4

votes

What the Hack is up with Aspartame?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created August 18, 2011 at 5:14 AM

I searched around and couldn't find an overall primer on aspartame from a Paleo point of view so I wanted to see what the hacker community thought about Aspartame. Is it actually the poison I keep telling people it is and causing brain chemistry changes or is a little bit not going to hurt us too horribly?

C658d3f110a348a964dcf799002c4c2a

(240)

on January 10, 2012
at 08:05 PM

Many people suffer all kinds of problems that suddenly subside when free aspartic and glutamic acid are removed from their diet.

8f46bdba543e1ea2c3818f4b243ff040

(390)

on August 25, 2011
at 12:52 PM

Neurotoxicity shows different symptoms in people than it does in lab rats, but that does not mean that it isn't there. Neurotoxicity in people often is demonstrated as headaches, anxiety, and depression, to name a few. These are symptoms that would be very difficult to "diagnose" in lab rats.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 19, 2011
at 04:26 PM

i haven't had flavored yogurt in years, and i'm not worried about what is or isn't "paleo". i gave up eating processed junk long before i gave up grains and beans.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 19, 2011
at 04:09 PM

ok jakey, except salt. Tho it could be argued that salt isn't exactly food either, i'm not the one to do it.. our bodies use it, it's absolutely safe in moderate amts, and i like it! I can't say any of that about aspartame...

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 19, 2011
at 04:08 PM

ok jakey, except salt. Tho it could be argued that salt isn't exactly food either, i'm not the one to do it -- our bodies use it, it's absolutely safe in moderate amts, and i like it... can't say any of that that about aspartame!

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 19, 2011
at 03:48 AM

@ grenadine, how 'bout salt? that's pretty paleo, no? it's one pure molecule. same with water ;)

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 19, 2011
at 03:24 AM

oh, i haven't had flavored yogurt in years. and, i'm not worried about what is or is not "paleo". i eat whole, real food.

226b10cbb6b1d3530b00d2d84a2dc86e

(3313)

on August 19, 2011
at 01:08 AM

Let's see here...a carboxylic acid group, a ketone group, 2 amine groups, an ester group and a phenyl group. Something tells me this molecule likes to misbehave.

Cc7381bd787721575ea9198048132adb

(5541)

on August 18, 2011
at 05:37 PM

And I don't touch the stuff, just wondering if I'm justified in telling other people to avoid it like the plague like I've been doing.

Cc7381bd787721575ea9198048132adb

(5541)

on August 18, 2011
at 05:36 PM

While I appreciate a well placed snarky answer this doesn't really do anything to answer the question. I want papers!

8634d4988ced45a68e2a79e69cc01835

(1617)

on August 18, 2011
at 04:11 PM

Yogurt, especially flavored yogurt, isn't Paleo either. ;-) Just sayin'.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 18, 2011
at 04:05 PM

@jakey/ben/matthew - real food will never be one pure molecule.

Medium avatar

(3029)

on August 18, 2011
at 03:52 PM

I want to eat food and nothing else. Aspartame isn't a food so I don't want to eat it. For me it's that simple. I'm also specifically aware that there might be serious problems with aspartame, but even if there were no evidence that it's harmful, personally, I wouldn't touch it. So whether it's a poison or a little bit won't hurt us, isn't an interesting question (unless I want to convince someone else why they shouldn't eat it).

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 18, 2011
at 03:23 PM

totally with ben61820 & matthew on this one. molecular structures will never look like food. so?

Medium avatar

(3029)

on August 18, 2011
at 03:06 PM

Yeah, but that's heme. It's not what's on my dinner plate.

8634d4988ced45a68e2a79e69cc01835

(1617)

on August 18, 2011
at 02:09 PM

IF that were true, many people would be severely brain damaged. The harmful effects of aspartame present in lab rats who are megadosed. You have to be eating pounds of the stuff a day to recreate those results in people. Too much of many things that are safe in small quantities are harmful if you ingest massive amounts.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on August 18, 2011
at 01:55 PM

Pretty much everything in food can be represented in that way if you focus on the small molecules that make up the food. For example heme molecule found in red meat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Heme_b.svg

Medium avatar

(3029)

on August 18, 2011
at 01:13 PM

I'm not a biochemist, but I don't think you could do that for an egg (which part, the yolk? the white?) or a piece of meat, or a vegetable. I think you could for something like tallow, or the fructose of a peach, but not the peach itself. Am I wrong? And it's not cheeky, I was wondering that myself.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on August 18, 2011
at 12:18 PM

nice one jakey. I'd agree. I have a hard time believing they're going to kill you but at the same time I think it's just plain silly to think they are real food and that they really belong in your mouth or your body. Stay away but don't be alarmist about them.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on August 18, 2011
at 12:17 PM

well, not to be too cheeky but I suppose you could put up an image of kind of any food's molecular structure and say the same, no?

1a98a40ba8ffdc5aa28d1324d01c6c9f

(20378)

on August 18, 2011
at 06:52 AM

For sure on that!

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 18, 2011
at 06:39 AM

'cuz Grok wouldn't.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 18, 2011
at 05:29 AM

sugar alcohols are a different ball game... almost tough to talk about them as one group.

Cc7381bd787721575ea9198048132adb

(5541)

on August 18, 2011
at 05:21 AM

References would be awesome, I actually like reading the full papers.

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19 Answers

10
89e6ee4796cc4b4fba5dc573618aa6f5

on August 18, 2011
at 07:17 AM

If its artificial...just say no! Our evolution was progressing very well until arrogance led us to thinking we could do better than mother nature.

4
0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on August 19, 2011
at 12:59 AM

I am by nature suspicious of non-calorific sweeteners. I do not consume any myself and never have done. I would advise against them based on suspicion rather than claimed as a fact of it being an evil poison that will MELT YOUR BRAINZ!!!!

The internet is full of poorly referenced claims about the evils of aspartame and other sweeteners. Claims based on the fact that some rats ate the equivalent of 500 cans of diet soda a day and ended up with brain damage is not really good enough evidence for me. I do not doubt that some people are sensitive to them and would not be surprised if some downsides are eventually discovered. However real science is rarely clear cut and often contradictory.

Searching for "aspartame" on pubmed.com results in 1036 papers, most of which are not freely available. Most individual studies on rats and mice are beyond me to interpret properly. I have not really looked into the subject in any depth as I don't consume any sweeteners myself.

There are some reviews that you can read if you like reading papers :)

A few case studies are out there - Vestibulocochlear toxicity in a pair of siblings 15 years apart secondary to aspartame

Another case report - Aspartame-induced fibromyalgia, an unusual but curable cause of chronic pain

Weight regulation is a possibility - Gain weight by ???going diet???? Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings

The combination of taste (sweetness) and energy content might be important - Functional magnetic resonance imaging of human hypothalamic responses to sweet taste and calories

Editorial news - Sour Finding on Popular Sweetener: Increased Cancer Incidence Associated with Low-Dose Aspartame Intake And response to this report - Aspartame Not Linked to Cancer

Quite a detailed review of cancer risk - Artificial sweeteners???do they bear a carcinogenic risk?

A review of aspartame and the brain - Direct and indirect cellular effects of aspartame on the brain

A BMJ editorial - Aspartame and its effects on health Plus 3 responses 1, 2, 3

A random one to finish - Treatment of osteoarthritis with aspartame

If you read everything there is about aspartame you will probably end up with a headache and be more confused than when you started :)

Personally I have no use for aspartame, if I want sweetness i'll take some sugar which tastes better. I have my suspicions about it but not enough good evidence to make exaggerated claims as to it's pure evilness.

4
B14dc4aa1ddefbec3bc09550428ee493

on August 18, 2011
at 07:21 AM

They are not food therefore we are not designed to eat them. We are designed to eat sugars, but not in the mass quantities that we normally consume them in. Eat real sugar in moderation and forget the fake foods.

3
99a6e964584f20f3f69ad3a70a335353

(1334)

on August 19, 2011
at 11:48 AM

Though a metabolite of aspartame does convert to formaldehyde -> formic acid in the body, it also gets excreted relatively fast, so I'm not 100% convinced of its toxicity except for those who have PKU. Like everything in nutrition, some studies say it's bad, some say it's good.

That said, it seems to trigger an insulin response, making you hungrier, and it certainly doesn't do anything to diminish the sweet addiction which is fairly epidemic (and we all know sweets are bad, mmkay?)

So, I'd say avoid. Teach yourself to not crave sweet things instead, or when you do, eat things like actual fruit (which as Lazytown teaches us, is "sports candy!")

3
Medium avatar

(3029)

on August 18, 2011
at 05:41 AM

Aspartame is

what-the-hack-is-up-with-aspartame?

That's not food. End of story.

Update: Came across this letter to the editor in the Texas Heart Institute Journal http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC387446/

Excerpt: "I have written about aspartame disease for more than 2 decades, because of the profound adverse neurologic, cardiopulmonary, endocrine, and allergic effects of aspartame products.... My 1st report on aspartame-related Graves' disease. 4 described 4 weight-conscious women with hyperthyroidism who experienced dramatic remissions within several weeks to 3 months of avoiding aspartame..."

I've also read a personal account somewhere out there on the internet of a woman with a serious case of MS that disappeared when she cut out the diet soda and constant sugarless gum. Just anecdotal, but pretty telling since MS doesn't just disappear.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 18, 2011
at 03:23 PM

totally with ben61820 & matthew on this one. molecular structures will never look like food. so?

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 18, 2011
at 04:05 PM

@jakey/ben/matthew - real food will never be one pure molecule.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on August 18, 2011
at 01:55 PM

Pretty much everything in food can be represented in that way if you focus on the small molecules that make up the food. For example heme molecule found in red meat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Heme_b.svg

Cc7381bd787721575ea9198048132adb

(5541)

on August 18, 2011
at 05:36 PM

While I appreciate a well placed snarky answer this doesn't really do anything to answer the question. I want papers!

226b10cbb6b1d3530b00d2d84a2dc86e

(3313)

on August 19, 2011
at 01:08 AM

Let's see here...a carboxylic acid group, a ketone group, 2 amine groups, an ester group and a phenyl group. Something tells me this molecule likes to misbehave.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 19, 2011
at 03:48 AM

@ grenadine, how 'bout salt? that's pretty paleo, no? it's one pure molecule. same with water ;)

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on August 18, 2011
at 12:17 PM

well, not to be too cheeky but I suppose you could put up an image of kind of any food's molecular structure and say the same, no?

Medium avatar

(3029)

on August 18, 2011
at 01:13 PM

I'm not a biochemist, but I don't think you could do that for an egg (which part, the yolk? the white?) or a piece of meat, or a vegetable. I think you could for something like tallow, or the fructose of a peach, but not the peach itself. Am I wrong? And it's not cheeky, I was wondering that myself.

Medium avatar

(3029)

on August 18, 2011
at 03:52 PM

I want to eat food and nothing else. Aspartame isn't a food so I don't want to eat it. For me it's that simple. I'm also specifically aware that there might be serious problems with aspartame, but even if there were no evidence that it's harmful, personally, I wouldn't touch it. So whether it's a poison or a little bit won't hurt us, isn't an interesting question (unless I want to convince someone else why they shouldn't eat it).

Medium avatar

(3029)

on August 18, 2011
at 03:06 PM

Yeah, but that's heme. It's not what's on my dinner plate.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 19, 2011
at 04:08 PM

ok jakey, except salt. Tho it could be argued that salt isn't exactly food either, i'm not the one to do it -- our bodies use it, it's absolutely safe in moderate amts, and i like it... can't say any of that that about aspartame!

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 19, 2011
at 04:09 PM

ok jakey, except salt. Tho it could be argued that salt isn't exactly food either, i'm not the one to do it.. our bodies use it, it's absolutely safe in moderate amts, and i like it! I can't say any of that about aspartame...

3
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 18, 2011
at 05:28 AM

my take on aspartame & sucralose: they're chemicals. i don't think they cause the health issues that many argue they do. they're definitely not paleo. despite the fact that they're chemicals, i think they're probably less detrimental to your health than refined sugar. caveat emptor, though.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 18, 2011
at 05:29 AM

sugar alcohols are a different ball game... almost tough to talk about them as one group.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on August 18, 2011
at 12:18 PM

nice one jakey. I'd agree. I have a hard time believing they're going to kill you but at the same time I think it's just plain silly to think they are real food and that they really belong in your mouth or your body. Stay away but don't be alarmist about them.

2
154d799847153f5589f99496a9bdbb71

on August 18, 2011
at 12:35 PM

In response to "I suppose you could put up an image of kind of any food's molecular structure and say the same, no?" I agree, but this amusing quote came to mind.

???Sangamon???s Principle,??? I said. ???The simpler the molecule, the better the drug. So the best drug is oxygen. Only two atoms. The second-best, nitrous oxide???a mere three atoms. The third-best, ethanol???nine. Past that, you???re talking lots of atoms.???

???So????

???Atoms are like people. Get lots of them together, never know what they???ll do.???

-"Zodiac" by Neal Stephenson

...

Of course, the real answer is that when you invent a chemical, you're creating something that the human body has never had the chance to encounter and adapt to. The interaction between you and the chemical is unknown: it could be benign or it could be harmful. It's a gamble.

2
65430e39d7e9e9322718d016fe668051

(2944)

on August 18, 2011
at 06:57 AM

I know Splenda is produced in the same factory as rat poison. Just the thought of a chemical sweetener makes me nauseated.

2
0e4e5882872d6a7c472ea51aec457e66

(1994)

on August 18, 2011
at 06:25 AM

Dr. Briffa wrote about formaldehyde and aspartame:

http://www.drbriffa.com/2011/06/15/formaldehyde-offically-cancer-causing-and-the-common-foodstuff-that-increases-our-exposure-to-this-chemical/

It's linked to cancer through the conversion into formaldehyde.

2
1a98a40ba8ffdc5aa28d1324d01c6c9f

(20378)

on August 18, 2011
at 05:24 AM

Don't eat it...

1a98a40ba8ffdc5aa28d1324d01c6c9f

(20378)

on August 18, 2011
at 06:52 AM

For sure on that!

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 18, 2011
at 06:39 AM

'cuz Grok wouldn't.

1
226b10cbb6b1d3530b00d2d84a2dc86e

(3313)

on August 19, 2011
at 01:13 AM

Aspartame is the one molecule (that I'm aware of) that gives me a full-blown allergic reaction with hives and swelling all over the place. It makes my nose double in size. I used to drink sugar-free Red Bull and then it hit me. I was able to drink the stuff for months but I guess Aspartame accumulated to the point of toxic levels. I bet the nephrons have no idea what to do with it.

0
Bece741db5f5fed6bafa12e3548f973f

(715)

on January 10, 2012
at 10:25 PM

Google "Does Aspartame affect pilots?" A number of years ago I heard from a friend, who had a relative flying for a commercial airline, that they were not allowed to use it within a certain time frame of a flight because of the neurological problems it can cause.

At any rate, soda is bad for your teeth and bones because the phosphorous. And then there is the caffeine thing. Given complete freedom my kids would drink a 20 oz. Dew every day. No way! And what about the gut, and men with prostate problems and well the list could go on. If aspartame isn't enough of a problem... look at all the other problems with soda consumption and it's enough to convince me not to touch the stuff.

0
Medium avatar

(2301)

on January 10, 2012
at 09:00 PM

noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo don't do it

0
C658d3f110a348a964dcf799002c4c2a

on January 10, 2012
at 08:00 PM

Big bad excitotoxin. There is no question that processed free aspartic acid causes health problems. The FDA gets around this fact by classifing it as "generaly recognized as safe" at "current levels of consumption". It does some very similar damage as free glutamic acid such as promting the pancreas to produce excess insulin which, for people eating very little sugar, that can cause a dangerous drop in blood glucose levels. Don't eat it! :)

0
Db17bc337cb7017d5a7961a529ca4d6e

on January 10, 2012
at 07:20 PM

Check out my 2012 comments about the underlying vitamin issue making some people susceptible to what they think is aspartame toxicity; http://paleohacks.com/questions/87999/aspartame-what-is-a-legitimate-website-or-study-to-use-as-patient-info/89021#89021

John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Nutrition)

For more Paleo hacks: http://paleohacks.com/questions/87999/aspartame-what-is-a-legitimate-website-or-study-to-use-as-patient-info#ixzz1j5JcSEre

0
79b187d791eae49070a90d6ca7ee5547

on August 18, 2011
at 06:01 PM

Heres an article I wrote on artificial sweeteners last week. I hope it helps.

http://rickosborn.com/which-sweetener-is-best-for-me/

0
559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 18, 2011
at 04:01 PM

Aspartame is not food. Even if you can rationalize its use as benign, the fact remains. And anyway: YUCK. How do people eat that stuff? It tastes so wrong. It's shocking how many processed foods contain it now, and medicines! Even things that aren't labeled as low-cal/low sugar use it. They're always sneaking into to yogurt.. I've been burned more than once that way, before i became a fanatical label-reader. Blarg! I guess it must be cheaper than sugar/hfcs.. probably lighter too, so shipping costs are less?.. I dunno.. otherwise it just doesn't make sense. Well, there are those that will say there are more sinister intentions regarding the increased inclusion, but I'm not even going there.

8634d4988ced45a68e2a79e69cc01835

(1617)

on August 18, 2011
at 04:11 PM

Yogurt, especially flavored yogurt, isn't Paleo either. ;-) Just sayin'.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 19, 2011
at 03:24 AM

oh, i haven't had flavored yogurt in years. and, i'm not worried about what is or is not "paleo". i eat whole, real food.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 19, 2011
at 04:26 PM

i haven't had flavored yogurt in years, and i'm not worried about what is or isn't "paleo". i gave up eating processed junk long before i gave up grains and beans.

0
B1fcaceba952861d0324bdb291edbbe0

(3159)

on August 18, 2011
at 12:23 PM

I did some research on it a while back (in hopes of stopping my mother's hefty diet soda consumption), here is a link: The Sweetness that is Killing You

0
8f46bdba543e1ea2c3818f4b243ff040

on August 18, 2011
at 10:56 AM

Aspartame is a well known neurotoxin that damages the brain an nervous system even in small quantities

8634d4988ced45a68e2a79e69cc01835

(1617)

on August 18, 2011
at 02:09 PM

IF that were true, many people would be severely brain damaged. The harmful effects of aspartame present in lab rats who are megadosed. You have to be eating pounds of the stuff a day to recreate those results in people. Too much of many things that are safe in small quantities are harmful if you ingest massive amounts.

8f46bdba543e1ea2c3818f4b243ff040

(390)

on August 25, 2011
at 12:52 PM

Neurotoxicity shows different symptoms in people than it does in lab rats, but that does not mean that it isn't there. Neurotoxicity in people often is demonstrated as headaches, anxiety, and depression, to name a few. These are symptoms that would be very difficult to "diagnose" in lab rats.

C658d3f110a348a964dcf799002c4c2a

(240)

on January 10, 2012
at 08:05 PM

Many people suffer all kinds of problems that suddenly subside when free aspartic and glutamic acid are removed from their diet.

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