I had to take notice when the third person in three days mentioned MS type symptoms that had disappeared on giving up diet drinks.

I knew that diet drinks could have weird effects on appetite and weight, but MS? Surely not!

So, I decided to do a bit of research about aspartame, and it caused my bottles of tonic water (not slimline but they still contain aspartame) to go straight into the bin.

Firstly, the story of the approval of aspartame is a shocker.

The compound was discovered in the late 1960s by a company called G.D. Searle. Searle carried out various tests to check its toxicity. Unfortunately, it was found out later by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that Searle had faked many of the results. They had done some quite shocking things like removing tumours from live animals to conceal toxic effects.

As another example, there was a 46-week toxicity study of hamsters where G.D. Searle had taken blood from healthy animals at the 26th week and claimed that the tests had actually been performed at the 38th week. Many of the animals from which G.D. Searle claimed had blood drawn from were actually dead at the 38th week.

In 1980 The Public Board Of Inquiry voted unanimously to reject the use of aspartame until additional studies on aspartame’s potential to cause brain tumors could be done. The PBOI was particularly concerned about an experiment where rats received aspartame and a much higher percentage of animals in the aspartame group developed tumors than in the control group.

However, Searle weren’t going to accept this. In 1977, they had appointed Donald Rumsfeld as their president. According to a former G.D. Searle salesperson, Patty Wood- Allott, in 1981 Donald Rumsfeld told his salesforce that, if necessary, “he would call in all his markers and that no matter what, he would see to it that aspartame would be approved that year.”

On July 18, 1981 aspartame was approved for use in dry foods by FDA Commissioner Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr. overruling the Public Board of Inquiry. Intially it was still regarded as dangerous in drinks, but it eventually got approval despite the fact that independent tests linked it with brain tumours, mood disorders, siezures, “paradoxical effects on appetite” and about 80 other symptoms from the mild to the deadly.

The United Press reported on October 12, 1987 that more than 10 federal officials involved in the NutraSweet decision took jobs in the private sector linked to the aspartame industry. Basically people in public office who supported aspartame were rewarded with high paying jobs in the industry once they left public office.

Having read this, I was no longer very surprised about the MS symptoms. I also found out that the incidence of MS in young women is rising rapidly and that it now affects four times as many women as men (whereas it used to affect twice as many women). We know who drinks the most Diet Coke, don’t we?

Aspartame is also reported to be particularly dangerous for children.

I have found out quite a lot more that is really too detailed to go into here but please do comment or get in touch if you have any questions or personal experiences.

Bear in mind that aspartame may be called Nutrasweet, Equal, Candarel or E951.

This post has been moved from another blog, so the comments below have just been copied over.

Showing 9 comments


I have two brief and interesting stories about Nutrasweet , both involving my sister who was an avid fan of aspartame.
She used to date a chemical engineer who worked with the company who produced Nutrasweet and he wouldn’t touch anything containing aspartame with a ten foot pole! But that didn’t raise any alarm bells for her, and she continued to drink a minimum of three diet Cokes a day, and add sweeteners to her breakfast cereal and hot beverages.
She began to notice “tingling” sensations in her legs and feet, and weakness on one side of her body. An MRI was done which showed some “white spots ” on the brain, which her physician stated could be very early signs of MS,but not to worry as the MRI was very sensitive and detected things much earlier than symptoms would appear!
These sensations in her lower limbs would come and go, and over the course of a few years did progress to the point of intermittent weakness on one side of her body which was worse on arising (in the morning).
By chance, an office email was sent to her which described symptoms that she had experienced , which had been linked to asparame. After a few days without Diet Coke she noticed a huge difference , the weakness and strange sensations were no longer a problem!
I personally can’t bear the taste of artificial sweetners, and am so sensitive to the taste. It’s as if my body can detect it, and reject it.

02/24/2010 08:46 PM

This is interesting – we gave up aspartame about 8 years ago – my husband had been ill and someone mentioned ms type symptoms. A friend mentioned aspartame and on researching found info about it mimicing symptons of lots of illnesses including ms let alone the implications for dieters! Haven’t knowingly had it since.

02/23/2010 08:41 PM


I refuse to buy reduced sugar drinks for my children because of this research Roz. Interestingly my food shop recently contained a bottle of “no added sugar” squash, I’ve been drinking it and have found that I have a permanent sweet “taste” in my mouth and I am convinced that it is the sweetner in this bottle. I had a drink last night and have had my normal tea all day, but I can still taste it.

02/22/2010 12:25 PM

Antoine Clarke

I’m not a fan of restricting sugar for children, unless they have a metabolism disorder. It seems to be fashionable to attribute bad behaviour to “too much sugar,” but I suspect a combination of parents not setting boundaries, bribing children with too many sweets, and children not playing in the street enough.

I might be accused of being flippant, but concerning child obesity, with due notice given of metabolic disorders, I blame the government. Too much crime outside means children are locked indoors (government’s fault for not having more effective police and courts and too lenient with criminals). Too much taxes means parents have to work too long hours (so less energy to play with children, set boundaries, cook healthier meals, not bribe with sweets, etc). Too much trust in “let the government deal with education/health/social security” etc means people don’t look after themselves.

I note that in my neighbourhood, excessive local taxes mean that only cafes and convenience food outlets can operate, so I blame local government for the proliferation of junk food availability!

02/23/2010 06:12 PM

This would mean more if you cited your sources. There is a lot of information out on the internet about aspartame; likewise, there is also a lot of misinformation as well.

Vague statements such as:
“We know who drinks the most Diet Coke, don’t we?” and
“Aspartame is also reported to be particularly dangerous for children.”
are particularly unhelpful.

As a parent of two young children, I obviously don’t want to put them at any risk (although perhaps just being born and living isn’t actually that good for you, when you start looking at the world today). However, as a scientist, I want more than just heresay and supposition to back up the changes I make.

02/22/2010 07:04 AM
Roz Watkins

I am a scientist too and I agree that there is a lot of information and misinformation out there. I know there have been hoax letters about the effects of aspartame. However when three people I trust mentioned MS-like symptoms that had disappeared on stopping it, I thought this was worth a mention, although I know it’s anecdotal and I know it could be the placebo effect.

I didn’t want to go into too much detail and include lots of evidence on the blog because it is intended to be short and readable. It is aimed primarily at those who didn’t realise there were any questions about aspartame’s safety. It flags this up as a possible concern and they can then get in touch for more information or do their own research.

I have endeavoured to look at peer reviewed research and multiple sources of information, and if you would like a list of these, do let me know (the list is quite long!)

But I agree it is very hard to determine the truth because everyone has an agenda. There seems to be a strong correlation between funding source and the outcome of research. Basically there is no definitive view and mine certainly isn’t definitive. I hope readers who are interested will do their own research and make up their own minds.

02/22/2010 08:53 AM


Thanks for the article. Aspartame has had rumours milling around about it’s vicious make up for years and it’s about time the truth came out. Money covers up so many things in this world and if only we knew the half of what we were putting into our bodies… my partner has MS and I have been trying to get her to change to raw sugar as a substitute but she is forever reluctant as she believes it to be heresay. Personally, I think a partially raw product such as brown sugar is always going to be better than a chemical substitute… we wonder why cancers are slowly eating away our loved ones… chemicals are the new fresh food and it should never have gone that way… but we as humans are very lazy and want quick fixes at any cost.

02/21/2010 07:47 PM


Scary isn’t the word for this. We are not walking but racing into human disaster. Difficult to know where to avoid all these money spinning schemes which mess up our health. You may as well forget any responsible action from our supposed democratic system of government. For a start it isn’t democratic and has more interest in “expanding the economy” and covering up on MPs’ expenses than applying itself to a sane approach in the interests of its citizens. Sorry, not citizens as we don’t have that right, I should have said subjects.

02/21/2010 06:41 PM

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