Aspartame, commonly known as NutraSweet, Equal or Spoonful, is one of the world’s most widely used artificial sweeteners.  Originally discovered in the late 1960s, it is currently used in over 6,000 food products and available in over 90 countries.  Most of us know of aspartame through our consumption of so-called “diet” sodas.  But despite its approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is aspartame a truly safe product?  A look at its effects on the body paints a very sobering picture.

            To start with, aspartame is approximately 180 times as sweet as sugar[1], but with zero calorie content.  Because aspartame is so intensely sweet, and because its effect on appetite lasts for up to 90 minutes after ingestion, it causes an overwhelming urge to overeat.  That is why the more aspartame you consume, the more likely you are to gain weight.[2]

            Once the aspartame is actually in the body, even more damage occurs.  Above 86 degrees F. (remember, normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees), aspartame breaks down into the chemicals phenylalanine, aspartate and methanol. 

            Phenylalanine is an amino acid which competes for absorption in the brain with the amino acid tryptophan.  It blocks the action of tryptophan, thus creating an insufficiency in the brain which has been closely linked to illnesses such as depression[3].  Recent research has also tied tryptophan insufficiency to the development of diabetes and cell mutation[4], and erratic, unusual or even violent behavior[5]

            Aspartate also significantly damages the body.   Like phenylalanine, aspartate is a highly excitatory neurotransmitter, or excitotoxin.  When consumed in large quantities (like those found in diet drinks), these two chemicals act together to change the basic activity level of the brain to an unhealthy, constantly stimulated state.  When caffeine is added to the mix, the effect is greatly increased[6]

            But perhaps the most dangerous component of aspartame is methanol, also known as wood alcohol.  Once ingested, the methanol converts to formaldehyde and formic acid (ant sting poison).  Formaldehyde, a deadly neurotoxin, is common embalming fluid, and a Class A carcinogen. 

One of the less explored complications of aspartame may be its effect as a possible facilitator in cancer formation in the brain.  Fed to rats, aspartame has, in two separate studies, been implicated in brain tumor formation in experimental animals.  

Finally, aspartate causes indiscriminate overuse of the energy cells of the brain, causing thirst/hunger to replace the lost energy reserves, and literally killing the brain cells in the process.

            In summary, aspartame is one of the most dangerous additives in the world food supply.  It has been linked to a host of serious diseases, and over 90 adverse physical reactions, most having to do with interruption of normal brain chemistry.  Bottom line:  if you, a friend or loved one use products containing this dangerous chemical, QUIT NOW!


Peter M. McCarthy, ND

Martin's Wellness 



 [1]  F. Batmanghelidj, M.D., Your Body’s Many Cries For Water, 1997, Global Health Solutions, Inc., Falls Church, VA, pgs. 106-108.

2 Ibid.

3 S. Stellman and L. Garfinkel, “Short Report: Artificial Sweetener Use and Weight Changes among Women,” Preventive Medicine, 1986;15:195-202

4 M. Maes, M. Vandewoude, C. Schotte et al., “The Decreased Availability of L-Tryptophan in Depressed Females: Clinical and Biological Correlates,” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 1990; 14(6): 903-19

5 Batmanghelidj, pg. 126.

6 Fred Schofield, D.C., “WARNING: NutraSweet is a Neurotoxin,” January 1997, SDCCS/Journal, pg. 12.


Peter M. McCarthy, ND is a nationally board certified traditional naturopath, and a wellness consultant with Martins Compounding and Wellness Centers.  He is the author of Adrenaline Nation: Chronic Stress is Ruining Our Health and Bankrupting Our Economy – Discover What YOU Can Do About It NOW!  Trained in both functional blood work analysis and saliva hormone analysis, he is a former member of the Advisory Committee of the American Naturopathic Certification Board. He is available for individual wellness consultations by appointment at Dripping Springs Pharmacy, 100 Commons Rd., Suite 1, Dripping Springs, TX , Monday through Friday from 12 pm til 6 pm.