The dangers of aspartame

posted in: Food, Magazine Articles
Organic NZ Magazine: January/February 2013
Section: Health and food
Author: Kyra Xavia

Aspartame is a highly addictive artificial sweetener and flavour enhancer, used in over 10,000 products worldwide. Produced by genetic engineering, aspartame is incorrectly classified as an additive, when it is in fact an excitotoxic and neurotoxic drug, supposedly developed to treat peptic ulcers.
Misleading claims
Since its creation, aspartame has been known to cause cancer, and only received approval by the American Food and Drug Agency (FDA) through fraudulent means.1,2,3,4,5 Since then, advocates of aspartame have relied upon numerous flawed industry-funded studies (which avoided the detection of ill effects). This has resulted in the misleading claim that aspartame is one of the most studied food additives – and therefore, is the safest food additive ever made. Yet, as more research is done and more people become aware, the harmful effects of aspartame are harder to ignore.6,9
Aspartame linked with cancer
In 2012, the first most comprehensive human study of aspartame toxicity, spanning 22 years, revealed an association between aspartame intake and blood cancers. In 2011, in response to research linking aspartame consumption to premature births as well as an increased risk of cancer, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) brought forward the re-evaluation of its safety from 2020. It is currently conducting a full review, and findings are scheduled for release in May 2013. However, previous review committees have been stacked with industry scientists that have maintained aspartame’s safety.1,7,8,10
Widespread use
Aspartame is predominantly used in sugar-free, low-fat and diet products, chewing gums and sports drinks. It’s also added to pharmaceuticals, medications, supplements and personal care products, but might not be labelled as aspartame because there is no requirement to do so. Brand names include Aminosweet, Equal, Nutrasweet, Spoonful, and NutraTaste. It can also be listed as 951, and sometimes labels will only say ‘contains phenylalanine’.
Negative health effects
Aspartame is made up of aspartic acid (40%), phenylalanine (50%) and methanol (10%). Although these substances do occur naturally in various foods (a fact that is often used to imply aspartame’s safety) – all three forms present in aspartame have neurotoxic effects on the human body. (A neurotoxin overstimulates nerve cells until they die.)
Not only that, but methanol is deadly to humans because it cannot be broken down safely. Instead, it is metabolised into formaldehyde, a recognised carcinogen. Aspartame can also form a harmful by-product called diketonepiperazine (DKP), an agent linked to brain tumours.
Despite claims to the contrary, the acceptable daily allowance (ADI) set for aspartame is not a safe guide. This is of concern considering that recent research reveals aspartame is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and the developing foetus in the womb.8 Alarmingly, Diabetes NZ’s website states that aspartame is safe during pregnancy.
If this wasn’t enough, aspartame interacts with many medications, as well as having a synergistic effect with some food additives such as MSG (621, another excitotoxin and neurotoxin), and other artificial sweeteners.
Increased appetite and carbohydrate craving
Finally, there is no adequate research that proves aspartame helps with weight loss; there is, however, research that shows that aspartame induces carbohydrate craving, increases appetite, ruins the body’s ability to register satiety (the feeling of having had enough to eat), interferes with metabolism, and causes weight gain.11
Unfortunately, many people still believe artificially sweetened foods and drinks with reduced calories can help fight obesity, and prevent or manage diabetes – when in fact aspartame has been contributing to and worsening these problems all along.
With organisations such as the NZ Nutrition Foundation, Diabetes NZ, Food Standards Australia NZ, NZ Food Safety Authority and Weight Watchers supporting the use of this neurotoxic drug, the public has every reason to be concerned.

Kyra Xavia is a freelance writer, photographer and qualified nutritionist, naturopath, herbalist, homeopath and aromatherapist.

What can you do?

  • Avoid artificial sweeteners.
  • Use natural sweeteners such as honey, unrefined organic molasses and stevia in moderation instead.
  • Read the labels of supplements and pharmaceutical products very carefully.
  • Ask your pharmacist if your medications contain aspartame and request safer alternatives.
  • Contact for more information.
  • Boycott products that contain aspartame and voice your concerns to manufacturers and regulatory agencies.
  • Find manufacturers’ pages on Facebook and post comments on their wall.


Report suspected reactions
If you, or someone you care about uses products with aspartame, and has ailments that elude treatment, avoid all aspartame for a month. If after this, you are convinced that symptoms were caused by aspartame, contact the following:
Food Standards Australia NZ, phone 04 978 5630, email
NZ Food Safety Authority, phone 0800 693 721, email

  1. Email correspondence with Betty Martini from Mission Possible World Health International:
  2. WC Monte, While Science Sleeps a Sweetener Kills, San Francisco: Amazon Create Space Publishing, 2011
  3. R Blaylock, Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills, Health Press, Santa Fe, 1996
  4. HJ Roberts, Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic, Sunshine Sentinel Press, 2001
  5. HJ Roberts, Aspartame (Nutrasweet): Is it Safe? The Charles Press, Pennsylvania, 1990
  6. ES Schernhammer et al, ‘Consumption of artificial sweetener- and sugar-containing soda and risk of lymphoma and leukemia in men and women’, American Society for Nutrition, 24 October 2012
  7. M Soffritti et al, ‘Aspartame administered in feed, beginning pre-natally through life span, induces cancers of the liver and lung in male Swiss mice’, Am. J. Ind. Med 2010, 53: 1197–1206
  8. TI Halldorsson et al. ‘Intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks and risk of preterm delivery: a prospective cohort study in 59,334 Danish pregnant women’, Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 2010, 92: 626–33
  9. P Humphries et al, ‘Direct and indirect cellular effects of aspartame on the brain’, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008, 62: 451–462
  10. M Soffritti, et al, ‘First experimental demonstration of the multipotential carcinogenic effects of aspartame administered in the feed to Sprague-Dawley rats’, Environmental Health Perspectives, March 2006, 114(3): 379–385
  11. Qing Yang, 2010. ‘Gain weight by “going diet”? Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings’, Yale Journal of Biological Medicine, June 2010, 83(2): 101–108

More information


Where is it found?
Be aware that aspartame may be included under ‘inactive’ ingredients.

  • Drinks such as Zero Coke, Pepsi Next, L & P Sweet As, Bundaberg diet ginger beer, sparkling flavoured spring water, tea and coffee beverages, juices, milk drinks, cocoa mixes, wine coolers and instant liquid breakfasts.
  • Cereals, yoghurt, sweets, desserts, table-top sweeteners and topping mixes, etc.
  • Weight Watcher products such as desserts, drinking chocolate, and sweetener.
  • Supplements such as chewable vitamins, minerals, and vitamin C tablets (including Healtheries Kidscare Fizz Bombs and Boost products, Berocca effervescent tablets),  sports drinks, protein powders and liquid meals for the elderly and ill.
  • Personal care items such as toothpaste, mouthwash, Listerine Pocketpak breath strips, breath mints, sugar-free chewing gum, lip gloss, lubricants, spermicides and flavoured condoms.
  • Over-the-counter products such as Neurofen for Children Meltlets Orodispersible tablet 100 mg strawberry flavour, Lemsip, Vicks throat lozenges, Gaviscon, Gastrolyte powder, Alka-Seltzer, Panadol Rapid, Panadol Cold & Flu Citrus effervescent tablet, Zantac effervescent tablet, cough syrups, laxatives, Imodium melts orodispersible tablet, bulking agents like Metamucil and Mucilax.
  • For a full list of medications containing aspartame, see


Common symptoms

  • Some common symptoms caused by aspartame ingestion include: abdominal pain, changes in vision, cramps, diarrhoea, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, memory loss, nausea, poor balance and vomiting.
  • Some psychological symptoms include: anxiety, bipolar or manic depression, hallucinations, mood swings, paranoia, rage, suicidal tendencies and violence.
  • Chronic conditions linked to aspartame intake include Alzheimer’s disease, birth defects, blindness, brain tumours, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, lymphoma, lupus, Parkinson’s disease, mental retardation and multiple sclerosis.

A more comprehensive list can be found at