The artificial sweetener aspartame (951, 'phenylalanine') is sold as NutraSweet and Equal and is sold worldwide in thousands of foods and diet drinks. This additive, along with MSG, has the distinction of being the most complained about of any additive. There are many websites and an increasing number of scientific papers and books on the additive. Below are extracts from some anecdotes from people who realised that various health problems were caused by the aspartame they were consuming.
During my days of Nutrasweet, I gained weight, got headaches, developed eye migraines, developed hypoglycaemia and had memory problems. My memory has never recovered 100%. At this point, I am completely off of all artificial sweeteners. I tried Splenda when it came out, but I seemed to develop an addiction to that as well.
My symptoms included dull feeling in the head, growing confusion, dizziness, numbness in my fingers and toes and clumsy behaviour (all of which I recognized as neurological symptoms). I started dropping things, banging myself and injuring myself while working on the new apartment. This was dangerous since I was using power tools, and at times was working at height. I was so disoriented and unaware of my surroundings at one time that I drove into a post and smashed the front end of my automobile. My fingers became so insensitive that I started having trouble typing (I am normally a very fast touch typist) and considerable trouble playing the piano (including pieces I know well and generally have no trouble with).
I was puzzled to find that I was having trouble with relatively simple mathematics; I am a product designer and must often use applied mathematics consisting of simple differential equations and routine techniques for analysing material strengths and so on, and also relatively straightforward hypothesis testing statistics... In the several weeks following cessation of purchasing drinks from the station, my symptoms largely cleared up. However, not everything is back to normal and it is clear that I have been neurologically damaged... I conclude that the Aspartame in the drinks is responsible for the episodes and for the neurological, auditory and visual damage I now suffer.
A colleague commented how clumsy she was getting and that she was starting to become quite worried about it. Then a few days later she arrived at work with steristrips (paper stitches) across the bridge of her nose. She had tripped at home and fallen through a glass window. Having noticed that she regularly drank diet drinks I asked her how much on average she drank.
'Oh, a couple of glasses a night and about 2 litres at the weekend and then a can or two at work.'... About a week later I asked her how she was. She had read the literature that weekend and decided to stop the diet drinks and see what happened. Her symptoms had completely disappeared and she is now drinking bottled water instead.
During the past few years I became somewhat "addicted" to Breath-Saver mints. I typically ate 4 or 5 a day, and bought big packages of them... I also drank four or five diet pepsis a week. Symptoms came on gradually, and I never made the connection to Aspartame. They included attacks of gastritis, extremely painful episodes that woke me up at night... I had never before had such painful stomach troubles. I also seemed to suffer more from headaches, depression, and fatigue...
I decided to completely stop my aspartame consumption. It has had amazing results after a fairly short time. My shoulder pain is 90% abated, hardly noticeable now. I stopped having gastritis attacks. Other symptoms have improved.
I started out by using Aspartame in my coffee. I used to drink 5-6 cups of coffee and drank 3 tablets in each cup. I kicked my coffee habit later on but started drinking artificially sweetened carbonated drinks. Approximately 6 - 8 cups a day. I also ate yoghurt with aspartame in and other products like sugar free chewing gum.
I suffered from imbalance in my hormones which could not be explained. I just later on accepted that it will never change. I started having frequent infections which could not be cured by antibiotics. I suffered from very bad depression. I also gained a lot of weight which I just could not get rid of and I suffered from all kinds of cravings, specially sweet cravings. I used to crave sweets so much that I felt like I was going insane until I ate 2 - 3 bars of chocolate or Ice cream. I was tired all the time and had frequent mood swings. I also got blurred speech at times and was unable to concentrate.
My whole life changed after [stopping using aspartame]. I have lost 4 kilograms in the past two months. I have completely stopped having cravings. My hormones are balanced and I'm having my period regularly and on time. I have no more infections. My mental health has improved so much that I feel like a completely different person.
I began to gain weight. My diet included approximately 8 litres of Pepsi per week. As part of a strategy to combat this weight gain, I switched from regular Pepsi to Diet Pepsi. Soon after, I began to notice my feet felt unusually cold at night.
This progressed until I was soon too uncomfortable to sleep at night without wearing socks. By late February 2004, a second symptom arose. At this time, I began to notice that my left eye would become numb and unresponsive whenever I would relax or prepare to go to sleep. This partial paralysis was upsetting to me, and I soon began to consult eye doctors... [I was tested for] MS at a local hospital. All came back as negative for MS...
My friend commented that I might be a victim of Aspartame poisoning, and that I should stop drinking Diet Pepsi. I took his advice. Within a few days, my symptoms of a year and a half were noticeably better. Within a month, all of my symptoms were gone. Following this, I unknowingly began using some other products containing Aspartame. My symptoms began to return. After realizing that Aspartame has many names, I ridded myself of these products as well. My symptoms once again subsided. All of this has left no doubt in my mind that I have been a victim of Aspartame poisoning.
Further information is available from:
Websites: www.holisticmed.com/aspartame, www.dorway.com and www.wnho.net
Books: "Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic" by H. J. Roberts, M.D, www.sunsentpress.com
"Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills" by Russell Blaylock, MD.
What can you do? Write to or phone Food Standards Australia New Zealand, PO Box 10559, Wellington, 0800 441 517, www.foodstandards.gov.au
Compiled by Alison White, Safe Food Campaign, www.safefood.org.nz, March 2005