Aspartame: A Sweet and Deadly Tale

I love aspartame.  I consume mass quantities of it on a daily basis.  I crave aspartame.  I am a junkie.  My thirst for aspartame has made it possible for manufacturers of the sweet substance to justify their supply.  I am an aspartame pusher by proxy.  I am seduced by its zero calorie decadence, and its  convenient availability.  I love aspartame, but it does not love me.

as·par·tame (aspər tām′):  noun

an artificial, low-calorie sweetener, CHNO, about 200 times sweeter than sucrose, used in the manufacture of diet soft drinks, packaged cereals, etc.

I have known about the dangers of aspartame.  I have read about it and pondered the consequences.  And yet, I’ve shoved it aside.  Because I am an aspartame addict, I was not interested in dwelling on the negative.  There were times when I swore I’d make the change.  My addiction to Diet beverages seemed to be saved when my drug of choice became available in an aspartame free variety.  But it tasted horrible, so back to denial for me.

Fountain Drinks are my kryptonite.  For Trademarking reasons, I’ve distorted the name of the culprit in question above.

Over the past year, I’ve been feeling pretty run down.  Lots of headaches, not a lot of energy.  Body aches have become normal.  My memory isn’t what it used to be.  My motivation has been on the decline.  I’ve been full of excuses.  Perhaps it was lack of sleep, not enough veggies, not enough vitamins, not enough exercise, poor circulation, that time of the month, etc etc etc ad nauseum.  The probable answer always popped into my mind, but I ignored it.  Certainly this couldn’t be the result of my beloved aspartame!

And as a woman who values the sharing of hidden truths… as one who prides herself being able to think against the herd mentality… as an individual who has a website DEDICATED to uncovering and exposing hidden realities… I’ve avoided this topic.  Until now.  To know what I know about aspartame and not share it with my readers, regardless of my own unwillingness to face facts, would be intellectually dishonest… and shameful.

Aspartame is the technical name for the brand names NutraSweet, Equal, and several other artificial sweeteners.  It is made up of three parts:  Methanol, Aspartic Acid, and Phenylalanine.  When inside the body, it is broken down into Formic Acid, Formaldehyde, and methyl alcohol.  Interestingly, Formic Acid can be found in Pesticides, and of course Formaldehyde is used for embalming fluid.

Aspartame was discovered by accident in 1965 when James Schlatter, a chemist of G.D. Searle Company, was testing an anti-ulcer drug.  It was approved for consumption by the FDA in 1974.  But, neuroscience researcher Dr John W. Olney and Consumer attorney James Turner appealed that decision.  Based on their claims as well as an ongoing investigation into the practices of the Searle Company, approval was put on hold.  Aspartame was officially approved for dry goods in 1981 and beverages in 1983.

According to the aspartame apologist site

Aspartame has been extensively studied in animals and humans for more than two decades. In 1981, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved aspartame, it noted: “Few compounds have withstood such detailed testing and repeated, close scrutiny, and the process through which aspartame has gone should provide the public with additional confidence of its safety.” FDA has affirmed the safety of aspartame 26 times over a period of 23 years.

Now, why on this lovely green Earth would the FDA approve something that is toxic? They wouldn’t, right? Right! Oh by the way, I have some swamp land in Siberia I’d like to sell you.

Aspartame: A Sweet and Scary Bedtime Story

Once upon a time there was a man named Donald Rumsfeld.  Oh! You’ve heard of him? Well, I’ll keep our introduction brief.  Actually, I’ll just show a picture of him and if it doesn’t ring a bell, Google him.  I’ll wait.

Good old Donny is always right where the action is, isn’t he?

Before Rummy was all of the things that we know him for today, he was the Chief Executive officer of G.D. Searle and Co, a position that he acquired in 1977.  His years as Chief Exec. were fruitful.  He managed to use his considerable clout to convince the FDA to approve his loving little product, affectionately named NutraSweet.  How did he do it?

It is important also to note that the studies done to determine the safety of aspartame were horribly botched, almost as though (GASP!) they were intended to be biased toward the claims of the Searle Co.  Even those directly involved in the investigation later expressed reservations about the quality of the research and experimentation.

Shortly after leaving her post, Senior Scientist of the FDA Bureau of Foods Task Force, Jacqueline Verrett openly stated, “It seemed pretty obvious that somewhere along that line they (bureau officials) were working up to a whitewash.”

But, despite botched experiments and shoddy research, the FDA findings were accepted and approval of Aspartame chugged forward, on to the next stage.

In June of 1979, the acting FDA Commissioner, Sherwin Gardner selected the 3-person Public Board of Inquiry. The panelists were Peter J. Lampert, M.D., Professor and Chairman, Department of Pathology, University of California (San Diego), Vernon R. Young, Ph.D., University of Nutritional Biochemistry, M.I.T., and Walle Nauta, M.D., Ph.D., Institute Professor, Department of Psychology and Brain Science, M.I.T.

The Public Board Of Inquiry voted unanimously to reject the use of aspartame until additional studies on aspartame’s potential to cause brain tumors could be done.  You see, they had become concerned by one test that revealed a significantly high number of rats exposed to aspartame had died of cancerous tumors.

Some rats died of Brain Tumors, while many others became morbidly obese with exposure to aspartame.  Interesting side effect of an additive meant for “diet” products, yes?

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.  This same year, Searle Co. decided to push for aspartame approval again.  It takes little imagination to assume that this could be attributed to our friend Rumsfeld’s close Republican Party ties.  Patty Wood- Allott, a former Searle Co. salesperson testified that Donald Rumsfeld told his sales force that, if necessary, “he would call in all his markers and that no matter what, he would see to it that aspartame would be approved that year.” (Gordon 1987, page 499 of US Senate 1987)

In March of ’81, a 5 member panel was established to review the findings of the Public Board of Inquiry.  Three of the members were very concerned about the test results concerning Aspartame.  These three members were Satva Dubey (FDA Chief of Statistical Evaluation Branch), Douglas Park (Staff Science Advisor), and Robert Condon (Veterinary Medicine).  They wrote a letter to the panel lawyer with their concerns.  Dubey was so worried that he flatly stated that he could not recommend approval for aspartame.  He then went on to say that “key data appeared to have been altered”(Gordon 1987, page 499 of US Senate 1987).

Now, we can see where this is leading.  With three no votes on aspartame in a five member panel, aspartame would have bitten the dust.  It was at precisely this time that it was decided to bring in a sixth member. Convenient!  With the now 3 to 3 deadlock, the fate of aspartame was in the air.

On July 18, 1981 aspartame was approved for use dry foods by FDA Commissioner Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr. overruling the Public Board of Inquiry and ignoring the law, Section 409(c)(3) of the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 348), which says that a food additive should not be approved if tests are inconclusive (Federal Register 1981, Farber 1989, page 38).

The following year, aspartame was submitted for approval in beverages and children’s vitamins.   Those charged with reviewing an amendment to extend the patent for Aspartame were then Representatives  Henry Waxman and Orrin Hatch, as well as Senator Robert Byrd. (familiar names again, no?)  After having received copious campaign contributions from G.D. Searle Co, a soft drink action committee, and the like…. well, results were predictable.  Senator Hatch repeatedly blocked hearings looking into the safety of aspartame.

I believe it is also telling that between 1979 and 1982, four FDA officials who took part in the aspartame approval process left the FDA shortly thereafter and took jobs in industries that are closely linked with Searle and NutraSweet.

Acting FDA Commissioner, Mark Novitch approved aspartame for use in carbonated beverages and carbonated beverage syrup bases (Federal Register 1983).  The FDA Commissioner, Arthur Hull Hayes was out of town the day that the approval was signed.  Shortly after this final aspartame approval took place, Hayes left the FDA after accusations of “improprieties”, and soon thereafter was hired as an a high paid consultant with G.D. Searle’s public relations firm, Burson Marsteller.

As lengthy as this history lesson has been, it is actually the quick and dirty version.  Far more dubious and nefarious activities took place in the years of aspartame’s “trials”.  At the end of this article I will list a variety of websites that helped to compile this list, and that expand upon what we’ve already discussed.

Alright. Deep breath! Phew! Thanks for sticking around for the history lesson.  There have been many more scandals and roadblocks since in the attempt to get a new trial for aspartame, and they are all equally troubling.  That said, let’s get to what we do know about aspartame.  At the end of the day, we’ve learned that we cannot depend upon the government to make the right choices, therefore we must arm ourselves with knowledge, spread that knowledge, and take care of ourselves.

Here is the FDA’s Own (!) list of the possible reactions recorded from exposure to Aspartame:

Abdominal Pain
Anxiety attacks
Asthmatic Reactions
Bloating, Edema (Fluid Retention)
Blood Sugar Control Problems (Hypoglycemia or Hyperglycemia)
Brain Cancer (Pre-approval studies in animals)
Breathing difficulties
burning eyes or throat
Burning Urination
can't think straight
Chest Pains
chronic cough
Chronic Fatigue
Excessive Thirst or Hunger
feel unreal
flushing of face
Hair Loss (Baldness) or Thinning of Hair
Headaches/Migraines dizziness
Hearing Loss
Heart palpitations
Hives (Urticaria)
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Impotency and Sexual Problems
inability to concentrate
Infection Susceptibility
Joint Pains
"like thinking in a fog"
Marked Personality Changes
Memory loss
Menstrual Problems or Changes
Migraines and Severe Headaches (Trigger or Cause From Chronic Intake)
Muscle spasms
Nausea or Vomiting
Numbness or Tingling of Extremities
Other Allergic-Like Reactions
Panic Attacks
poor memory
Rapid Heart Beat
Seizures and Convulsions
Slurring of Speech
Swallowing Pain
Vision Loss
Weight gain

Aspartame Disease Mimics Symptoms or Worsens the Following Diseases

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Parkinson's Disease
Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS)
Diabetes and Diabetic Complications
Alzheimer's Disease
Birth Defects
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Lyme Disease
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
Panic Disorder
Depression and other Psychological Disorders

According to the website, this is how it works:

How it happens:

Methanol, from aspartame, is released in the small intestine when the methyl group of aspartame encounters the enzyme chymotrypsin (Stegink 1984, page 143). Free methanol begins to form in liquid aspartame-containing products at temperatures above 86 degrees F.. also within the human body.

The methanol is then converted to formaldehyde. The formaldehyde converts to formic acid, ant sting poison. Toxic formic acid is used as an activator to strip epoxy and urethane coatings. Imagine what it does to your tissues!

Phenylalanine and aspartic acid, 90% of aspartame, are amino acids normally used in synthesis of protoplasm when supplied by the foods we eat. But when unaccompanied by other amino acids we use [there are 20], they are neurotoxic.

That is why a warning for Phenylketonurics is found on EQUAL and other aspartame products. Phenylketenurics are 2% of the population with extreme sensitivity to this chemical unless it’s present in food. It gets you too, causing brain disorders and birth defects! Finally, the phenyalanine breaks down into DKP, a brain tumor agent.

In other words: Aspartame converts to dangerous byproducts that have no natural countermeasures. A dieter’s empty stomach accelerates these conversions and amplifies the damage. Components of aspartame go straight to the brain, damage that causes headaches, mental confusion, seizures and faulty balance. Lab rats and other test animals died of brain tumors.

Now that we know how what it does and how it works, I want to share with you the following full documentary.  I watched it several weeks ago and tried very hard to forget it.  I haven’t been able to.  I’ve begun researching the process of aspartame detox, and hope to soon report to you that I am aspartame free.

Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World

(NutraSweet and Equal are trademarks of the NutraSweet Co., once owned by the G.D. Searle Co. and now owned by Monsanto Chemical Co.)





  1. Great job Nat…I forgot Rummy was involved. Now owned by Monsanto?????? Oy!

  2. NovemberIsComing

    All hogwash. I know people that have worked with the pure 100% aspartame for 20 years with no side effects. What you get exposed to in a diet drink is insignificant compared to these people. People will believe anything on the internet it is so sad. Monsanto doesn’t own NutraSweet either….. Another lie. Without amino acids in your body you would die. Aspartame is made from two of those amino acids!! It is the most tested (company funded and independent) molecule in the history of the planet with these tests overwhelmingly affirming its safety. Research the real data and see for yourself don’t listen to these people that don’t have a clue.

  3. natalina

    Thanks Will! Oh yes, Rummy was very much involved.

    To NovemberIsComing,

    I thank you for your contribution. I do like to keep all perspectives in mind when I write, and I did research the claims by both the aspartame critics and those who promote/advocate for it. Your comment actually mirrors much of what I saw on the sites in support of aspartame. Almost to the letter.

    Here’s what I will agree with. Aspartame HAS been tested repeatedly over the years. Without a doubt. The question that arises as I stated within this article is the veracity of those tests. Seems they created more questions than answers, and the public record reflects at the minimum a cause for concern with how these tests were carried out. If the testing process has repeatedly come into question, I think it should make any rationally minded person hesitate to accept the company line that safety has been “overwhelmingly affirmed”.

    Now, with regard to Monsanto, which by the way I mention ONCE at the very bottom of my post in an attempt to attribute trademark for some of the brand names used throughout my article.. I am certainly no apologist for that company. However, if I mistakenly attributed current ownership of NutraSweet to them, that was my error. However, to call it a LIE is a bit of a stretch, as it somehow implies that Monstanto has nothing to do with NutraSweet. From the NUTRASWEET website,

    1965 – NutraSweet® brand sweetener was discovered at G.D. Searle and Company. 1985 – Monsanto acquired G.D. Searle and Company. The NutraSweet Company operated as part of the Monsanto Company Life Sciences Division. May 25, 2000 – J.W. Childs Equity Partners II L.P. purchased The NutraSweet Company from Monsanto, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pharmacia Corporation.

    All this shows is that Monsanto may no longer own Nutrasweet, but it CLEARLY shows that Monsanto was very much the owner of aspartame throughout the years when the FDA approval processes were happening… when all of the shady activity that has been alleged was taking place, etc… and that at least up until VERY RECENTLY, Monsanto was not only very involved in pushing and promoting Aspartame… they OWNED it. If you still question this, go to a website called MONSANTO.COM and find the same information. In fact, on Monsanto’s own website, they still have apologist propaganda for aspartame.. which very much reflects your sentiments.

    I would also like to point out that Ajinomoto of Japan, the company that purchased aspartame from Monsanto, is at least in part run by former Monsanto execs. Convenient. Ajinomoto of course being the beloved company that supplies the world with that other little darling MSG.

    Nearly ALL testing of aspartame has been a conflict of interests. Even the 2007 tests that appeared in the scientific journal, “Critical Reviews in Toxiology” affirming its safety was funded by Ajinomoto. Clearly those funding the tests had a vested interest in the outcome. Scientific reasoning would clearly indicate that this is NOT an unbiased undertaking.

    Another flurry of testing was set forth by the Formaldehyde Institute, which desperately wanted to shed positive light on Formaldehyde in the human body (even children can understand the strangeness of that statement). Interestingly, the Formaldehyde Institute was a trade association consisting of Monsanto, Dupont and other chemical companies. Oh man, there’s that Monsanto again!

    Overall, I find it telling who exactly is involved in the Pro-Formaldehyde group (doesn’t that sound weird?).. From the Washington Post:

    “In 1982, the American Council on Science and Health ( ACSH ) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a Formaldehyde Institute lawsuit that overturned a federal ban on formaldehyde insulation. …. At least a third of ACSH ’s funding comes from such companies as Allied Corp., Coca-Cola, the National Soft Drink Association, Colgate-Palmolive Co., Dow Chemical Canada, du Pont, Eli Lilly, Exxon, General Mills, General Foods Fund, Gulf Oil, Hershey Foods, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, Monsanto Fund, Mobil Foundation, M&M/Mars, Pillsbury Foundation, Procter & Gamble, Pfizer, Shell Oil, Upjohn and Velsicol Chemical.”

    Holy Smokes the gang’s all there isn’t it? I wasn’t shocked to see the Soft Drink Assoc., Monsanto, and other food companies in the list… but what’s with Exxon, Shell, Gulf Oil? Perhaps a project to research another time.

    Ok, this could go on forever, but I need to address your claim about amino acids, as it is yet another line that is prevalent on aspartame support sites and groups. Without doubt, aspartame does consist of 2 amino acids. For the most part, amino acids are necessary for normal human growth and development. Now, the amino acids in aspartame, l-aspartic acid and the methyl ester of phenylalanine, are actually better defined as amino acid isolates. They’ve been separated from the rest of the protein chain. These are absorbed VERY differently in the body than normal dietary amino acids. So the important thing with regard to Aspartame that MANY apologists will not tell you is that the important thing is not what it is made of.. but what it BECOMES in teh human body. The isolates of Aspartame are incorporated into a compound containing free methanol, a dangerous carcinogen and mutagen which readily breaks down into formaldehyde and formates inside the human body.

    So… while I apologize for any timeline errors I may have made, I am not certain that I am the only one who could benefit from further research.

  4. natalina: Very informative review. Solid facts and connections. I want to start off by saying that first, I am a type 1 diabetic. I know what goes into my body. I have eloquently moved my dead pancreas to my mouth. I have to watch, count, time and monitor what I eat at what time against what freaking activity I do. What a freaking micro managed life.
    So.. What happened when I stopped consuming products with the aspartame and its associated counter parts? Well, the head aches went away. Which my doctor had claimed was part of being a diabetic. I quote “most diabetics have chronic head aches” That was an observation. A true one, but wrongly attributed. How do I know that aspartame is poison? Just like a parent knows their child, there is no proof but that strong gut feeling. Now, I am sensitive to the crap. I can drink a diet whatever, and get a headache. You choose the soft poison, and it will give me a headache in less than half an hour. I believe this is due to the fact that I have for the last 6 years, consumed 0 amounts of it. Its like drug usage: While continually consuming the drug, its large effects are lessened, but completely stop and then start again and it kicks pretty hard. I believe that the worse of what aspartame can do to someone does not manifest for a long long time. The disabilities start showing right around the end of someone’s useful working life. It’s a slow kill. In my opinion they achieve so many agendas at the same time, it’s brilliant. 1. make the money! 2. cloud the mind of your enemy 3. take their money again on the medical side ( is that considered double taxing? We buy the poison, and then pay for its effects.) 4. eliminate the “useless eaters” aka: your elderly population. I mean what good are they if they can’t work? You have to support them with a security that they paid into over the coarse of their working life.

    So they take my money, beat me over the head(headache),take my money again, and then I magically expire from a disease off the long list of mimicked associated diseases. Nice. If that’s not tactical then wtf.

    For me, where there is smoke there is fire, just as its counter part, once a lair always a lair. I am not crazy, and neither are you. there are smart people in this world that stop running the rat race, and ask themselves questions. Such as… Why do the same issues never get solved? It’s as if they just circulate. You will spend your whole life fighting the same issues, just to never achieve them. While some people wake from their dreams and start asking questions. Consider this: A picture of a square, and then a picture of 4 points. Now, is the picture of the points the same as the picture of the square? sure, it’s still a square, just with out the connections. But, now those points can be argued to be an x, a z, or whatever shape can be made. That’s the circulation effect. The misdirection and it provides a chance for some pundit to spin you into thinking maybes and could be.

    I see the picture of the points, and observe the relationships between them, and realize that I am looking at a square.

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