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Is aspartame toxic?

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By Jimmy Downs

Saturday May 11, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- Aspartame is an artificial sweetener commonly used in beverages intended for those who do not want calories in their drinks.  A new report released in Folia Neuropathology suggests that aspartame metabolites can be toxic.

K. Rycerz and J. E. Jaworska-Adamu from University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Poland reported that aspartame can be metabolized into three molecules, phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol all of which can be toxic.

Methanol has been known to be toxic for a long time. The authors pointed out that methanol metabolites cause central nervous system depression, vision disorders and other disorders leading to metabolic acidosis and coma.

Aspartic acid at high concentrations, according to the authors, is a toxin that causes hyperexcitability of neurons and is a precursor of another excitatory amino acid, glutamic acid.  

Phenylalanine at high levels can block the transport of important amino acids to the brain lowering the levels of dopamine and serotonin.

Aspartame may also be carcinogenic because at least its metabolite diketopiperazine, can cause cancers in the central nervous system such as gliomas, medulloblastomas and meningiomas. 

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