Consumers beware! Food additives may be damaging to your health. Twenty-one years ago, we consumers were introduced to Nutrasweet, an artificially sweetener that replaced Saccharin which was implicated in causing brain tumors. Today, over 150 million of us are consuming this unnatural, man made, no calorie, addition to our daily drinks and foods. It is 200 times as sweet as table sugar (sucrose), and has no salt and no cholesterol. In 1983 it was added to pop; in 1993 it was added to our foods, Today it is present in many vitamins, pain relievers, laxatives, and a host of other substances.

Over the years, I have seen many patients who have complained of headaches, diarrhea, depression, and short-term memory loss. On cessation of Nutrasweet after 2 weeks many of their symptoms disappeared. Let me share with you some of the background of this interesting artificial sweetener.


Nutrasweet breaks down to 2 amino acids: phenylalamine, asparic acid and methyl alcohol (wood alcohol).

Wood alcohol is a deadly poison that the body cannot detoxify. It passes the blood brain barrier and is damaging to the optic nerves and retina of the eyes. It eventually can cause blindness. The methanol is oxidized to formaldehyde, then formate and finally formic acid. This results in vascular stasis (stagnation, dementia, Parkinsonism, numbness, pins and needles in the lower extremities, pancreatitis, and atypical chest pain). At temperatures over 86 degrees, the wood alcohol becomes unstable and breaks down into formaldehyde. When the pop is exposed to warm temperatures, as in the summer, or on the vendor's trucks, this reaction begins to occur. (It was postulated as a cause of some of the Gulf War symptoms in our soldiers as they were sent many bottles of diet pop.) The pop stood at temperatures over 110 degrees in the desert.)

19 grams of aspartame yields 1.9 mg of methanol. One liter of pop has 55 mg of methanol. Safe daily levels were listed as 20 mg daily. Recently it was upped to 50 mg daily. One person would have to drink 4 liters to exceed the new Acceptable Daily Intake levels.

L-Asparic acid in Nutrasweet, when combined with flavor compounds having aldehyde (as chocolate), at room temperature, changes from the L form to the isomer D form (a mirror image), which is an unnatural isomer. Interestingly, there has been found an accumulation of D- asparitc acid in the aging brain.

Aspartame triggers an increase release of insulin, as does the taste of any sweet food. As our supplies of insulin dwindle, the level of phenylalanine increases (resulting in high blood pressure). Our satiety center is aroused with hunger, stimulating a release of insulin, which results in a low blood sugar. At this point we must eat something sweet. Consequently, up goes our weight. (Could this be one reason why over 50% of Americans are grossly overweight compared to 25% just 20 years ago when Nutrasweet arrived on the scene?)

Phenylalanine breaks down to tyrosine when the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase is present. This enzyme is stimulated by the presence of insulin. Levels of phenylalanine are built up in leukemia, malnutrition, liver and kidney disease. It also is high in women taking oral contraceptives. Phenylalanine lowers the concentrations of amino acids formed from neurotransmitters as norepinephernine, seratonin (low in depression), acetylcholine (low in pain areas) and dopamine (low in Parkinsonism). It also blocks the turnover of myelin that protects nerves. In high blood pressure we see increased levels of norepinepherine, epinephrine and dopamine, as all are derived form phenylalanine.

MOST COMMON COMPLAINTS attributed to nutrasweet ingestion:

NEURALOGIC: headaches (50%), seizures, poor vision, dizziness (30%), depression, sleepiness (narcolepsy), confusion, short term memory loss, restless legs, personality changes, hyperactivity and learning disabilities in children

PAIN: face, neck chest, joint and leg pain

FLUID RETENTION: leg swelling

WEIGHT GAIN: Excessive thirst, dry mouth, thinning of hair (low thyroid), dry eyes (can't wear

LOW BLOOD SUGAR: extreme fatigue

BOWELS: diarrhea and bloating


COUMADIN clotting times are increased and one may need more medication

MAO inhibitors are exaggerated and one may need less medication

ANTABUSE slows the breakdown of methyl alcohol and more symptoms appear

DILANTIN, MSG, ASPIRIN levels are higher and one may experience ringing in the ear

CHEMICAL HEADACHES: phenylalanine excess makes headaches worse when triggered by cheese, alcohol, hot dog nitrates, MSG, tyramine, or chocolates

CONVULSIONS. The levels of seratonin and norephinepherine drop, methyl alcohol effects are more pronounced, and blood sugar drops. There is increased thirst and more salt is ingested. This results in an increase in fluid build up on the brain.


Nutrasweet is classified as a food additive and is not scrutinized by the FDA as drugs are scrutinized.. Since it is classified as a food additive, adverse reactions are not required to be reported. Since it has significant biological effects, Nutrasweet should be reclassified.

Cyclamate was removed as a sweetener in 1970. It is permitted in 40 countries including Canada. It is heat stable, only 30 times sweeter than table sugar (nutrasweet is 200 times sweeter), and leaves no saccharin after effect. Perhaps it should be reinstated.

One must read labels. Think before sweetening your foods. Slogans are used like diet, light, low calorie, and sugar free. Label do not tell you the quantity of Nutrasweet, nor do they have any expiration date. Nutrasweet can undergo drastic changes during long shelf life in stores or in hot environments.

Use of this product may be hazardous to some people. It is not a harmless substance. The danger is real. An alternate might be water with lemon or lime. If you have an uncontrollable sweet tooth or have diabetes, American acupuncture may be your answer. Through acupuncture you can balance your body energy and detoxify your body from drugs and food toxins as Nutrasweet.

Above all, consumers beware! Food additives may be damaging to your health.