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From an article in today's New York Times, The Lowdown on Sweet by Melanie Warner

The Lowdown on Sweet

Dr. Ralph G. Walton, a professor of psychiatry at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, who, like some other psychiatrists, has studied aspartame from a neurological perspective, said he had also seen problems from the sweetener firsthand. At Safe Harbor Behavioral Health, a mental health facility in Erie, Pa., where he is clinical director, Dr. Walton said he had observed that for many people with mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder, aspartame exacerbates the condition. "For people with panic disorders, for instance, we've seen that when we eliminate aspartame, it's much easier to control their illness," he said. "The number of panic attacks goes down."

Dr. Walton and others say that this is probably attributable to aspartame's phenyalanine component. (Aspartame is made up of two amino acids, phenyalanine and aspartic acid.) He said that an excess of phenyalanine could upset the body's balance of neurotransmitters, causing a range of neurological symptoms.

Defenders of aspartame often point out that phenyalanine is naturally present in many protein-intensive foods. But Dr. William M. Pardridge, a professor of endocrinology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, says that when it comes from food, phenyalanine is absorbed into the brain more slowly.

"If your blood phenyalanine level was increased five times, in my view there would be a safety concern," Dr. Pardridge said. "The question is whether aspartame use could ever increase levels that much, and the answer is yes. We've known that for 20 years."

WTF! I've heard bits of conspiracy theories about aspartame in the past, but never saw more credible reports so I just ignored it all.

Anyone know if Dr. Walton has published any journal articles on his findings, or are they just observations that need to be explored in controlled experiments?


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i know that many neurologists tell their epileptic patients to not eat products with aspertame in them.  they don't tell them to avoid phenalthaline as that's an essential amino acid.  but they do say to avoid aspertame.

my GP gave me a long ass lecture and forced me to go off diet coke because it has been shown to fuck w/ neurological issues and some hormonal ones as well.

but i don't know about this particular study.

however... if it can trigger a seizure, why couldn't it exacerbate MI?

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Aside from some people being allergic or it potentially making some conditions worse, I think I remember reading a study at some point that concluded that there's very large (genetic?) variation in how people perceive the taste of artificial sweeteners like aspartame.

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God, I love diet coke.  I hate hearing stuff like this.

But I've gone through stages where I cut out caffeine (which, in effect, usually meant I cut out soda altogether), and I don't recall any remission in my depression because of it.

But... I should probably drop it for awhile again, now that I know, just to see. . .

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THis is exactly what I needed to hear today.  Thanks for the wonderful threads!  My new med abilify hasn't been working all that great, and I'm sure it's because of the Diet Coke -- God, I love that stuff!  My pdoc Mentioned it a while ago, but I forgot.  I have been getting weird panic attacks in the afternoon, right after I've had my lunch with -- you guessed it: Diet Coke.  THis is just the thread I needed -- thanks crazyboards *wink*

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I am allergic.  So I have to read labels very carefully.  That stuff is in alot of stuff.


isn't that a fucking PAIN IN THE ASS! it's in TOOTHPASTE! EVERYTHING!

i swear if i'm forced to shop only at whole foods.  (grumbles about high price of grocery bills.)


I spent 5 minutes in Target one night (with help from a complete stranger) trying to find a pack of gum!  It's in everything.  And forget going to eat at a get together.  I refuse to eat any dessert that I don't take myself.

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Heya, :)   ;)

<sigh> I hate guys like this Walton character.

He's published some good stuff about about smoking cessation among other things, but not as first author.


Walton R. Kimber M. Rockett K. Trafford C. Kwiatkowski D. Sirugo G. Haplotype block structure of the cytochrome P450 CYP2C gene cluster on chromosome 10.[comment]. [Comment. Letter] Nature Genetics. 37(9):915-6; author reply 916, 2005 Sep.

UI: 16132042

Walton R. Manos GH. Psychosis related to ephedra-containing herbal supplement use. [Case Reports. Journal Article] Southern Medical Journal. 96(7):718-20, 2003 Jul.

UI: 12940331

So much for him.

Details (skip to the end for my point, as usual for my semi-educational rants)

Phenylalanine should be avoided by people with phenylketonuria, which at least here we test for at birth.

Caffeine is a stimulant that also makes us up our insulin levels.

Some people have headaches or other individual reactions to aspartame.

But it does NOT cause MS:


This additive has been around for a *very long time* and various rumours have circulated on and off that whole time:


Phenylalanine also increases plasma concentrations of nitisonine (they both turn into tyrosine).

Here's an exerpt from the monograph for nitisonine:

DISCUSSION: In most patients, eye symptoms resulting from elevated tyrosine levels were transient, lasting less than one week; however, six patients had prolonged episodes lasting up to almost 2 years.

CLINICAL EFFECTS: Elevated levels of tyrosine can cause vision changes (cornea ulcers, corneal opacities, keratitis, conjunctivitis, eye pain, and photophobia), skin problems (painful hyperkeratotic plaques on the soles and palms), and nervous system toxicity (variable degrees of mental retardation and developmental delay).


PATIENT MANAGEMENT: Patients receiving nitisinone should following dietary restrictions concerning the consumption of aspartame, phenylalanine, and tyrosine, including medications that contain these ingredients.

And, yesterday on WebMD:

Artificial Sweeteners: Are They Safe?

Debate over the safety of artificial sweeteners has intensified in the wake of an Italian study that found Aspartame, the most common sugar replacement in America, might cause cancer in rats. The animals in the study, however, consumed exceedingly large amounts of the artificial sweetener, the equivalent of 100 oz. of soda for a 150lb. person every day for 3 years. ABC News medical correspondent Dr. David Katz, said, "If it caused any significant harm, we would know about it...because of how widespread the use is and because it has been around long enough." (emphasis mine)

My point (much simpler):

Doesn't look too dangerous, but hey, what isn't dangerous?  So use with moderation like anything else.

At any rate, if it affects you, well, it's not an essential nutrient or anything, so don't use it.  :P

Better for me than alcohol, which *I know* damages my brain and liver and skin.


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Ok, I'm going to stand up and say that YES aspartame affects my mood.

Back in the mid 80's when Diet Coke came out, I started drinking 2 or 3 a day instead of coffee during the summer time. After a while I started having days where my temper would be hair trigger, snapping at people for no reason.  This seemed odd to me. Eventually I recognized a pattern that when I was working inside my office and drinking Diet Coke  my emotions would become unstable, but when I was working outside where I didn't have access to the drink my emotions would stabilize after a few days.

I did several trials of drinking Diet Coke and observing my emotions become unstable each time I drank significant amounts for several days.

I quit drinking Diet Coke except as a very occasional thing and avoid eating anything with aspartame.

This was long before the internet and no urban legends influenced my perceptions.  It was years before I heard of any similar reports. And no, I don't think aspartame causes cancer or the growth of third eyes. Still the less artificial stuff we put in our bodies probably the better.

As far as taste, aspartame, Nutrasweet (other than in Diet Coke) is generally tolerabe.    The new Sucralose (Splenda) stuff is hideous and makes me feel like scraping the skin off my tongue for hours after eating it, *gag*.


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Thanks ncc1701 for some more information on aspartame.

Just for clarification, MS is short for Multiple Sclerosis? I don't think anyone on this thread mentioned a connection between aspartame and MS.

The NYT article is actually about the Italian cancer study. The quote at the beginning of this thread is a tangent from the article that suggests that aspartame exacerbates some mental illnesses. It sounds like this supposed relationship hasn't been tested scientifically.

This stuff really is fodder for conspiracy theories--especially that Donald Rumsfeld was head of Searle when they were getting the FDA approval for aspartame. Heh.


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First of all...props to nalgas for using Weird Al Yankovic as a quote under his avatar (It's all about the Pentiums Baby!!)...and that avatar...OMG!! I had to look twice...LOLOL..TOO FUNNY!!!

Anyway...I am a diet soda junkie. And yes, I need need need my caffine. When I was pregnant with my oldest son, nutrasweet was pretty new. Doctor said give that up and give up caffine. I quit diet soda, I quit smoking, and gained 65 lbs. (I have been fighting for 17 years to lose that damn weight!)

After drinking soda with equal for so long, I can't stand regular soda. It taste like syrup and makes my freaking teeth itch. I SWEAR I can feel the sugar boring holes through the enamel...EWW! I have no problem with splenda. Diet Right has all kinds of good soda flavors with splenda in it BUT THEY HAVE NO CAFFINE! (That is so wrong.)

If large amounts of diet soda caused problems, they should be pretty obvious to me by now, but the only problem I do have is if I go off caffine, I will get a headache.

I have looked in to stevia, but I am put off by the price. http://www.stevia.net/

Anyone actually tried that stuff?

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Artificial Sweeteners: Are They Safe?

Debate over the safety of artificial sweeteners has intensified in the wake of an Italian study that found Aspartame, the most common sugar replacement in America, might cause cancer in rats. The animals in the study, however, consumed exceedingly large amounts of the artificial sweetener, the equivalent of 100 oz. of soda for a 150lb. person every day for 3 years.


a can of diet coke is 12 oz.

starting in college (and my one year of lawschool and for a bit after) i was drinking at least six, up to 10-12 cans of diet coke a day.

i was about 115 lbs

so, even if we just went with a normal day for me, (not finals or stress time) for 6 years i drank about 6 cans of coke, so 12x6= 72oz

sure maybe people are conspiracy theory blah blah

but some women drink a LOT of diet coke.

i was by NO MEANS considered odd in my soda habits by my friends.

i think my doctor was rational in telling me i'd exceeded my lifetime limit of aspertame and had to stop.

so... you know, we can hem and haw about if it's safe or not, but i beleive my doctor had a valid resason for not just telling me to stop, but asking every time i see him if i'm still off of it. 

i know OMG 100 ounces sounds like A LOT... but how much is in a "big gulp"?  or in the bottles instead of the cans?

i buy cans of green tea from the japanese market now when i need a portable energy source.

as for steevia.. there are varyin qualities of the stuff.  i have some that comes in packets and goes okay in coffee, etc.  (which i drink like 2 times a year.)  it can have a slightly bitter taste, depending upon the brand.  and i guess there are people who say it has problems as well.

as i'm not diabetic (just hypoglyemic) i just stay away from sweetened beverages and eat desserts sparingly.  and avoid corn syrup.

but that's just me.

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You'd think that the idea that

aspartame --> phenylalanine --> tyrosine --> dopamine --> noradrenaline

                          aspartic acid  --> ???

causing mood issues would be a no-brainer.  Comparing 200 mg aspartame

(Remember, phenylalanine is only half of the molecule.) to a standard 500 mg DLPA or tyrosine supplement and what they can and are supposed to do

indicates to me that aspartame maybe isn't the best sweetener for bipolar

or anxious people. By the time the chemicals in the first can are metabolized

and start making you feel wonky, you're already on can 4 or 14.  oops.

There's also the little matter of Coke having 46.5 mg caffeine (No-Doze is

200 mg IIRC), which is probably rougher on most BP or GAD folks running

around. And, there's that other little matter of the taste buds yelling

"Incoming sugar!", and getting the pancreas all worked up over a couple of

amino acids that aren't touched by the insulin it just chucked into the


No wonder the crud gives me a near-instant headache.

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I love aspartame.  It relaxes me.  I have a weird brain, I know.

I can only imbibe small quantities, though, or I get a migraine.

Sucralose, on the other hand, is something I have to watch out for.  My body refuses to digest it and rebels in terrible, literally gut-wrenching ways.

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  • 1 year later...

i absolutely HATE phony sugars

just icks me

taste, after taste--can't get the FN taste from my tastebuds...

stomach rebels, etc

I have purchased stevia leaves for hot tea brewing, it's taste is sort of licorice-ry

but don't like it as much as honey

prob not much input

but man am I glad I don't like phony sugars when I read null0troopers

aspartame --> phenylalanine --> tyrosine --> dopamine --> noradrenaline

aspartic acid --> ???

causing mood issues would be a no-brainer.

i surely don't need any substance that increases anxiety thank-you-very-much

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