An OLD urban legend!

[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ Cluster Headaches Messages ]
Help us fight Cluster Headaches! Visit the O.U.C.H. Website!

Posted by Bob Johnson ( on March 29, 2001 at 08:50:09:

In Reply to: ASPARTAME and NutraSweet posted by TerryS on March 28, 2001 at 22:32:02:

If you want to explore more fully:, then search for "urban legends". This is part of their response to this story.

Guide's note: First off, despite the attribution at the top (absent in some versions of the message), this text was not written by "Nancy Markle" whoever that may be. Its real author was one Betty Martini, who posted a host of similar messages to Usenet newsgroups in late 1995 and early 1996. The original email was penned exactly three years ago.

Ms. Martini, who is not a physician but says she has worked in the medical profession, has waged a single-minded battle for years against what she calls "the propaganda put out by industry and the FDA" regarding aspartame. To that end, she founded an organization called "Mission Possible International," represented on such Websites as Dave Rietz's, which houses a vast archive of anti-aspartame literature.

Even if we credit Martini with good intentions (and there's no reason not to), it's difficult to take her email warning seriously. Among other things, it blithely implicates aspartame as the cause of just about every malady known to humankind. To recap the laundry list:

"The methanol toxicity mimics multiple sclerosis..."

"In the cases of systemic lupus, which is triggered by ASPARTAME, the victim usually does not know that the aspartame is the culprit."

"If you...suffer from fibromyalgia symptoms, spasms, shooting pains, numbness in your legs, cramps, vertigo, dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, joint pain, depression, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, blurred vision, or memory loss-you probably have ASPARTAME DISEASE!"

"In one lecture attended by the Ambassador of Uganda, he told us that their sugar industry is adding aspartame! He continued by saying that one of the industry leader's son could no longer walk - due in part by product usage!"

"At the time of this first hearing, people were going blind. The methanol in the aspartame converts to formaldehyde in the retina of the eye."

"Aspartame changes the brain's chemistry. It is the reason for severe seizures."

"This drug also causes Birth Defects."

"It makes you crave carbohydrates and will make you FAT."

"The ingredients stimulates the neurons of the brain to death, causing brain damage of varying degrees."

"...aspartame poisoning is escalating Alzheimer's Disease..."

"...the phenylalanine in aspartame breaks down the seizure threshold and depletes serotonin, which causes manic depression, panic attacks, rage and violence..."

"Aspartame Disease is partially the cause to what is behind some of the mystery of the Dessert [sic] Storm health problems."

"When they remove brain tumors, they have found high levels of aspartame in them."
That's a dizzying array of charges to which it's perfectly reasonable to respond: if it's all provable, why isn't the entire medical establishment up in arms about it? Why does the substance continue to have the FDA's approval? Why do reputable scientists and doctors scoff?

Martini's answer, as I mentioned above, is pat and comes in the form of a conspiracy theory: the Monsanto Company, which created aspartame, has used its deep pockets to buy all but a very few critics off. I.e., the only authorities you can trust are those who agree with Martini.

Naturally, Monsanto insists as it has ever since the product was invented in 1965 that aspartame is safe for nearly everyone to use. In answer to the Internet rumors charging that aspartame is deadly, the company has posted a rebuttal on its NutraSweet promotional Website. Labeling Martini's allegations "egregious," the document states: "None of the symptoms she and her 'sources' have attributed to aspartame have been substantiated in any clinical scientific study."

Those who are inclined to think that's nothing but a corporate whitewash will probably also reject the FDA's Statement on Aspartame published in 1996. The statement disputes charges that aspartame is associated with brain tumors. The FDA has also released a rebuttal of the "Nancy Markle" email dated January 27, 1999.

A very recent MIT study reaffirms that aspartame is harmless for most users, but again, skeptics will observe that the research was funded by a grant from the NutraSweet Co. (a division of Monsanto), and therefore cannot be trusted.

On Jan. 12, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation posted its own rebuttal of the aspartame rumors, referring to them as "rabidly inaccurate and scandalously misinformative." The article was researched and written by Dr. David Squillacote, neurologist and Senior Medical Advisor for the Foundation.

Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D. and professor of medicine and biological chemistry at Johns Hopkins University, agrees. In a recent article, he wrote: "A letter recently circulating on the Internet stated that aspartame can cause a number of illnesses: multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), as well as Alzheimer's disease. As far as I can ascertain, there is no reliable evidence to support the claim that aspartame causes any of these disorders." Responding to the claims that breakdown byproducts of aspartame are dangerous, he added: "While it is true that high heat can break down aspartame, there is no evidence that the breakdown products are toxic."

The "aspartame scare" hit the mainsream media when the Associated Press moved its Jan. 29, 1999 article debunking the rumor. It states that "MS and lupus have been around a lot longer than aspartame has, and repeated scientific studies have found no connection between the sweetener and such symptoms." The AP article cites the FDA and the ACSH, an alphabet soup that won't be to everyone's liking.

So, for those who would rather not take anyone's word on this Betty Martini's, the FDA's, or the media's I highly recommend taking the time to survey the last 20 years' worth of medical research on aspartame (courtesy of the MEDLINE database). I reviewed a good many of the journal abstracts on file there and, taking their conclusions as a whole, it certainly appears to this layman that the "aspartame = death" theorists have wandered far afield from the known facts.

Lastly, aspartame is acknowledged (though not without controversy) to produce minor side effects in some people most notably headaches (see Aspartame Ingestion and Headaches, Neurology, 1994). Also, the FDA warns that persons with certain medical conditions, including pregnant women with hyperphenylalanine, should avoid aspartame:

Carefully controlled clinical studies show that aspartame is not an allergen. However, certain people with the genetic disease phenylketonuria (PKU), those with advanced liver disease, and pregnant women with hyperphenylalanine (high levels of phenylalanine in blood) have a problem with aspartame because they do not effectively metabolize the amino acid phenylalanine, one of aspartame's components. High levels of this amino acid in body fluids can cause brain damage. Therefore, FDA has ruled that all products containing aspartame must include a warning to phenylketonurics that the sweetener contains phenylalanine.

Food Allergies Rare But Risky, May 1994
David Emery

For more information, see:

A critique of Martini's email and Rebuttal by Mark Gold
Excerpts from a lively Usenet debate
A Bitter Pill for Lupus Patients
Cathy Welsh, a Registered Dietician and's Lupus Guide, disputes the charges against aspartame
Aspartame (NutraSweet) Toxicity Info Center
More anti-aspartame literature at the Holistic Medicine site
Aspartame - what the body does with it
Straightforward article from the Mayo Clinic
Where Monsanto extolls the marvels of its product
Where Monsanto's CEO is likened to Adolf Hitler

Follow Ups:

Post a Followup




Optional Link URL:
Link Title:
Optional Image URL:

[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ Cluster Headaches Messages ]



Click Here!