Fake Sweetener Largely Behind
Many doctors and researchers contend
that the industrial answer to America’s sweets addiction—mass
producing synthetic alternatives to sugar—is causing more harm than
it is helping to combat obesity, bad teeth and
The following is an excerpt from an
interview with Dr. Russell Blaylock, a neurosurgeon at the Medical
University of Mississippi, on Mission Impossible Radio, a program
dedicated to the eradication of aspartame as an additive in food
preparation, with hosts Jon Baum and Betty Martini. Baum’s questions
appear in boldface, Martini’s are in italics. And Blaylock’s
responses are in regular text.
There is a sinister plot by Searle
Pharmaceuticals, Monsanto Corporation and the United States
government to unleash a very dangerous addictive drug on the world’s
population which causes symptoms as mild as migraine headaches to
symptoms as serious as seizures, cancer, blindness, Alzheimers and
Can you tell us, what is an
exitotoxin and where are they found?
An exitotoxin is a rather unusual
group of compounds, most of which are proteins that we’re
particularly concerned with. These are substances that when you
expose them to brain cells, the brain cells become hyper-excited so
that they’re firing their impulses very rapidly. They keep doing
that until the cell becomes so exhausted it’ll die and that’s the
reason we call that an exitotoxin.
Normally, these substances in the
brain—for example, glutamate and aspartate—are used as transmitter
substances, that is a substance which allows these cells to
communicate with each other.
But these compounds are so toxic that
the brain keeps them in minutely low concentrations. Anything that
alters that so that these compounds increase can destroy brain cells
and produce degeneration of the brain and the spinal
You’re most likely to be exposed to
exitotoxins as food additives. One of them that most people are
familiar with would be monosodium glutamate or MSG. It occurs in
various disguised forms, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, vegetable
protein, soy isolate, etc.
Another form it is found in is one of
the components of aspartame or NutraSweet, which is made of two
amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid.
Aspartic acid is an exitotoxin that is
as powerful as glutamate. Phenylalanine is an amino acid that is
known to produce seizures and act as a neurotoxin at high levels in
the brain as well.
Can naturally occurring proteins be
harmful to the brain?
The way things are arranged in nature,
almost all of the amino acids occur as whole proteins, so that the
body slowly assimilates it and breaks it down and converts it in the
liver. The level or concentration of their amino acids is always
kept at moderately low levels, so that the brain is not assaulted by
these dangerous proteins.
When we start manipulating foods and
drinks and creating sweeteners that contain high levels of these
amino acids in isolation, the blood levels can get quite high, in
fact, tremendously high. This results in a significant elevation of
these amino acids in the brain and that’s what has most of us
worried. It’s at a level high enough to produce destruction of
certain groups of brain cells and produce disease, seizures or even
Why do you think aspartame is so
Aspartame contains aspartic acid which
is also an isolated amino acid that is just as toxic as glutamate.
What makes aspartame particularly dangerous is that it contains
Methanol is a very powerful
neurotoxin. In fact, the EPA controls methanol exposure very
carefully allowing only very minute levels to be found in foods or
in environmental exposures. But, it’s interesting that the level
allowed in NutraSweet is seven times the amount that the EPA will
allow anyone else to use.
Methanol is an extremely powerful
neurotoxin. It can produce blindness. It can produce cellular
destruction in the brain and the spinal cord, in particular the
optic nerves that have to do with our vision.
The second amino acid, aspartic acid,
is an exitotoxin that can produce cellular excitation and cell death
in the brain. It can alter the way the brain is formed in newborn
babies that permanently changes the brain formation, resulting in
behavioral changes in children and hyperactivity.
Phenylalanine can also alter how the
brain is formed during the fetal formation of the brain and it can
produce lowering of the seizure threshold so you’re more likely to
have a seizure.
Phenylalanine and aspartic acid are
both well recognized neurotoxins. So this combination by putting
three relatively powerful neurotoxins into one combination is just
to me unbelievable.
We’ve heard a lot about the blood
brain barrier. Doesn’t it prevent these amino acids from entering
This is one of the other things that
the defenders of these compounds usually bring up. The brain has a
barrier system that would keep these toxic substances from entering.
There’s an enormous amount of
research, particularly recently, in which the levels of glutamic
acid, aspartic acid and phenylalanine have been measured inside the
brain after ingestion of NutraSweet or MSG. It has clearly shown
that these substances accumulate in very high concentrations within
One study which was recently done
indicated that the previous studies that said phenylalanine does not
increase in the brain is really deceptive. They homogenated or
ground up the entire brain of animals and measured phenylalanine
When they repeated this study and
measured the amount of phenylalanine in particular areas of the
brain they found the phenylalanine tended to accumulate in the
For example, the hypothalamus, which
controls so many aspects of our functions—not just the endocrine
system but our heart rate, the autonomic nervous system, the
sleep/wake cycles, your appetite, the emotional system—has been
shown to have very high accumulations of phenylalanine. The medulla
oblongata at the brain stem accumulates it. The corpus striadem,
which is related to Parkinson’s Disease, is known to accumulate
What is the connection between
aspartame and multiple sclerosis [MS]?
What we know about MS is during the
periods of exacerbation, that is when the symptoms get worse, the
barrier system around the parts of the brain that contains the nerve
fibers, that is the myelin, tends to break down. When that breaks
down any substance in the blood can enter that part of the brain so
that if your blood has high concentrations of phenylalanine, or
aspartic acid and methanol, it’s going to seep through these holes
or openings in this barrier system and go directly into the damaged
areas of the brain and greatly aggravate it.
A person may have what we call
subclinical MS. That is they’re not even aware they have it. When
they drink NutraSweet, they’ll develop all of the symptoms of full
blown MS and become deathly ill.
There’s some evidence that NutraSweet
in a person that consumes a large concentration can develop an
MS-like syndrome, that is they develop a lot of the symptoms of MS
that is purely due to the toxic affects of the components of
We have been flooded with
complaints from pilots. Three American Airline pilots who were heavy
users of aspartame have died. One just recently had a stroke and
some have said that pilots affected by disorientation, blindness,
vertigo and other neurological symptoms are in fact suffering from
hypoglycemia. Is that true?
Well, this is something that I had
explored early, the connection between hypoglycemia and aspartame
toxicity. What we find is that with all exitotoxins, their toxic
effect is greatly magnified in the presence of hypoglycemia.
For instance, let’s say a pilot is
trying to make a schedule so he skips breakfast and, instead, has a
diet cola with NutraSweet. His blood sugar is going to be low but he
would be essentially asymptomatic or just maybe feel a little hungry
or slightly weak from it. But with that hypoglycemia in the presence
of NutraSweet he would develop a full-blown syndrome of exposure to
NutraSweet with disorientation, blurred vision, confusion and
Is it depleting glucose in the
brain? Is that how it works?
Yes, it’s denying glucose to brain
cells. Glucose is the primary fuel for the brain. Without glucose,
most people would quickly lapse into a coma.
We know that on the FDA report
there are four different types of seizures triggered by aspartame
that are documented by the FDA. We know that a pivotal study done on
monkeys said five of them had grand mal seizures and one died.
However, with industry, experimental results seem to indicate that
aspartame doesn’t precipitate seizures. So, what about
Well, the thing that’s interesting
about a lot of these studies is that most of them were done on rats
or mice. Rats and mice metabolize phenylalanine and aspartame much
differently than humans do. Humans are seven times more sensitive
than mice and two times more sensitive than rats to aspartame
Also, humans are consuming aspartame
chronically, that is every day, several times a day, whereas most of
these experiments were done giving a single dose or maybe two doses
of aspartame. Also in humans they are consuming exitotoxins in other
forms, MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable protein.
As I stated the additive effect of
these things is much worse than a single exposure. And the form in
which you consume the aspartame makes a lot of difference. We know
that liquid exitotoxins are much more toxic and much more likely to
produce seizures than are solid foods.
Encapsulated aspartame is used in a
lot of the experiments and its poorly absorbed. So a lot of these
experiments either by design or by ignorance of the various
metabolic effects of aspartame are not applicable to
We have many, many clinical cases of
seizures in humans that are precipitated by aspartame products that
are double-blind studies. We have good evidence that in humans
aspartame causes seizures.
Are there medical conditions that
are completely without symptoms that can be precipitated by
substances such as aspartame and MSG?
Exactly. In my book I give the case of
a man who was drinking Crystal Light sweetened with NutraSweet which
seems to be cropping up a lot.
I don’t know what it is about Crystal
Light but we have a lot of seizures being reported with the use of
that compound, I mean that particular substance.
This man had an abnormal condition of
his brain, a little abnormal vein deep in his brain which in most
people you wouldn’t even know you had and could go through life
never having a single symptom. He was consuming, at that point, a
large amount of Crystal Light sweetened with NutraSweet and he
developed a grand mal seizure.
When this lesion was found it was not
necessary to be surgically treated because it was a benign
condition. All they did was take him off NutraSweet and the seizures
There are a lot of conditions like
this. You could have scars in your brain and for instance during a
difficult birth sometimes it will produce a small scar in the brain
that may be completely without any symptoms and you’d never know you
had it, but if you were exposed to something like NutraSweet which
lowers your seizure threshold, out of the blue you’ll have a
We touched lightly on attention
deficit disorder [ADD] and attention deficit hyperactive disorder
[ADHD]. What learning disorders can aspartame aggravate or even
This is something that’s of a lot of
concern to people who work with ADD children and ADHD.
One of the persons involved is Dr.
Keith Connors who has written Feeding the Brain: How Foods Affect
In this book Connors talks about a
four-year-old child who was drinking some aspartame sweetened root
beer and just became berserk. The child was hyperactive and violent,
and complained of headaches.
The doctor suggested the mother stop
giving the child the NutraSweet-sweetened root beer. So she took it
away and the child returned to normal with no head aches. But she
was kind of skeptical so she decided to let this child start
drinking it again. The same thing happened.
He gives case after case like this. So
this is producing some ADHD-type problems that are very clear.
Now one of the studies that was done,
a two-part study by Freider and Grimm, is an Israeli study at the
University there. Researchers tried to determine what was causing
some of these problems with mentation.
They fed pregnant mice an exitotoxin,
and they found that the offspring had a normal-appearing learning
for simple things but for complex learning they were severely
impaired. When they studied the brains to see why, they found out
that the neurotransmitter called acetylcholine had been reduced 80
percent and remained reduced throughout the entire childhood period
of that animal.
So what we’re seeing is a profound
change in the chemistry of the brain of children that are exposed to
these exitotoxins while they’re still inside their mother during the
[Leading researcher] Dr. Louis
Elsas testified before Congress that aspartame is a neurotoxin and
aterotagen that triggers birth defects and even pediatric genetics.
Are the effects of exitotoxins reversible?
Generally we find that there’s two
types of effects.
One is, with massive doses, it will
kill the cells in critical areas of the brain particularly in the
hypothalamus. Once they’re gone, they’re lost.
The second effect is what we call the
physiological effect. It alters how the cell functions. If you stop
the toxin, the cell can recover and return back to normal. We’ve
seen, particularly in children who develop this severe violence,
hyperactivity and uncontrollable behavior, that if you stop the
NutraSweet, they return to normal. We also know that if these
children continue to consume NutraSweet over long periods of time it
can become permanent.
So it’s critical that mothers stop
drinking Nutrasweet when they’re pregnant. If they’re letting their
children have it, stop now. ™