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Aspartame / NutraSweet Dangers in Pregnancy

There are several breakdown products from aspartame that are major causes for concern and have caused countless toxicity reactions in the general public (see 160+ pages of samples on my web page). The concern of aspartame ingestion during pregnancy is not limited to obvious birth defects, but changes or damage to certain areas of the brain. The potential damage includes parts of the brain involved in complex learning as well as hormonal control (e.g., hypothalamus). Problems resulting from this sort of damage would not be seen until after the child reaches puberty. Neuroscientist, Dr. Russell Blaylock discusses this in some detail in his book, "Excitotoxins."

Some of the breakdown products from aspartame include:

  1. Phenylalanine -- An amino acid found in *free* form in aspartame. (Usually found in slow-absorbing bound-to-protein form in foods.) Here is the testimony of a couple of *independent* experts on this subject:

    It is likely that the effects of increased phenylalanine in the brain of fetuses from aspartame ingestion will be very subtle.

  2. Methanol -- Methanol breaks down into formaldehyde and formic acid. Recent research shows that chronic exposure to formaldehyde concentrations in the air at *exceptionally* low levels (< 0.01 ppm) can cause chronic health problems in children. Since a) the fetus would likely be exposed to an increased level of formaldehyde from aspartame, b) there are no studies as to the long-term effects of fetal methanol or formaldehyde exposure on human being, and c) there is no evidence that formaldehyde is obtained from methanol in foods at any significant level (likely due to protective factors), it seems prudent to avoid aspartame for this reason alone. I have received reports from persons who are sensitized to formaldehyde and who experience similar reactions from aspartame.

  3. Aspartic Acid -- Like MSG (glutamic acid), it is an excitotoxic amino acid. When taken in significant quantities, in free form (unbound to protein), especially in liquid, it has been shown to significantly spike the plasma levels of aspartic acid. In animal experiments such spikes have been shown to destroy small numbers of cells in areas of the brain not protected by the blood brain barrier (BBB). This effect is seen in young animals. Fetuses would also be likely to be susceptible to an increased concentration of aspartic acid. While the plasma level of aspartic acid obtained from aspartame may not be high enough to cause brain cell death, it may effect brain development. Fetal brain development is very sensitive to the levels of glutamic acid. Since recent, independent research has shown that glutamic acid can cross the placenta, one might expect that high levels of aspartic acid could also cross the placenta.

    In 1992, an independent FASEB committee recommended the elimination of glutamic acid (MSG) for certain conditions:

    Aspartic acid doses from aspartame are lower than that for glutamic acid found in supplements. However, since aspartame is often found in liquid form, the aspartic acid is absorbed very quickly leading to a much higher blood level than would be seen if slower-absorbing supplements (e.g., pill, capsules) were taken. By the way, the effects of aspartic acid and glutamic acid are cumulative, so that anywhere who takes both aspartame and MSG in their diet is asking for trouble.

  4. Aspartylphenylalanine diketopiperazine (DKP) -- It is known that about 5% of this chemical gets absorbed from the gut. The rest of it may be eliminated or possibly transformed into other chemicals (e.g., nitrosated). No one really knows what happens to DKP in the human gut.
The effects of long-term aspartame ingestion in the general population are becoming more and more clear. The toxicity reactions are increasing at an alarming rate. However, the effects from ingestion during pregnancy are difficult to determine partly because there have been no scientific studies looking at the effects in humans and partly because many of the adverse effects from fetal exposure would be expected to be seen after the child reaches puberty. Whatever the case, I believe it is not prudent to ingest any aspartame (or MSG for that matter) during pregnancy (and after pregnancy).

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