Safe is the Artificial Sweetener, Aspartame?
Michael B. Schachter, MD
you are one of the millions of Americans who is concerned about being overweight
or about eating too much sugar, chances are you have eaten or drank products
containing aspartame. Aspartame is known commercially as Nutrasweet when
added to products or Equal when it is in the form of a sugar substitute in a
FDA and the manufacturers of these products have told you that they are
perfectly safe. But, just how safe are they? You probably will be as
shocked, as I was, to learn that between 80 to 85% of all complaints received by
the FDA are due to aspartame. By 1987, the FDA had received more than
6,000 complaints, including 250 involving epileptic seizures.
much aspartame do Americans eat? The average American consumes over 14
pounds of aspartame each year and this amount has been rising daily. In
April 1993, aspartame was approved for use in baked goods and mixes, which
greatly added to the 4,200 products already containing the synthetic sweetener.
kinds of symptoms may occur as a result of ingesting aspartame? Probably
the most common are headaches, including migraines. Epileptic seizures are
possible. Some pilots have lost their licenses after having experienced
seizures from aspartame, this problem being the subject of several articles in
symptoms include dizziness, unsteadiness, confusion, severe drowsiness and
sleepiness, numbness, hyperactivity--especially in children, depression,
irritability, anxiety, aggression, personality changes, insomnia, phobias,
blurred vision, ringing or buzzing in the ears, palpitations, diarrhea, nausea,
hives, menstrual changes, marked weight loss or gain, aggravated low blood
sugar, and many others.
an approved drug had as many complaints as aspartame, it probably would have
been removed from the market long ago. But, aspartame has been approved as
a safe food additive and is not a drug. The manufacturer does not have to
track adverse reactions once the food additive has been approved, unlike in the
case of new drugs.
FDA & manufacturers of aspartame claim that all of the adverse symptoms
reported are "anecdotal." Because it is common that a person
will not experience noticeable illness from short-term usage of aspartame, this
is taken as proof that there is no problem with safety. Unfortunately,
this position ignores the fact that the effects of aspartame are cumulative.
see if you are being affected by aspartame, eliminate all aspartame products for
about two weeks. If some of your symptoms improve, you may then
reintroduce aspartame and see if your symptoms return. If they do, you
should probably eliminate aspartame entirely.
2000 Michael B. Schachter, MD