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Fake Sweetener Largely Behind Cognitive Disfunctions


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 diabetes.

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 death.

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 cord.

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 death.

Why do you think aspartame is so dangerous?

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 three neurotoxins.

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 the brain?

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 the brain.

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 levels.

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 critical areas.

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 phenylalanine.

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 NutraSweet.

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 vertigo.

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 humans?

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 seizure potential.

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 humans.

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 cleared up.

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 seizure.

We touched lightly on attention deficit disorder [ADD] and attention deficit hyperactive disorder [ADHD]. What learning disorders can aspartame aggravate or even cause?

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 Children.

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 developmental period.

[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. ™