Aspartame, one of the most popular artificial sweetening chemicals, has equally vehement supporters and opponents.  The manufacturer and several government agencies support it as a sugar substitute, stating that it is perfectly safe.  Others in both the holistic and medical field claim that aspartame is a poison that is slowly killing us. 


Aspartame was approved as a food additive in 1981 in Canada and the U.S.A.  Today you will find it in diet soft drinks, sugarless gum and many other processed foods (Brand name  sweeteners are Nutrasweet and Equal). 


One of the ingredients in aspartame is wood alcohol or methanol.  Methanol is itself a poison, but once in the digestive system it can break down into formaldehyde.  Formaldehyde is a poison in the same class as Cyanide and Arsenic – the only difference is that it is slow acting. Its main target is the nervous system. 


Scientific studies vary in their findings on the health effects of aspartame.  Independent studies (ie. not funded by the manufacturer) repeatedly find that aspartame causes nerve damage – the most common damage is to vision.  Depending on the amount consumed, damage can be acute and severe or slowing develop over a life time.  There is evidence that aspartame poisoning can mimic several diseases like Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimers and Lupus, or make the symptoms worse.  Aspartame is considered particularly deadly for diabetics.  See and


Other studies find no negative health effects from aspartame. Anti-aspartame groups contend that these studies are corporately funded which makes the findings suspect.  On its website, NutraSweet® cites the research studies that support aspartame as being safe, but there is no information as to who funded the studies.  See and


What about the Canadian position?  Health Canada’s Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion states that aspartame is safe, yet they also state that “pregnant women should be cautioned against excessive consumption of products containing aspartame.”  What would constitute “excessive consumption?”  It is stated that the Acceptable Daily Intake is 40 mg per kilogram of body weight per day or the equivalent of sixteen cans of diet soft drink daily.


Confused?  My response to this controversy is to err on the safe side and follow the credo of holistic nutrition: Eat foods that are “natural, alive and good quality” which obviously rules out something with the label of “artificial.”  That way you can’t go wrong. 


A Self-Help Tip:

If you use aspartame products and you have physical, visual or mental problems, you can take the “60 day no-aspartame test” recommended by  If this chemical is affecting you, it can take as long as 60 days without aspartame to see any change in your symptoms. 


Other References:

EXCITOTOXINS: The Taste That Kills” by Dr. Blaylock, 1996

“Aspartame (NutraSweet®): Is it Safe? by Dr. H.J. Roberts, 1990