Letter to the Editor

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2009) 63, 1044; doi:10.1038/ejcn.2008.38; published online 11 June 2008

There really is no controversy

A Samuels1

1Solana Beach, CA, USA

Correspondence: A Samuels, E-mail: adieonly@aol.com

It is noted in the excellent review by Humphries et al. (2008) that debate [over safety] still continues 20 years after the FDA had approved the use of aspartame.

Regarding that debate, the following comments are in order.

Aspartame has never been shown to be safe for human consumption. Aspartame was discovered in 1965. Required safety testing began in 1967. To date, no research outside of the aspartame industry has found aspartame to be safe for human consumption.
In June 1979, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established a Public Board of Inquiry (PBOI) to rule on aspartame safety issues. The PBOI concluded that NutraSweet/aspartame should not be approved pending further investigations of brain tumors in animals.
In 1981, Ronald Reagan became President of the United States; Arthur Hull Hayes Jr was named FDA Commissioner; a Commissioner's panel was established to review issues raised by the PBOI; the panel advised against approval of aspartame; Hayes overruled the PBOI, ignored the recommendations of his own internal FDA team and approved aspartame for use in dry products.
The so-called aspartame-industry ‘science’ is flawed to the point of being worthless. Controversy about the safety of aspartame is a device used by those who profit from production and sale of the product. Industry sponsored studies referring to brain damage draw conclusions without basis. Illustrating this practice is a 1980 study which reads, in part, “On the basis of blood absorption curves…[it] is concluded that (aspartame)…does not result in hypothalamic damage in the newborn monkey (Reynolds et al., 1980)”.
Using techniques similar to those of the glutamate industry (Samuels, 1999), the aspartame industry, in studies of adverse reactions, has manipulated subjects, procedures and statistics to enable researchers to draw the conclusion that there is no significant difference in reactions following ingestion of aspartame as opposed to ingestion of placebo. The study of Geha et al., 1993 illustrates the point .
The FDA gives every appearance of cooperating with the aspartame industry in promoting the ‘safety’ of aspartame. Badly flawed industry sponsored studies have gone unchallenged.
Following the unwarranted approval of aspartame, the FDA Adverse Reactions Monitoring System began receiving, and accepting, unsolicited reports of reactions to aspartame. A 26 June 1997 Memorandum from Technical Information Specialist (HFS-728) to Health Hazard Evaluation Board reported that the FDA has received 7259 complaints of adverse reactions attributed to the use of aspartame.
The FDA has a history of minimizing the extent and severity of adverse reactions to food. Reports of debilitating or life-threatening reactions are not routinely investigated, and reports of ‘death,’ for example, are listed as ‘other.’
In the late 1990s, the FDA stopped accepting reports of adverse reactions to aspartame.
In conclusion, Humphries et al., 2008 suggested that ‘serious further testing and research be undertaken to eliminate any and all controversies surrounding this product’. It is suggested, rather, that with thoughtful analysis of the industry sponsored studies, it will become abundantly clear that no legitimate controversy about aspartame's toxic potential exists.

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References

  1. Geha R, Buckley CE, Greenberger P, Patterson R, Polmar S, Saxon A et al. (1993). Aspartame is no more likely than placebo to cause urticaria/angioedema: results of a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. J Allergy Clin Immunol 92, 513–520. | Article | PubMed | ChemPort |
  2. Humphries P, Pretorius E, Naude H (2008). Direct and indirect cellular effects of aspartame on the brain. Eur J Clin Nutr 62, 451–462. | Article | PubMed | ChemPort |
  3. Reynolds WA, Stegink LD, Filer Jr LJ, Renn E (1980). Aspartame administration to the infant monkey: hypothalamic morphology and plasma amino acid levels. Nat Rec 198, 73–85. | ChemPort |
  4. Samuels A (1999). The toxicity/safety of processed free glutamic acid (MSG): a study in suppression of information. Account Res 6, 259–310. | PubMed |
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