September 9, 2007
NOTE: The following article orginally appeared in Children of the New Earth. www.childrenofthenewearth.com
PREGNANCY AND ASPARTAME
by Cori Brackett
Are there any complications which might result from consuming aspartame during pregnancy? The other day, a good friend told me she was pregnant. Since she is an old college friend, I found it much easier to think of her as a student pouring over her books than as a mother-to-be. After fully absorbing the news, I began thinking about the documentary I recently finished called Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World. As a close look at the artificial sweetener, aspartame, this documentary describes aspartame's breakdown components, as well as some of the obstacles that its company overcame in gaining FDA approval. Of the three breakdown products, all of them are rather nasty, according to the doctors I interviewed. One of the breakdown components is aspartic acid, an excitotoxin. Aspartic acid contributes to free radical damage in the brain and literally “excites” brain cells to death. Another is methanol or wood alcohol, described by Dr. H.J. Roberts as “a real poison”. The third breakdown component of aspartame is phenylalanine, the reason behind the warning appearing on anything with contains the artificial sweetener. “Attention phenylketonurics: contains phenylalanine” appears mysteriously on diet soda cans and sugarless gum packages. “But what”, you might ask, “is phenylketonuria, and how can it affect me?”
Phenylketonuria, or PKU, is a genetic disorder which prevents a person from metabolizing phenylalanine. During one particular interview, I remember board-certified neurosurgeon, Dr. Russell Blaylock, relating aspartame's effects on women who are pregnant and carrying the gene for PKU. Asymptomatic and often unaware that they harbor any such gene which might affect their babies, they are nonetheless twice as likely to give birth to a child with brain damage if they consume aspartame. A chilling thought, especially when one considers the idea that many doctors still recommend diet products to their pregnant patients to help them keep their weight down. History is filled with information which is believed to be true at the time, but later found to be false. For example, there was a time when women were “expected to live inactive lives, look interestingly pale, sew or embroider interminably, faint at the drop of a hat”(1). Times change, and beliefs and medical standards change with them. Remember when smoking was advertised with such phrases as: “four out of five doctors recommend ------ cigarettes” and ------ cigarettes “won't jangle the nerves”? My mother thought nothing of smoking while she was carrying me, as did most people in her day. Now, when I see a pregnant woman drinking a diet soda, I personally feel the same horror as I would if I saw her smoking a cigarette. Having been affected by aspartame myself, I know how it can cause problems in the body while the consumer remains unaware. When a woman is pregnant, she carries with her the responsibility of another life that is wholly dependent upon her for its welfare.
What about women who are fortunate enough not to carry the gene for PKU? Maybe you are one of those women, thinking that perhaps aspartame affects some people, but not you. “I can have aspartame and it doesn't affect me at all”, states Dr. Blaylock, describing the comments of many of his patients, “but over many years, one will start to see obvious disease in those persons”. Those diseases can range from lupus and fibromyalgia to multiple sclerosis and Huntington's disease. As for myself, I thought that aspartame didn't affect me either. I used to define myself by the diet soda I had in my hand and did not feel myself without it constantly being there. Twenty years later, multiple sclerosis was my diagnosis, which created great health problems for a relatively short while and large beaurocratic issues for a long time after that. I was one of the fortunate ones. During my interviews for “Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World”, I met with two people who had to go for surgery to remove tumors from their brains.
In addition to being implicated in the diseases above, aspartame has also been linked to such disorders as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Parkinson's Disease and seizures. Another problem associated with aspartame use is infertility. Dr. Madelon Price writes, “I showed (in rodents) that both amino acids [in aspartame] freely enter the arcuate nucleus & (at low dose) cause inappropriate release of hormones & at high dose actually destroy these regulatory neurons. That is why sexual dysfunction is associated with aspartame & msg” (2). According to this statement, the first issue in pregnancy resulting from aspartame is in getting pregnant in the first place.
I also asked Dr. Blaylock about fertility and pregnancy. His response was “a number of studies have shown reduced fertility in both males and females - shrunken testes and ovaries were seen in the original studies by the makers of aspartame... we see reduction in the gonadotrophins-ICSH, FSH, LH and prolactin. In addition there are direct effects on the sperm and ova" (3).
Let's say that you are one of the lucky ones and little junior is already growing and getting ready to appear in the world. Let's say, also, that you are not among the many silent and unaware carriers for the PKU gene. I wanted to know the effects of aspartame on a fetus like yours, and as a result, I corresponded with Dr. Blaylock about this issue. There was so much information in his correspondence, that I am including it here for you.
Cori: What about women who are reading this article and are currently pregnant. They might not have known about the harmful effects of aspartame before. Is it safe for them to stop midway through?
Dr. Blaylock: They must stop the toxic exposure immediately. As for things to do - see [the last] question.
Cori: What about women who are willing to cut back but not quit entirely during pregnancy? Is there a safe level of aspartame consumption if so far they have been able to tolerate it well?
Dr. Blaylock: No, because of the property of formaldehyde to cause accumulative damage to DNA. It has been shown that the formaldehyde formed from aspartame binds very tightly to DNA, RNA, and proteins. So even one diet cola a day can cause damage. Of course the effect is dose dependent - meaning the more you ingest the worse the toxicity.
Cori: And women who have drunk diet soda/consumed diet products for several years and then got pregnant and quit - can aspartame affect them and their unborn children?
Dr. Blaylock: It can because of the ability of aspartame (methanol) to cause accumulative DNA damage - which would include both sperm and the ova. By improving DNA repair she may be able to correct much of this damage. For example, methycobalamin, folate, B6 and niacinamide can all improve DNA repair.
Cori: Does aspartame affect the potential of miscarriage?
Dr. Blaylock: Theoretically, yes. There is no hard data on the relationship.
Cori: What are some other results of aspartame consumption during pregnancy of non-PKU carriers on the unborn child?
Dr. Blaylock: They would be the same as the PKU-carrier mom. The difference would be the dose. The placenta concentrates phenylalanine so that the baby's exposure is 2X that of the mother's. MSG in the mother's diet increases the excitotoxic effect of the aspartate in the aspartame.
Cori: Are there any supplements or things that pregnant women can do to protect themselves from a toxic food supply?
Dr. Blaylock: There are many things. For a more complete discussion see my book - Health and Nutrition Secrets. Most toxins cause damage by generating free radicals. Therefore, the antioxidants are very important - vitamin C, E, the carotenoids, magnesium, selenium, zinc, the flavonoids and alpha-lipoic acid. The omega-3 fatty acids are critical for the growth and development of a child's brain-especially the DHA component. Vitamin D3 is critical for proper immune development and control of immune reactions. The B vitamins are critical for the development of the child's brain and for maximal function. Methylcobalamin, folate, B6, B1, DHA and a number of flavonoids protect against excitotoxicity (4).
According to Dr. H.J. Roberts, an advertisement by Ajinomoto, one of the makers of aspartame, speaks to this very question (5): it features a baby suckling on the breast of its mother. Underneath the drawing, is a caption that reads: “Remember the first time you tasted aspartame?” This seemingly nostalgic statement implies, does it not, that aspartame is passed through breast milk to the nursing child? If this is true, then every mother affects her child by doing something as seemingly natural as breast-feeding. Everyday toxins assault the body. According to Dr. Blaylock in Sweet Misery, a number of things can result in a porous blood-brain barrier including aging, hypoglycemia and extreme exercise. In Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills, Dr. Blaylock states, “There are several conditions during which the placental barrier could possibly become incompetent.” (6) Dr. Roberts mentions in his book, Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic, “Brain growth is maximum during the third trimester of pregnancy and the first year of life. Consequently, elevated phenylalanine concentrations are likely to cause harm during these critical periods.”(7) Given this, it seems reasonable to assume that prudence should come into play during pregnancy. I sure don't want my friend to be careless.
While I, myself, have never been pregnant, I continue to feel hopeful about upcoming generations. Everywhere I go, I continue to notice more concerned and aware young people making conscious choices to preserve their health with better foods. As a society, we are beginning to become more attuned to the world around us and how the foods that we choose to ingest into our bodies can affect us and our unborn children.
1. Marti-Ibañez, Felix MD, The Epic of Medicine, New York: Bramhall House, 1962, p. 234.
2. Dr. Madelon Price, "Aspartame Causes Infertility - Reply”, Mission Possible files, www.dorway.com/possible.html, 1997.
3. Blaylock, Russell MD, Email Correspondence with Cori Brackett, 2005.
5. Roberts, Dr. H.J, “Aspartame Industry's Deceptive Advertising Aimed at Infants and Children: A Letter to the FCC”, 2005.
6. Blaylock, Russell MD, Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills, Santa Fe: Health Press, 1997, p. 70.
7. Roberts, Dr. H.J., Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic, Sunshine Sentinel Press, 2001, p.489.
Blaylock, Russell MD, Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills, Santa Fe: Health Press, 1997.
Blaylock, Russell MD, Health and Nutrition Secrets That Can Save Your Life, Albuquerque: Health Press, 2002.
Blaylock, Russell MD, Email Correspondence with Cori Brackett, 2005.
Marti-Ibañez, Felix MD, The Epic of Medicine, New York: Bramhall House, 1962.
Price, Madelon MD, “Aspartame causes infertility - Reply”, Mission Possible files, www.dorway.com/possible.html, 1997.
Roberts, H.J. MD, FACP, FCCP, Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic, West Palm Beach: Sunshine Sentinel Press, 2001.
Roberts, J.J. MD, FACP, FCCP, “Aspartame Industry's Deceptive Advertising Aimed at Infants and Children: A Letter to the FCC”, 2005.
Starr Hull, Janet Ph.D., CN, Sweet Poison, Far Hills: New Horizon Press, 1999.
Waldron, J.T. and Cori Brackett, Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World, Tucson: Sound and Fury Productions, Inc., 2004.
Waldron, J.T. and Cori Brackett, Sweet Remedy: The World Reacts, Tucson: Sound and Fury Productions, Inc., 2005.