,
Garner 1995, Kini 1961). Eells (1996a) showed that chronic, low-level
methanol exposure in rats led to formate accumulation in the retina of the
eye. Gonzalez-Quevedo (2002) demonstrated that chronic administration of
methanol to rodents increased levels of excitotoxic amino acid levels (e.g.,
aspartic acid) in the retina. Excitotoxic amino acids are believed to be a
cause of retinal damage (Romano 1998, Calzada 2002, Kapin 1999, Izumi 2002).
Roberts (1988a) reported that 25% of the aspartame reactors he examined had
decreased vision or other eye problems (blurring, "bright flashes," tunnel
vision), 9% had pain in one or both eyes, 8% had decreased tearing, and 3%
had blindness. Dr. Morgan Raiford, Ophthamalogist and methanol poisoning
expert testified before U.S. Congress regarding aspartame and damage to the
This product has some highly toxic reactions in the human visual pathway,
and we are beginning to observe the tragic damage to the optic nerve, such
as blindness, partial to total optic nerve atrophy. Once this destructive
process has developed there is no return of visual restoration. We are
beginning to see and observe another toxic reaction which affects the
central nervous system which is related to phenylalanine levels in the
central nervous system. These observations are more vague, however, it
stimulates the damaging to the brain and the central nervous system, having
the manifestations as PKU Neuro Damage. Over 3,000 cases have been reported,
and the FDA to date has ignored this existence.
Human Visual Pathway Damage
The human visual pathway admits ninety percent of our intellectual input to
the brain and central nervous system. All of the learning processes are
centered during ones life time. The mechanism of this tragic damage to the
human visual system from this product is and has been known for over a
decade that visual loss takes place. When this drug enters the digestive
tract, largely the upper portion, this aspartame molecule spins off a by
product known as methanol or methyl-alcohol. This product enters the
bloodstream and when these portions reach the highly metabolic region of the
optic nerve and retina, partial atrophy can and does take place. The vision
can not do without oxygen and nutrition for more than ninety seconds without
revealing some damage. Total loss of vision is present and there is no
return. In the very early stages in which is referred to as the "wet stage",
treatment can be given and will reserve the destructive pathology to the
optic nerve and retina. This must be in the mind of the physician and he
must understand the chemical ongoing process. The writer has seen many cases
where the patient was allowed to go to the degrees of blindness, as this
diagnosis of optic neuritis was rendered, as the term idiopathic neuritis of
optic nerve was given, usually steroids until systemic gross body and facial
moon developed. This therapy has demonstrated the total lack of
understanding of the basic lack of biochemical physiology at the molecular
The variability or onset of the optic nerve atrophy is of a type that one
must first think of this pathology, and it requires a certain amount of
listening to the patient. The quantity of symptoms vary with each patient.
Over the past year the writer has observed the fact that any portion of the
central nervous system can and is affected. Since the chemical phenylalanine
is mixed up with some metabolic mess, we have seen symptoms of varying hue
in the extremities, sensations of dullness of the intellect, visual shadows,
evidence of word structure reversing and some hearing impairment is noted by
the individual. This can and will in time cause problems in learning. The
medical community must alert itself that we have a problem that has surfaced
due to the factor of the drug industry. Parents must be alerted to the side
reactions of this toxic product and its reactions. (Raiford 1987)
***Date: Fri, 16 May 1997 10:49:00 -0400
Last friday, 5/10/97, I discovered what caused a peripheral vision loss that
was diagnosed in 1994. Aspartame. I couldn't believe it when I found out
this crap has methyl alcohol in it. Everyone knows wood alcohol makes you
blind, and here I have been drinking it since 91. I have also had headaches,
memory loss, confusion, anger and who know's what else. In just 6 days
without Diet Coke I have come to feel a heck of a lot better. I am writing
to thank you for your efforts at educating the public (me) on the dangers of
Aspartame. Keep up the fight. (ATIC 1998)***
Aspartame and Migraines / Headaches
***Date: Sat, 1 Mar 97 23:39:26 PST
From the United Kingdom
Found you via web search for aspartame to show a friend who had purchased a
'health' product containing aspartame and acesulfame-K. The product is
'Redoxon' vitamin-C, from, wait for it, Roche Consumer Health. Acesulfame-K
is unknown to me and will remain so. My experiences (2) with aspartame were
involuntary and only identified after I nearly died both times. The
headaches caused were of such severity that 2 grams aspirin were required
each time to alleviate them. The tension in the muscles of my neck would
otherwise have broken it! This stuff is seriously bad. I cannot understand
the continued marketing of it. The people who make and manufacture are
seriously insane. Please notify my report to any interested parties. Please
do not worry about hiding my identity - I don't care who knows what I think
of this kind of misbehaviour by the Megagreedies of this world. May they die
Regards and Good Luck (ATIC 1998)***
A. Scientific Committee on Food -- Ignoring Part of the Evidence and
Discounting the Rest
To the credit of the Committee, their report cited two independent,
double-blind studies demonstrating that aspartame could cause migraines and
headaches (Koehler 1988, Van Den Eeden 1994). Like almost all independent
studies listed, the Committee quickly discounted these studies as flawed.
The report also listed a questionnaire-based study (Lipton 1989) that linked
aspartame to headaches. The report did not mention:
- 1558 headaches reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in
the first 10 years after aspartame was approved for use in carbonated
beverages (DHHS 1993). Reactions reported to the FDA represent less than 1%
of adverse reactions experienced according to a former FDA Commissioner
- Dr. H.J. Roberts reported on 249 cases of aspartame-induced headaches in a
questionnaire-based study (Roberts 1988a).
- Other case reports of aspartame-induced headache or migraines have
appeared in the scientific literature (Johns 1986, Blumenthal 1997, Strong
2000, Watts 1991)
- Formaldehyde that is obtained from aspartame is known to cause headaches
(Main 1983, Wantke 1996, Olsen 1982, Burdach 1980, Proietti 2002)
- Excitotoxic amino acids such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), similar to the
excitotoxin obtained from aspartame is known to cause migraines and
headaches (Kenney 1972, Ghadimi 1971, Schaumburg 1969, Scopp 1991, Ratner
1984). Note: industry-funded MSG experiments did not find increased
1) In MSG manufacturer-funded experiments conducted since 1978, aspartame
was hidden in the drink mix given to the control groups (Ebert 1991, Samuels
2) The MSG was sometimes combined with a large amount of sugar to completely
change the way it is absorbed (e.g., Yang 1997);
3) MSG was given in slow-dissolving capsules to reduce typical blood plasma
changes (Stegink 1987a, Olney 1994); and
4) Numerous other experimental design or statistical tricks were employed to
avoiding finding adverse effects as discussed by Samuels (1999)).
- Chronic headaches (such as those reported from aspartame use) cause
impairment of function often worse than that associated with chronic medical
conditions such as arthritis and diabetes (Solomon 1993).
In summary, all of the scientific and clinical evidence points to aspartame
causing migraines and headaches except for one badly flawed, aspartame
manufacturer-sponsored study discussed below.
Subject: Re: education on drugs...
Date: 27 Oct 1995 17:54:21 GMT
It seems that aspartame has been implicated in aggravating both MPD and
attention deficit disorder, among others. I experienced my first
uncontrolled switching when I was doing a lot of aspartame. I was also
getting severe migraines and visual disorders including tunnel vision,
moving shadows, and color dropouts (I would lose the green/blue range). All
of these are known side effects of aspartame, it seems. In some people,
aspartame is known to inhibit seratonin production. Swell.
But what was scariest was the shaking fits (like I was having an epileptic
seizure) and hypoglycemic problems so severe I was known to pass out. (Sugar
revived me.) This last is why I stopped doing Nutrasweet. I'm borderline
When I stoppped Nutrasweet, the uncontrolled switching stopped, too. It took
a while for the migraines and visual disorders to work out, but they were
gone within a few months, as was the switching. (The switching was severe
enough that friends thought I was "drunk" because I was acting so strange,
but alcohol was not involved!)
Subject: Re: aspartame and depression
Date: 10 Nov 1995 00:31:10 GMT
Well, in my personal case, I was at a party a few months back, and consumed
quite a bit of punch. Within 8 hours, I started getting a migraine headache,
color dropouts in my vision, and loss of my night vision. Realizing that
these previously-experienced symptoms (for which I spent several years and
doctors trying to find causes) seemed to be linked to aspartame, I checked
back and asked about artificial sweeteners . Yup, Nutrasweet in the punch.
B. Scientific Committee on Food -- Industry Studies Accepted Without
The Committee based its whole argument on aspartame not causing headaches on
a single, one-day, double-blind study that was partially funded by the
manufacturer of aspartame (Schiffman 1987).
The study was partially funded by Monsanto/NutraSweet and conducted at the
Searle Center at Duke University. (G.D. Searle was owned by Monsanto.) Susan
Schiffman performed her research at the Searle Center at Duke University.
The Searle Center was under the guidance of William Anlyan, a former G.D.
Searle director. Schiffman is a former General Foods and G.D. Searle
consultant (Gordon 1987, Shapiro 1987).
The Committee report neglected to mention numerous problems with the study
- The aspartame test was only one day long. In fact almost all
manufacturer-sponsored aspartame studies on susceptible population groups
are less than 7 days long. The independent double-blind studies that found
that aspartame could cause headaches were four weeks (Koehler 1988) or 14
days (Van Den Eeden 1994) long. A one-day study combined with other major
flaws listed below guaranteed that the researchers could report that there
were no "statistically significant" adverse effects.
- The aspartame was given in a way that even aspartame industry consultants
admit is not "bioequivalent" (the same) as aspartame taken in real-world
products (Stegink 1987a). The aspartame was given in slow-dissolving
capsules. Giving aspartame in slow-dissolving capsules tremendously-reduces
the biochemical changes that normally occur from real-world aspartame
ingestion. The methanol absorption is slowed tremendously, allowing the body
to eliminate more of it before it is transformed into formaldehyde. The
absorption of the excitotoxic amino acid is slowed so that the liver can
prevent the sudden spike in plasma levels of this amino acid normally seen
when aspartame is ingested in liquids (Stegink 1987a, 1987b).
- 77.5% of the subjects taking the placebo experienced adverse reactions
during the one-day period! 45% of the subjects taking the placebo
experienced headaches. This is a ridiculously high percentage of subjects
reporting adverse reactions to "placebo" in a single day. The number of
participants used in this study was "sufficient to ensure that a difference
of 33% in the incidence rates of headache" between the aspartame and placebo
control groups would be seen as statistically significant. This means that
if less than 78% (45% + 33%) of the persons taking aspartame reported
headache reactions, it would not be considered statistically significant.
- Numerous changes for the subjects. What could cause 77.5% of the subjects
taking placebo to experience adverse reactions in a single day? What could
cause 45% of the subjects taking placebo to experience headaches? None of
the subject had any major medical condition. Unlike the independent
double-blind studies on aspartame and headache (Koehler 1988, Van Den Eeden
1994), the following changes were made:
The diet of the subjects was changed from their normal diet to food prepared
at the Medical Center. Apparently, the researchers made no attempt to
ascertain whether the new diet contained monosodium glutamate (MSG), hidden
forms of MSG (e.g., hydrolyzed proteins), or substances that might cause an
intolerance reaction. Many of the subjects took off time from their jobs
(data processing managers, statistician, CPA, sales director, executive
assistants, etc.) and flew in from out of state to stay at the Medical
Center for at least 5 days. They were put through numerous laboratory tests
during their stay. Diet change reactions, travel stress, taking vacation
time from work, laboratory tests, or the combination of all of these things
may have led to such a ridiculously-high placebo reaction rate.
No baseline measurements taken. The researchers did not carefully measure
the subjects' normal frequency of headaches while they were on their normal
diet and in their normal environment (i.e., baseline measurement). One
reason that this is very important is so they would know if the design in
the experiment caused an unusual and unintended change in the frequency of
headaches reported in both the placebo and aspartame groups. Even though
these researchers did not conduct baseline measurements, we can be sure that
there was something wrong with the experiment that caused a large number of
adverse reactions for the large majority of subjects because: 1) 77.5% of
the placebo control group subjects experienced adverse reactions, and 2) the
subjects had no major medical conditions that would cause such a high
percentage symptoms in a one-day period. Both independent double-blind
studies on aspartame and headaches had baseline measurements (Koehler 1988,
Van Den Eeden 1994).
While the Committee briefly alluded to (and quickly discounted) a commentary
on and a critique of the Schiffman (1987) research by the Editor of the
journal, Headache (Edmeads, 1988), the members of the Committee seem unaware
of published criticism of the Schiffman (1987) study by independent
"Unfortunately, their experimental design was flawed in such a way that
their negative results in no way support their conclusion that 'aspartame is
no more likely to produce headache than placebo.'" (Elsas 1988)
"We believe that the study of Schiffman et al had some serious flaws and did
not reflect the realities of migraine due to dietary factors." .... "Persons
susceptible to migraine and other vascular headaches should continue to be
warned of the possible aggravating role of aspartame." (Steinmetzer 1988)
Date Sat, 20 Jul 1996 14:29:51 GMT
I began having migraines in the late 1980's, some so severe I wound up in
the emergency room. I have sought the cause for years.
I had read about the possible relation to food allergies, but I had never
tested it. My headaches grew worse, for the last 2 years I've had daily
About 3 months ago I decided to try the elimination test. When I eliminated
Aspartame from my diet, the severe migraines began to disappear. I am mostly
migraine-free now, with headaches attacking only about 1-2 times per month.
I believe aspartame is the cause.
I used Aspartame almost religiously once it became available in my town.
I've used large quantities of it, replacing every bit of sugar
I could with it.
I just hope that my system has a chance to recover completely. (ATIC
C. Scientific Committee on Food -- Discounting All Independent Studies
Finally, the Committee criticized the Koehler (1988) and Van Den Eeden
(1994) studies that found that aspartame can cause migraines and headaches.
The Committee stated that these studies did not control the diet during the
study itself. That is accurate. The researchers decided to allow the
subjects to live their lives in a normal setting and ingest their normal
diet. Because both studies performed baseline measurements of the frequency
of headaches of their subjects, they could see that only one change that was
introduced for part of the experiment, aspartame ingestion (but not
placebo), increased the average number of headaches significantly,
especially in the longer study by Koehler (1988).
The Committee also criticized the Koehler (1988) study for a high dropout
rate. In other words, a number of subjects dropped out of the study. The
total study length was 13 weeks (4 weeks for baseline testing, 4 weeks for
aspartame testing, 4 weeks for placebo testing, 1 week between the aspartame
and placebo testing). The subjects were required to keep a diary of their
headaches and dietary intake. It is to be expected that after 13 weeks, many
subjects will drop out or will not have done an adequate job keeping their
headache and dietary diaries. However, there were still enough subjects left
in the Koehler (1988) study to see a rather large and statistically
significant increase in headaches in the aspartame group. In addition, there
were more subjects left in the Koehler (1988) study than in some aspartame
industry studies cited in the Committee report without any mention of the
small number of subjects (e.g., Shaywitz 1994, Stegink 1984a). Of course, if
would be preferable to conduct a larger independent study with similar
subject inclusion / exclusion criteria and similar (or longer) lengths of
time on and off aspartame. But at this time, all of the reasonably designed
double-blind studies, all of the clinical evidence, and all of the evidence
related to aspartame metabolites point to it causing migraines and
***Date: Tue, 16 Apr 96 16:28:50 MDT
Subject: Re: Another NutraSweet Horror - TO EMBALM...OR NOT TO EMBALM (fwd)
I'm a little too busy to write up my "60 days without aspartame" experience
fully right now, but I'll do it soon. In summary, after getting & reading
your info on Feb 14, I cut aspartame out completely (I'd been taking it in
coffee, diet drinks, etc. for years). The results were startling. Normally,
in the past 60 days I'd have expected to suffer 2 or 3 severe,
incapacitating migraine headaches, and 12 to 15 days with other low-grade,
persistent headaches. (Each one could last 1-2 days, being generally
unresponsive to analgesics. Over the years, I'd just got used to getting on
with my life despite these annoying headaches.) In fact, I had ONE minor
headache in the 60 days, due, I'm sure, to a specific food I ate! Just ONE!
I haven't had 2 months like this for about 17 years! As a scientist (a
former pharmaceutical chemist -- yes, I SHOULD have known better, but I
guess I was looking for headache causes in other directions!), I realize one
has to consider ALL possible explanations for a phenomenon like this; but
the difference here was so striking, and the timing coincided so perfectly,
that I cannot attribute this relief to anything else in my lifestyle other
than giving up aspartame. I'm eating, exercising, worrying & working just as
before. Your information has made a major change in my life. Thanks SO MUCH!
Subject: Re: Aspartame/Nutrasweet
Date: Thu May 16 13:43:33 1996
I'm a medical research scientist with doctorate credential from polytechic
university, etc, and 25 years of experience. We were able to cure 75% of
people in the migraine clinic at mount sinai medical center in nyc by simply
taking them off aspartame. Of course nutrition is far more than just staying
away from aspartame. (ATIC 1998)***
Aspartame and Seizures
***A 65-year-old man experienced his first grand mal seizure while reading
in bed. Preceding the seizure, there had been a six-month history of
episodic involuntary smacking of the lips, chewing movements, and twitching
of the right thumb. The patient calculated that he had been consuming an
average of 210 mg of aspartame per day in the form of "Crystal Light" iced
tea mix. After discontinuing all aspartame-containing products, there have
been no further involuntary movements or seizures. (Walton 1988).***
A. Evidence Listed and Not Listed by the Committee
The Committee should be credited with mentioning in the report an
independent, double-blind study, Camfield (1992), that "demonstrated that
aspartame could increase the duration of certain types of epileptic seizure
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