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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:
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
- 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
Louis J. Elsas, II, M.D., Director,
Division of Medical Genetics
"I have no previous contact with this type of
hearing. But that is probably appropriate because
I am a pediatrician, a Professor of Pediatrics at
Emory, and have spent 25 years in the biomedical
sciences, trying to prevent mental retardation and
birth defects caused by excess phenylalanine.
"First of all, in the developing fetus -- a
situation not considered previously -- the mother
is supplying that fetus with nutrients. And if she
were dieting, let's say, and increasing her blood
phenylalanine uniquely by taking Crystal Lite or
Kool Aid, or any of the various diet foods now, to
maintain her weight, and increased her blood
phenylalanine from its normal 50 to 150
umoles/liter by chronic ingestion at 35
milligrames of aspartame per kilo per day -- which
everyone agrees could be reached -- the placenta
will concentrate her blood phenylalanine two-fold.
So the fetal blood circulation to her baby in
utero, is now 300 umole per liter of
phenylalanine. The fetal brain then, as Dr.
Pardridge will tell you, will increase further
that concentration into the brain cells of that
baby two- to four-fold. Those are neurotoxic
levels in tissue culture and in many other
"This situation has not been studied in man. We
have no research efforts in place to actively
survey a cohort group, to find out whether chronic
aspartame ingestion is adversely affecting our
newborn population, either by producing
microencephaly, mental retardation, or other birth
defects that are associated with rises in blood
phenylalanine. So that is one very worrisome
William M. Pardridge, M.D.
Professor of Medicine
"I am a Professor of Medicine at the University of
California, a practicing endocrinologist, and I
have been doing neuroscience research on the blood-
brain barrier transport of phenylalanine and other
substances since 1970
"...the third question that must now be addressed
is, are there any untoward effects on the human
brain that are associated with a four-fold
increase in phenylalanine, bearing in mind that
this molecule is a know neurotoxin? And three
studies come to mind. One study shows that when
blood phenylalanine in pregnant mothers is
increased five-fold [to ~250 umole/l], there is a
10-point drop inthe I.Q. of the baby born of that
"A second study shows that if you measure choice
reaction time, a test of higher cognitive function
in humans, that when their blood phenylalanine is
increased six-fold, there is a 10 percent shift in
your ability to make a key decision before a video
"And a more recent study by Dr. Elsas has shown
that there are quantitative changes in the human
electroencephalogram when the blood phenylalanine
is raised three-fold [to ~150-200 umole/l] --
something that clearly will happen in children who
consume near 5 servings per 50-pound body weight."
It is likely that the effects of increased phenylalanine in the
brain of fetuses from aspartame ingestion will be very subtle.
- 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
- 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:
"...it is prudent to avoid the use of dietary
supplements of L-glutamic acid by pregnant women,
infants, and children. The Existence of evidence
of potential endocrine responses, i.e., elevated
cortisol and prolactin, and differential responses
between males and females, would also suggest a
neuroendocrine link and that supplemental L-
glutamic acid should be avoided by women of
childbearing age and individuals with affective
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.
- 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
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