Another New Spin on Aspartame

Friday, August 23, 2013
Posted in category Industrial Food Machine

Coca-Cola sugar bomb sales have been sagging. So the company is rolling out a series of print ads that are more like government public service announcements rather than the traditional marketing ad. But then again, Coca-Cola is Big Food and it is a key player in the Industrial Food Machine. These ads propagandize for the safety of artificial sweeteners in sound bites that the collective masses – who are addicted to sweets – can absorb and likely believe. Here’s my short history on Aspartame and how Donald Rumsfeld did all the necessary leg work to get a poison approved by the US government as a cheap (high-margin) food. Here’s a snippet I took of an ad thanks to my favorite new software, Snagit.

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5 Responses to Another New Spin on Aspartame

  1. John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Nutrition) says:

    August 24th, 2013 at 1:00 am

    I’m sorry to say you have been totally misinformed by the aspartame critics, who know nothing either about toxicology (the science of poisons) or about this sweetener. That alone accounts for the fact that aspartame is approved by the regulatory agencies of 90+ nations worldwide.

    Here is what you don’t know. Aspartame can react with water given heat and over time be converted (hydrolyzed) into its constituents–methanol and the parent dual amino acid aspartylphenylalanine; the latter may also be further hydrolyzed into its single amino acids (aspartate and phenylalanine). That said, methanol and these amino acids are perfectly stable in the soft-drink can, but this reaction with water removes aspartame’s sweetness, which is completely associated with the intact aspartame molecule. Upon human ingestion these same three products are produced by stomach hydrolysis.

    So where does the formaldehyde people mention come from? Formaldehyde and its further oxidation product formate arise in liver from oxidation of that methanol. Critics scream this is an issue, but it simply is not. Toxicology is all about dose. Everything is toxic, but that toxicity occurs only at a certain dose (concentration). Critics are trying to scare the public, but this fails with scientists, because screaming that something is toxic without recognition of the dose (concentration) factor is meaningless diatribe. And that is why trained scientists everywhere refuse to listen.

    The reality is that formaldehyde and formate pose little risk at the doses involved from aspartame; these substances [quoting another] are “produced in the body during the endogenous demethylation of many compounds, including many foods [fruit juices] and drugs. For example, the demethylation of the caffeine found in one cup of coffee produces 30 mg of formaldehyde (Imbus, 1988). Formaldehyde is essential in one-carbon pool intermediary metabolism. The metabolite of formaldehyde, formic acid, is a substrate for purine nucleotide synthesis (Sheehan and Tully, 1983). It can be calculated that more than 50,000 mg [that's 50 g] of formaldehyde is produced and metabolized in an adult human body daily and that an adult human liver will metabolize 22 mg of formaldehyde per minute (Clary and Sullivan, 1999). Consequently, it is quite clear that the formaldehyde from aspartame provides a trivial contribution to total formaldehyde exposure and metabolism in the body” (p 18 in and refs from http://www.fte.ugent.be/vlaz/Magnuson2007.pdf). In fact the methyl groups produced from formaldehyde and formate by folate-B12 (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_B12) are vital to our very existence. They are used to protect DNA and methylate the really toxic homocysteine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homocysteine) into very valuable methionine.

    Now consider clear poisoning by methanol. It requires many milliliters of methanol, but poisoning is actually not due to the methanol or to the formaldehyde either—that formaldehyde becomes protein bound in the blood. The real poisoning is due to the production of formic acid (formate) faster than the often deficient folic acid/B12 vitamin systems can remove it. That causes accrual of formate and acidosis. Reducing the production of formate by inhibiting the enzyme making it, treatment of acidosis and enhancement by dietary folate (or related drugs) are the steps physicians take in methanol poisoning, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12216995.

    John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Nutrition)

  2. Karen De Coster says:

    August 24th, 2013 at 7:35 am

    John – your comment, “aspartame is approved by the regulatory agencies of 90+ nations worldwide” will have no meaning to libertarians, here, who understand the depravity and coercive attributes of politics. In fact, that statement works against you. All of you so-called “experts” claim the other “experts” are wrong. But when you use government approval for legitimacy and support, I garner that you have been misinformed and fooled by the politics of science your whole career.

    Your expertise may be chem/pharma/toxicology, but my specialty is free markets/politics of food/Big Pharma/Industrial Food Machine politics.

  3. John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Nutrition) says:

    August 24th, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Karen:

    I too am a libertarian, so espousing that as any argument fails. Politics plays no role in this issue at all contrary to your assertion. This issue is kept alive only because some people are so ignorant of science that they can be fooled by the conspiracy theory that originated, because of a major population deficit in folate before the mandated 1998 fortification of food grains with folate. There have been no issues since that are not attributable to PERSONAL issues with folate and related methylation issues. The fact is that there are simply no credible works suggesting there is any harm from aspartame. Consider, just for example, the basis of questions raised about aspartame and brain cancer. Olney et al (Pub Med PMID 8939194; throughout put this number in the search line at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez/ for more on the matter) conclude “the artificial sweetener aspartame is a promising candidate to explain the recent increase in incidence and degree of malignancy of brain tumors”. Hardly proof!

    Lim et al looked at this issue and found no support for any such conclusion. Davis et al rebutted his comment (PMID 18483354; both papers at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez/18483354). The problem is that Davis et al were using epidemiology; that approach fails when you don’t know what you are doing! Aspartame’s methanol is metabolized by the folate acid vitamin system. They failed to consider or even mention folate and related issues amongst their “users.” Folate is important, because it is required to metabolize and recyle methanol’s formaldehyde and formate metabolites to methyl groups. Folate deficiency and many related issues are serious health problems. It is not aspartame safety, but these PERSONAL issues and the disease they can cause, that underlie all issues with aspartame. Besides associations between meningiomas and hormones-HRT, the documented association between folate issues and meningiomas or gliomas is very relevant (Bethke et al, 2008; PMID: 18483342). They conclude that “the results of our study are consistent with an increased risk in subjects with reduced conversion of homocysteine to methionine due to either reduced MTRR enzyme activity or reduced activity upstream at the MTHFR enzyme [both folate enzymes], which could result in aberrant promoter methylation. The biological basis of PBT [primary brain tumors]; development is unclear. The role of aberrant methylation has, however, been documented in both gliomas and meningiomas (16-19). Given that studies have shown that the MTHFR 677TT genotype can be associated with decreased global DNA methylation and promoter-specific methylation in tumors (20), it is entirely plausible that the variants we have studied will affect the risk of PBT.” Semmler et al (2008; PMID: 18447718) and Sirachainan et al (2008; PMID: 18406541) both found similar associations.

    Now let’s consider the Soffritti et al papers. They have been dismissed completely by the scientific community. The regulatory agencies have their reasons, but the fact is new evidence suggests intentional, premediated bias would seem a very real possibility with these Soffritti et al papers. First, besides many criticisms after their publication, an exceptional article and editorial appeared about their use of sick rats in all their experiments on aspartame or other chemicals (PubMed 19430000, — 19429982). Second in a yet unreported personal investigation, I found strong, documentable evidence that their rats were deficient in folate before the experiment, made more deficient by improperly designed experiments that did not provide the equivalent amount of methanol to control rats. Although not important until folate is already low (their rats), methanol [and ethanol] and many, many other substances naturally deplete or affect folate. That natural depletion from many food sources is why folate is a vitamin, required daily. Thus the treatment exacerbated the result especially in deficient animals. Three, in another fatal error they used a strain of rat (Sprague-Dawley) already known to become age-deficient in folate (PMID 12042458). So Soffritti et al’s very unusual LIFETIME experiments, whose extraordinary time period guarantees that deficiency (and bias), only made their rats more deficient in folate. Lastly, I can and will demonstrate that the above cited “sick” rats problem stems directly from this folate deficiency issue. Moreover, folate was not mentioned in any Soffritti publication (aspartame, methanol, ethanol or other similar substances), yet methanol (formaldehyde/formic acid) metabolism has been known to be critically important for forty years (see Tephly’s 1991 review, PMID 1997785). Doesn’t it seem that this work was designed to discredit aspartame from day one? Is it any wonder why the FDA, the EFSA and all other relevant regulatory agencies have dismissed all the Soffritti et al papers?

    So in summary All issues with aspartame arise not from any aspartame safety issue, but from heightened PERSONAL sensitivities in some users caused by deficiency of the vitamin folic acid (folate deficiency; not uncommon and a big cause of birth and other defects), by genetic folate enzyme differences (called polymorphisms that require more folate for the same function; up to 40% of certain populations) or with related methyl cycle issues like low B12 (not uncommon), high homocysteine (not uncommon), ethanol abuse (potent inhibitor, ‘fetal alcohol syndrome’; not uncommon), etc. (and that includes childhood insect stings that can make a person frankly allergic).

    John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Nutrition)

  4. Karen De Coster says:

    August 24th, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    It’s not a conspiracy theory, John. That’s not a word used by intelligent, principled libertarians. That’s the garbage espoused by the bubbleheads in the media and two-party system. Follow the trail of politics and money. You did not even read my post I linked to re: Rumsfeld & Company. Your comments that were boasting about regulatory bodies do not make you look like any sort of serious libertarian. AT ALL. That can’t be erased. Aspartame is poison, which is why it took some very powerful people and very totalitarian moves to get it approved by the government elites you claim are our protectors. You are a tool of the establishment. I appreciate you attempts, but I’ll stick to what nature provided for us (what we evolved to consume) … thanks.

    Karen DeCoster, CPA, CMA, MAE, CIA, CISA and VOPW (Veteran of Political Wars)

  5. John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Nutrition) says:

    August 25th, 2013 at 3:13 am

    It is a conspiracy theory and anyone who espouses it as such is simply wrong, libertarian or not. There is simply no science to suggest there is any safety problem amongst healthy people.

    Consider aspartame’s most widely reported issue, migraine headaches. Migraines have been linked directly to the MTHFR (MethyleneTetraHydroFolate Reductase) C677T folate polymorphism (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19619240 and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19384265; see Wikipedia for more at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methylenetetrahydrofolate_reductase). Both papers report complete resolution of these migraines with added folate alone. These investigations revealed that more than the normal daily recommended amounts are needed (2-5 mg), but in these papers increased folate doses ALONE solved the migraine problem [and aspartame was not even involved]. That alone suggests a human sub-population that is even more deficient in folate for which resolution of their symptoms requires even more folate. And that is confirmed by science; up to 40% of some populations have these genetic folate polymorphisms that require added folate; most don’t even know it. For more read http://download.cell.com/AJHG/pdf/PIIS0002929707614001.pdf?intermediate=true. Each and every one of the suggested ~92 symptoms of aspartame poisoning are really issues with folate, B12 and biological methylations or accrual of homocysteine consequent to defects in those methylations.

    As to your ridiculous Rumsfeld argument, any issues that may have existed around that time arose because of an unrecognized, but now well-documented population-wide deficiency in the vitamin folic acid. That has been documented in rats and people. Why do you think folate grain fortification was mandated? It was because women were giving birth to babies with neural tube deformities (see http://www.cfp.ca/content/54/1/36.full.pdf+html).

    All the “FDA people” the critics cite as originally questioning its safety, no doubt saw concerning issues with the original Sprague-Dawley short-term rat study. While they didn’t know why, today we know why-it was folate deficiency. When the same study was repeated with corn based diets (rich in folate) no problems were seen. That is also why the aspartame approval delay. And today we know that documented folate deficiency exists in this Sprague-Dawley rat breed by 1 year of age (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12042458). So using a diet deficient in folate would obviously have shown problem signs earlier. Hundreds of studies later, including many by completely different agencies of the federal government, have found nothing scientifically relevant to aspartame’s safety, especially since the 1998 mandated folate grain-product supplementation.

    Simply put there was no conspiracy theory then or now; there was, however, much ignorance of the very important role of folic acid in metabolism of methanol, a fact that was well documented by the work of Tephly starting in the 1970′s (even before aspartame) here, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Tephly%2Cmethanol%2Cfolate. And folate deficiency, not aspartame, is associated with numerous types of disease and cancer. You might appreciate knowing that folate deficiency plays a major role in breast cancer. In fact the last line of an Australian research team’s abstract says, “the results of this study suggest that moderate folate deficiency has a stronger effect on chromosomal instability than BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations found in breast cancer families” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16162645).

    In summary I suggest you go find another conspiracy theory to taut; this one has been resolved by the many toxicologists of the 90+ governmental regulatory agencies that have approved aspartame. If you are looking for one, your time and effort would be far better devoted to the fact that health professionals have not made lay people more aware of the importance of folate- and/or B12 deficiency and the often consequential homocysteine toxicity; these are a far more important health issue than aspartame is or ever was.

    John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Nutrition)

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