- I saw your email to Betty regarding aspartame and methanol.
I will enclose a detailed scientific statement related to aspartame and
methanol below. It answers every one of the industry's PR statements related
to this subject and provides detailed references.
- If you take the time to read through it, you'll get to
the issue of methanol in alcoholic beverages and methanol in fruits/foods.
Basically, alcoholic beverages are known to have a protective factor,
ethanol, that prevents the conversion of absorbed methanol to formaldehyde.
In other words, scientists have known for decades that methanol in alcoholic
beverages would cause serious chronic poisoning if ethanol were not present
as a protective factor. (Note: in the early 20th century some alcoholic
beverages were known to cause methanol poisoning because the methanol level
was too high -- "methanol-contaminated" so that even the high
ethanol level of the beverage would not be enough of a protective factor.)
- Recent research has shown that there is so much methanol
absorbed from fruits, often many times the amount that would be absorbed
from a methanol-contaminated alcoholic beverage, that there must be protective
factors in fruits and foods as well or else we would see millions of cases
of chronic methanol poisoning from fruit juice ingestion.
- On the other hand, aspartame contains no protective factors
that prevent the conversion of methanol into the highly-toxic chemical,
formaldehyde. In fact, the excitotoxin released from aspartame, free-form
aspartic acid, is known to increase the adverse effects of formaldehyde
toxicity. Instead of a protective factor, aspartame provides a chemical
that worsens the damage from formaldehyde.
- Below my signature line is the details related to aspartame
and methanol as taken from http://www.holisticmed.com/aspartame/abuse/
- Best Wishes,
- Mark Gold Aspartame Toxicity Information Center 12 East
Side Dr., #2-18 Concord, NH 03301
- 603-225-2110 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.HolisticMed.com/aspartame/
- Scientific Abuse in Methanol / Formaldehyde Research
Related to Aspartame
- Please print and read completely through this document!
- Table of Contents
- Summary of Aspartame Methanol/Formaldehyde Toxicity Hiding
the Blood Plasma Methanol Increase From Aspartame Ingestion Methanol and
Fruit/Tomatos: Convince the World That a Poison is "Natural"
Avoiding the Discussion of Chronic Methanol Toxicity Convince Scientists
& Physicians With Irrelevent and Flawed Formate Measurements The "It
is Found in the Body, so a Proven Poison Must be Safe" Excuse to Eat
Poison Formaldehyde & Formic Acid in Foods: A Final Attempt to Prove
a Poison is "Safe" References
- Summary of Aspartame Methanol/Formaldehyde Toxicity
- "These are indeed extremely high levels for adducts
of formaldehyde, a substance responsible for chronic deleterious effects
that has also been considered carcinogenic.
- "It is concluded that aspartame consumption may
constitute a hazard because of its contribution to the formation of formaldehyde
adducts." (Trocho 1998)
- "It was a very interesting paper, that demonstrates
that formaldehyde formation from aspartame ingestion is very common and
does indeed accumulate within the cell, reacting with cellular proteins
(mostly enzymes) and DNA (both mitochondrial and nuclear). The fact that
it accumulates with each dose, indicates grave consequences among those
who consume diet drinks and foodstuffs on a daily basis." (Blaylock
- Methanol from aspartame is released in the small intestine
when the methyl group of aspartame encounters the enzyme chymotrypsin (Stegink
1984, page 143). A relatively small amount of aspartame (e.g., one can
of soda ingested by a child) can significantly increase plasma methanol
levels (Davoli 1986a).
- Clinically, chronic, low-level exposure to methanol has
been seen to cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, ear buzzing, GI distiurbances,
weakness, vertigo, chills, memory lapses, numbness & shooting pains,
behavioral disturbances, neuritis, misty vision, vision tunneling, blurring
of vision, conjunctivitis, insomnia, vision loss, depression, heart problems
(including disease of the heart muscle), and pancreatic inflammation (Kavet
1990, Monte 1984, Posner 1975).
- The methanol from aspartame is converted to formaldehyde
and then formic acid (DHHS 1993, Liesivuori 1991), although some of the
formaldehyde appears to accumulate in the body as discussed above. Chronic
formaldehyde exposure at very low doses has been shown to cause immune
system and nervous system changes and damage as well as headaches, general
poor health, irreversible genetic damage, and a number of other serious
health problems (Fujimaki 1992, He 1998, John 1994, Liu 1993, Main 1983,
Molhave 1986, National Research Council 1981, Shaham 1996, Srivastava 1992,
Vojdani 1992, Wantke 1996). One experiment (Wantke 1996) showed that chronic
exposure to formaldehyde caused systemic health problems (i.e., poor health)
in children at an air concentration of only 0.043 - 0.070 parts per million!
- Obviously, chronic exposure to an extremely small amount
of formaldehyde is to be avoided. Even if formaldehyde adducts did not
build up in the body from aspartame use, the regular exposure to excess
levels of formaldehyde would still be a major concern to independent scientists
and physicians familiar with the aspartame toxicity issue.
- In addition to chronic formaldehyde poisoning, the excitotoxic
amino acid derived from aspartame will almost certainly worsen the damage
caused by the formladehyde. Synergistic effects from aspartame metabolites
are rarely, if ever, mentioned by the manufacturer. Aspartame breaks down
into a free-form (unbound to protein) excitotoxic amino acid which is quickly-absorbed
(as long as it is not given in slow-dissolving capsules) and can raise
the blood plasma levels of this excitotoxin (Stegink 1987). It is well
known that free-form excitotoxins can cause irreversible damage to brain
cells (in areas such as the retina, hypothalamus, etc.) in rodents and
primates (Olney 1972, Olney 1980, Blaylock 1994, Lipton 1994). In order
to remove excess, cell-destroying excitotoxic amino acids from extracellular
space, glial cells surround the neuron and supply them with energy (Blaylock
1994, page 39, Lipton 1994). This takes large amounts of ATP. However,
formate, a formaldehyde metabolite, is an ATP inhibitor (Liesivuori 1991).
Eells (1996b) points out that excitatory amino acid toxicity may be the
"mediators of retinal damage secondary to formate induced energy depletion
in methanol-intoxication." The synergistic effects from the combination
of a chronic formaldehyde exposure from aspartame along with a free-form
excitotoxic amino acid is extremely worrisome.
- It appears that methanol is converted to formate in the
eye (Eells 1996a, Garner 1995, Kini 1961). Eells (1996a) showed that chronic,
low-level methanol exposure in rats led to formate accumulation in the
retina of the eye. More details about chronic Methanol / Formaldehyde poisoning
from aspartame can be found on the Internet at http://www.holisticmed.com/aspartame/aspfaq.html.
- How did the manufacturer convince scientists and physicians
that it is "safe" to be exposed regularly to low levels of an
exceptionally toxic poison? Answer: Deceptive research and deceptive statements!
- Hiding the Blood Plasma Methanol Increase From Aspartame
- On February 22, 1984, the acting FDA Commissioner, Mark
Novitch stated (Federal Register 1984):
- "... aspartame showed no detectable levels of methanol
in the blood of human subjects following the ingestion of aspartame at
34 mg/kg ...."
- The American Medical Association repeated this statement
one year later (AMA 1985). This statement was repeated in American Family
Physician in 1989 (Yost 1989). Shaywitz (1994) stated that there was no
detectable levels of methanol in the blood after aspartame administration.
Puthrasingam (1996) stated that methanol from aspartame is "undetectable
in peripheral blood or even in portal blood."
- All of these statements were very convincing ... and
very wrong! The statements were based on aspartame industry research which
used an outdated plasma methanol measuring test (Baker 1969). The test
they used had a limited of methanol detection of 4 mg/l. However, Cook
(1991) measured an average baseline (unexposed) methanol level of ~0.6
mg/l. Others (Davoli 1986, d'Alessandro 1994, Osterloh 1996) have measured
an average baseline methanol level of close to 1 mg/l. This means that
a person's methanol levels would have to rise 350% to 600% before an increase
would have been noticed by the industry researchers using this outdated
test! An increase of less than 350% to 600% appeared as no increase at
- Probably only a handful of people in the world would
have noticed that by using a plasma methanol measuring test with limits
of 4 mg/l, they avoided seeing an methanol level increase -- even though
there was a large increase. Below are some of the experiments which used
the inappropriate methanol measuring technique.
- Aspartame Dosage Claimed to Not Raise Lowest
Methanol Possible Research Levels Measurement
Other Methanol Issues
- Frey 1976 77 mg/kg Not stated Test conducted
after 12-hour fast. All methanol would have been converted to formaldehyde.
- Stegink 1981 34 mg/kg 4 mg/l Orange juice
given despite discussion of high level of methanol in fruit.
- Stegink 1983 34 mg/kg 4 mg/l
- Leon 1989 75 mg/kg 4 mg/l Test conducted
after 12-hour fast. All methanol would have been converted to formaldehyde.
- Stegink 1989 8 hourly doses 4 mg/l of 10 mg/kg
- Stegink 1990 8 hourly doses 4 mg/l Fig. 4:
Graph of blood of 10 mg//kg methanol concentrations shown
with all points well below 4 mg/l -- the lower limit of their methanol
- Hertelendy 1993 15 mg/kg 4 mg/l
- Shaywitz 1993 34 mg/kg 4 mg/l
- Shaywitz 1994 34 mg/kg 4 mg/l
- Note: 10 mg/kg is approximately a one liter bottle of
diet soda for a 60 kg adult and 1.5 cans of diet soda for a 30 kg child.
Children with aspartame freely-available can ingest between 27 mg/kg -
77 mg/kg (Frey 1976) and adults dieters have been shown to ingest between
8 mg/kg and 36 mg/kg (Porikos 1984).
- In 1986, Davoli (1986a) published a study which showed
that 6 mg/kg to 8.7 mg/kg of aspartame could significantly raise the plasma
methanol levels. The methanol levels nearly doubled in some cases. While
there were some logical errors in Davoli's conclusion (discussed below),
the study proved that by using a reasonable methanol testing method, plasma
methanol levels will increase from a relatively low dose of aspartame ingestion.
The methanol measuring technique used by Davoli was published in 1985 (Davoli
1986b) and was sensitive to 0.012 mg/l.
- Other researchers have used sensitive plasma methanol
measurement techniques. d'Alessandro (1994) measured plasma methanol levels
in humans well below 1 mg/l. Cook (1991) used a methanol test developed
in 1981 to measure methanol plasma methanol levels in humans below 0.5
- What did industry scientists know or should have known?
- 1. They knew and admited that their methanol testing
procedure developed in 1969 was not sensitive enough to detect the large
increases of plasma methanol levels when aspartame was given at doses of
34 mg/kg (Stegink 1984b).
- 2. They must have been aware that Davoli found methanol
levels increase significantly when aspartame was given at doses of 6 mg/kg
to 8.7 mg/kg. To believe that they were not aware of this, one has to believe
that none of the researchers choose to or knew how to conduct a simple
Medline database search.
- 3. They should have known that there were several legitimate
plasma methanol measurement techniques developed since 1969. Given that
they admited their technique was not appropriate for aspartame doses of
less than 34 mg/kg (Stegink 1984b), they should have at least looked to
find an appropriate test.
- 4. Given that Leon (1989) was aware enough to test for
formate levels, he must have been aware that all of the methanol from aspartame
would have already converted to formaldehyde after a 12-hour fast.
- I believe that Monsanto/NutraSweet and the aspartame
industry are clearly taking advantage physicians and scientists who lack
the time to carefully investigate each number in a study to see if there
is deception. While these actions may not amount to "scientific fraud,"
it does amount to an abuse of the scientific method in my opinion.
- Methanol and Fruit/Tomatos: Convince the World That a
Poison is "Natural"
- Monsanto/NutraSweet's all time favorite aspartame fairy
- "In addition, exposure to methanol from many fruits,
vegetables, and juices in the normal diet is several times greater than
that from beverages sweetened with APM [aspartame]." (Butchko 1991)
- This statement from NutraSweet scientists has been repeated
countless times (AMA 1985, FDA 1984, Hertelendy 1993, Lajtha 1994, Monsanto
1999, Nelson 1996, Stegink 1981, Stegink 1983, Yost 1989, etc.). This is
very convincing ... but deceptive and irrelevent!
- It is well known that alcoholic beverages such a wine
contain a large amount of ethanol, a protective factor which prevents methanol
poisoning by preventing the conversion of methanol to the highly toxic
formaldehyde (Leaf 1952, Liesivuori 1991, Roe 1982). Because alcoholic
beverages contain protective factors which prevent chronic poisoning from
methanol metabolites (formaldehyde, formate), comparisons between the methanol
derived from aspartame and the methanol derived from alcoholic beverages
- Clinical reports and a small number of epidemiological
studies appear to demonstrate that prolonged exposure to methanol air concentrations
(in the workplace) of 260 mg/m3 (200 ppm) can cause chronic methanol toxicity
(Kavet 1990, Frederick 1984, Kingsley 1954-55). The weekly amount of methanol
absorbed from a 260 mg/m3 workday exposure is (formula in Kavet 1990):
- (260 mg/m3 * 6.67 m3/workday * 5 workdays * 60% absorption
rate) / 70 kg adult = 75 mg/kg weekly methanol
- Note: While this seems like a high weekly methanol dose,
please keep in mind that 1) much lower levels may cause toxicity in some
individuals; and 2) that aspartame breaks down into an excitotoxin which
will likely enhance the toxicity of methanol metabolites as described above.
- However, the ingestion of a moderate amount of apples
or oranges (or juice equivalent) per week leads to a similar exposure to
methanol (Lindinger 1997):
- (750 mg methanol (1.5 kg fruit) * 7 days) / 70 kg adult
= 74 mg/kg weekly methanol
- Keep in mind that tomatoes may have more than five times
the amount of methanol as that found in oranges (Kazeniac 1970, Nisperos-Carriedo
1990), so exposure to regular ingestion of tomatoes and tomato juice may
produce very large amounts of methanol.
- Lindinger (1997) points out that the amount of methanol
released in the human body from a few apples or oranges is equivalent to:
- "...0.3 liters of brandy (40% ethanol) containing
0.5% of methanol (compared with ethanol), which would qualify as significantly
- Because of the high amounts of methanol in fruits/tomatoes,
enough that would clearly cause chronic methanol poisoning, these foods
must contain protective factors (as does alcoholic beverages). If they
did not contain protective factors, we would be seeing widespread methanol
poisoning for persons who ingestion fruits and tomatoes regularly.
- The manufacturer showed that the protective factor in
fruits cannot be ethanol by itself (Sturtevant 1985), but there are a myriad
of chemicals in fruits which might serve as protective factors.
- What did industry scientists know or should have known?
- 1. They knew that alcoholic beverages contain protective
factors which prevent chronic methanol poisoning (Sturtevant 1985).
- 2. Because industry scientists regularly announced that
certain fruits contain extremely high levels of methanol, they should have
taken the time to find out that fruits have protective factors which help
prevent chronic poisoning from methanol metabolites.
- Avoiding the Discussion of Chronic Methanol Toxicity
- A number of Monsanto/NutraSweet public relations statements
as well as statements from government officials imply that the amount of
methanol obtained from aspartame is not toxic:
- "From estimates based on blood levels in methanol
poisonings, it appears that the ingestion of methanol on the order of 200
to 500 mg/kg body weight is required to produce a significant accumulation
of formate in the blood which may produce visual and central nervous system
toxicity" (Federal Register 1984)
- Lajtha (1994) claimed that "blood methanol concentrations
greater than 200 to 100 mg/L are required for clinical neurotoxicity or
for measurable formate formation." Non-scientists on the Internet
often make similar claims. Shahangian (1984) claimed that the amount of
formate (methanol and formaldehyde metabolite) is not enough to cause toxicity.
- This sounds very convincing until one realizes that the
doses they are refering to are the single doses required for death or near
death in humans! Monsanto/NutraSweet and persons promoting aspartame will
avoiding discussing chronic, low-level methanol or formaldehyde poisoning
because once this issue is raised it becomes apparent that the manufacturer
did not conduct or even cite any legitimate studies on chronic, low-level
methanol exposure in humans!
- Only on very rare occassion will the manufacturer mention
chronic methanol toxicity (Nelson 1996, Sturtevant 1985). When they do
this, they always cite a study of infant monkeys (a species closely related
to rhesus monkeys) (Reynolds 1984). A dose of 3,000 mg/kg of aspartame
was given to the monkeys for nine months. This amounts to a daily methanol
dose of 300 mg/kg -- a huge dose.
- What Monsanto/NutraSweet fails to mention is 300 mg/kg
of methanol has been estimated as the minimum single dose which can cause
death in humans (Kavet 1991). If such a study were conducted on humans,
nine months of daily ingestion of the minimum lethal single dose of methanol
would clearly kill everyone in the study!. As pointed out by Roe (1982),
methanol is significantly more toxic in humans than in monkeys or rodents.
It is important to note that the free-form excitotoxin derived from aspartame
and which will likely increase the formaldehyde/formate damage from aspartame,
appears to be approximately twenty times more toxic in humans than in monkeys
due to differences in excitotoxin metabolism (Olney 1988, Stegink 1979,
- What did industry scientists know or should have known?
- 1. They knew that there was never a controlled, long-term
study of methanol exposure in humans. Given that the manufacturer was expecting
to dose the human population with aspartame for a lifetime and even generations,
some might consider it criminal to sell a poison under these circumstances.
- 2. They should have known that an excitotoxin will likely
increase the toxicity of the formaldehyde/formate based upon the way these
chemicals produce cell damage and cell death. At the very least, the manufacturer
should have exhausted all reasonable possibilities of synergistic reactions
as opposed to using flawed research and flawed logic to explain away the
countless cases of aspartame poisoning.
- Convince Scientists & Physicians With Irrelevent
and Flawed Formate Measurements
- The FDA Commissioner has claimed (Federal Register 1984):
- "In the Searle [manufacturer] clinical study using
abuse doses of aspartame equivalent to 20 mg/kg body weight of methanol,
no significant increases were observed in plasma concentrations of formate,
suggesting that the rate of formate production does not exceed its rate
of urinary excretion."
- The AMA (1985) claimed that abuse doses of aspartame
have not been shown to increase blood formate levels. Stegink (1989, 1990)
claimed that large doses of aspartame did not raise blood and urine formate
levels significantly. Leon (1989) claimed to show no increase in urinary
formate from a daily dose of 75 mg/kg of aspartame. Hertelendy (1993) claimed
that there was not increase in urine or plasma formate levels from 15 mg/kg
- Since methanol metabolizes into formaldehyde and formaldehyde
metabolizes into formate, all of these statements appear to point to safety
... at first glance. But what the manufacturer does not tell you is that
these tests are now known to be irrelevent and flawed!
- Formate (formic acid) measurement of the urine is not
an appropriate test for low-level formaldehyde poisoning. (Keep in mind
that extremely low doses of formaldehyde have been shown to cause chronic
poisoning symptoms as discussed above.) Triebig (1989) states that formic
acid excretion in the urine is a "unspecific and insensitive biological
indicator for monitoring low-dose formaldehyde exposure." Schmid (1994)
found that neither a single significant exposure to formaldehyde nor a
week-long exposure to formaldehyde correlated with urine formic acid measurements.
After testing subjects exposed to formaldehyde, Heinzow (1992) stated:
- "Excretion [of formic acid] in the general population
is determined by endogenous metabolism of amino acids, purine- and pyrimidine-bases
rather than the uptake and metabolism of precursors like formaldehyde.
Hence in contrast to recent recommendations in environmental medicine,
formic acid in urine is not an appropriate parameter for biological-monitoring
of low level exposure to formaldehyde."
- Therefore, all of the aspartame industry's urine formate
measurements are useless for chronic methanol/formaldehyde poisoning from
- Blood formate measurements also appear to be inadequate
for chronic, low-level methanol or formaldehyde poisoning. d'Alessandro
- "While exposure to several different levels of methanol
above the threshold limit [200 ppm] might demonstrate slight increases
in formate concentrations, it seems doubtful that this measure would be
useful for monitoring individual low-level exposure."
- And after further study, Osterloh (1996) stated:
- "Previously, we reviewed exposure studies (both
occupational and experimental) in which formate concentrations were measures,
along with these data, as a basis for the conclusion that methanol, not
formate, in serum can be used as a biological marker of exposures."
- Three other reasons why aspartame industry formate measurements
can be considered useless include:
- 1. Trocho (1998) showed a significant amount of formaldehyde
from aspartame binding with proteins and accumulating in tissues rather
than metabolizing into formate.
- 2. The average baseline (pre-exposure) measurements of
formate in the aspartame industry research (e.g., Stegink 1981, 1989, 1990)
is unexplicabally 1.5 to 3 times higher than any other independent researcher
(d'Alessandro 1994, Baumann 1979, Buttery 1988, Heinrich 1982, Osterloh
1986, Osterloh 1996). As pointed out by Kavet (1990), high pre-exposure
blood formate levels "may have masked any subtle increases that the
aspartame may have caused."
- 3. A respected formaldehyde and formic acid exposure
researcher has pointed out that several formate measurement techniques
including the one used by aspartame industry researchers (Makar 1982) are
"notoriously inaccurate." (Liesivuori 1986).
- Unfortunately, there are still researchers who cite old
tests of formate levels related to aspartame ingestion even though these
tests have proven to be meaningless and flawed.
- What did industry scientists know or should have known?
- 1. The industry researchers should have keep up-to-date
on formate measurment research. Had they done that, they would have known
that such measurements are inappropriate for chronic, low-level methanol
and formaldehyde exposure.
- The "It is Found in the Body, so a Proven Poison
Must be Safe" Excuse to Eat Poison
- From time to time, it will be implied that because methanol
and formaldehyde are in the body, it is perfectly safe to add more. Acting
FDA Commissioner Mark Novitch stated the following (Federal Register 1984):
- "Normal metabolic processes such as purine and pyrimidine
biosynthesis and amino acid metabolism require methyl groups from compounds
like methanol. It also appears that either methanol or formaldehyde may
serve as precursors for the methyl groups in choline synthesis."
- On the Internet, this is a popular technique used to
try to convince people that methanol and formaldehyde exposure is safe.
What the FDA Commissioner and other persons unfamiliar with this issue
did not point out is that chronic poisoning from low-level methanol and
formaldehyde exposure is already accepted in the medical community. In
fact, children who were chronically-exposed to formaldehyde in the air
at concetrations of 0.05 parts per million (ppm) developed systemic health
problems after several months (Wantke 1996). This is equivalent to a daily
exposure of only 0.75 mg of formaldehyde (or less if 100% of the formaldehyde
is not absorbed):
- 0.05 ppm formaldehyde ~= 0.075 mg/m3 0.075 mg/m3 * 10
m3/workday = 0.75 mg/day (for a workday/schoolday)
- Other researchers have noted formaldehyde toxicity symptoms
appearing at chronic, low-level exposure (Srivastava 1992):
- "Complaints pertaining to gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal
and carbiovascular systems were also more frequent in exposed subjects.
In spite of formaldehyde concentrations being well within the prescribed
ACGIH [American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists] limits
of 1 ppm...."
- This proves that formaldehyde levels in the body must
be very tightly-controlled since a very low daily exposure leads to health
problems. Even a very small, regular increase can lead to chronic, low-level
- Davoli (1986) showed that aspartame significantly increases
plasma methanol levels. However, he mistakenly concluded that because the
post-aspartame administration methanol levels did not rise above the baseline
methanol levels of every other human being, those levels might not be toxic.
What Davoli failed to consider, however, is that 1) we know that methanol
and formaldehyde levels in the body must be tightly controlled because
exposure to very low levels of these chemicals have been shown to lead
to chronic toxicity; and 2) that people have their own individual metabolism
so that a slight addition of formaldehyde to the current tightly-controlled
level in one individual could cause toxicity even though it might not rise
above the baseline level of another individual's formaldehyde level. As
one can see from the Davoli (1986) study, the administration of aspartame
lead to a fairly sudden and significant increase in plasma methanol levels
and would be expected to cause a significant formaldehyde exposure.
- Formaldehyde & Formic Acid in Foods: A Final Attempt
to Prove a Poison is "Safe"
- "... formaldehyde [exposure from aspartame is] comparable
to a serving of fresh broccoli." (Weber 1999)
- Every once in a while there will be a statement pointing
out that some foods have relatively high levels of formaldehyde and formic
acid. What is not pointed out is that formaldehyde in food is much less
toxic than formaldehyde from air exposure or formaldehyde from aspartame
exposure due to the way the body metabolizes it.
- Restani (1991) points out that formaldehyde can be found
in seafood, honey, fruits, vegetables, etc. Restani (1991) points to a
human study showing where 200 mg of formaldehyde per day was ingested for
13 weeks without showing adverse effects. This would be equivalent to an
daily air exposure of: