710547 tn?1295446030

Aspartame causing actual ms?

Since many say aspartame is a neurotoxin that can destroy myelin, and produce ms like symptoms - does anyone know of research that differentiates between aspartame induced "ms" and ms caused by some "other" unknown cause.  I've been reading the info on aspartame and how it breaks down and becomes toxic to the brain.  It is said by some to cause an ms-like group of symptoms that aren't really ms.  But, other researchers say that it actually breaks down the myelin sheath and forms plaques etc. just like ms, so, I don't know if, based on their theories, you'd be able to tell the difference.  I'm sure there are plenty of ms patients who don't consume aspartame, but I'm also sure there are other neurotoxins out there - aspartame is just one.  I guess my question is - why some say aspartame merely causes the symptoms of ms and not the disease itself - if it really causes the same actual damage to the nerves - and therefore can be diagnosed the same - MRI showing the plaques,and the Spinal fluid showing the oligo... bands and proteins.  Anyone?
16 Responses
Avatar universal
Hi Jan and welcome to the forum.

I can't answer your question with any form of knowledge on this subject.  I have heard this mentioned before, but never researched it.

I'm like you, if it does cause the same damage, then how can they tell if it is MS or from a neurtoxin.  I just don't know the answer to that one.  We have some very knowledgable people on this forum so maybe one of them can answer this for you.

Hope to get to know you better and again, glad you found us.

Avatar universal
Hello and welcome to the forum!  Aspartame is not actually classified as a neurotoxin.  It is classified as an excitotoxin.  Excitotoxins, excite, or stimulate the neurons to death.  They are implicated in Alzheimers, ADD, and MS.  However, alternative medicine stops short in saying they cause myelin destruction and actually cause MS.

Excitotoxins are substances that can also cause problems in neurotransmitter functioning.  I have read lots of alternative medicine info on aspartame and how it is an excitotoxin, but never that it causes MS.

Aspartame breaks down into aspartic and glutamic acid.  These are two amino acids that allow excessive amounts of calcium into cells, causing formation of free radicals and cell death.  When glutamic acid crosses into the blood brain barrier, it can cause neuron death.

This is all alternative medicine.  I believe in alternative medicine, since their theory of neuroendocrine problems and how it can lead to neurological diseases fits Craig exactly.  Alt medicine has also helped us find reasons for my health problems, while the conventional docs would have left me decline.

However, this is only their theories, which they support with their own research, but it is not mainstream thought.  If you go to the website for Rocky Mountain MS center, their site says that although aspartame has not been proven to cause or worsen MS, it has NEVER been proven to be safe in MS.  So they support avoiding it.  Rocky Mountain MS center is the only center I have ever seen take a stand on aspartame.

Hopefully Stevia will soon be approved to be a no calorie natural sweetener to be added to diet soft drinks.  Stevia comes from a plant and has been used for centuries in South America.  You can buy it at health food stores.  It does not raise blood insulin like Nutrasweet does, and causes no disruption in blood sugar.

I hope that this helped.
198419 tn?1360242356
Hi Jan,

Welcome! I have not read any credible source that has proven by study or trial that aspartame causes MS, therefore, I'm unable to differentiate anything between those "possible" other causes that make us more suceptible to the disease, etc.

Elaine, the explanation of your research here is outstanding.  I'm always grateful to learn more on this and other similar topics.  Especially because I know you obtain this information from credible sources and you explain it so well.

I stick to the natural condiments myself.  I use reg. sugar, red ketchup, etc. Just figure it's best to go natural. I do the same w/butter, despite the controversy over it.   Though there are so many people who can't consume sugar so I sure do hope Stevia appr. comes quickly too.

It is good to consider what we are putting in our bodies that is for sure.  It's just so durn hard to get down to the real facts on what is true or not.  

Welcome again, I don't think we've met yet, have we? Well, if so, I send you two welcomes and hope to see you around!
710547 tn?1295446030
I just lost my post due to a floppy wrist!  All that typing for nothing!  Anyway - thanks for the responses.  I'd like to add, that although aspartame has been labeled an excitotoxin, it causes the death of the myelin producing oligodendroglia cells at the site of the lesions.  It also breaks down the blood brain barrier, which allows excitotoxins in the blood stream to enter the site of damage.  That fact makes it seem logical that it would be bad for existing ms patients, even if it didn't precipitate the lesions in the first place.  Aspartame also contains methanol which IS a neurotoxin.  It is an axon poison.  The combined excitotoxicity and neurotoxicity is a cocktail I'm downing everyday in my diet coke.  As long as I only heard that it was "bad" for you, or more recently that it could mimic the symptoms of some of these diseases, I could ignore the warnings.  But having now read about the pathophysiological mechanism that explains why it causes the symptoms - (because it causes the damage), I guess I need to take this seriously.  I don't know what caused my MS, but I know I need every little nerve I have left in my pea brain!!  I feel very much like I'm on my last few nerves to be sure! lol  I hate learning that one of my last remaining vices is going to have to be given up.  It's always something!  Jan
198419 tn?1360242356
When were you dx'd? If you don't mind, please share what brought you to dx.  That way, we'll all get to know each other better.

I was dx'd last year after stroke-like symptoms.  Here, we are one big family of those of us who are dx'd, undx'd, alternative dx'd, etc. We are filled with compassion, good humore, a variety of world experiences, and also incredible amount knowledge and education among us.  Just a big melting pot.

Welcome aboard,

572651 tn?1530999357
Yep, I gave up the artificial sweeteners after my heart attack and diagnosis of angina because of the questions about being linked to spasms - and spasms can happen anywhere there is muscle in our bodies.  If you look at it closely, these are some scarey chemicals we are being encouraged to ingest.

Sticking to water,
Avatar universal
As Elaine says, any link between aspartame and MS is strictly theoretical. It's possible to find researchers who allege all sorts of things that mainstream medicine does not accept. In other words, no matter what they say, there is no proof of this.

The aspartame scare has been making the rounds of the Internet for many years, often in almost hysterical language. It pops up here periodically. There are even allegations of a conspiracy, etc., hallmarks of an urban legend. Check snopes dot  com on this subject.

I am not in any way endorsing artificial sweeteners, and believe that too much of them, as with too much of anything, is not a good idea. However, I do feel compelled to comment if I think members here might be getting incorrect information.

382218 tn?1341181487
My position is similar to others' here, that any connection betwee aspartame and MS is a theory, and any claims beyond that have yet to be supported by large-scale research and widely accepted as fact.  

I agree there is no good reason to consume aspartame; and though I do enjoy the occasional coke zero, I have really limited my intake of this chemcial.  

I would say I am an equal-opportunity skeptic when it comes to such things.  I don't automatically accept a premise or theory just because conventional medicine endorses it; nor do I automatically accept a claim about a diet or treatment or cure simply becuase it is 'natural.'  I think it is wise to question everything, and in the process, become better educated on the topic.

Avatar universal
Hi again.  You are not drinking methanol when you drink something with aspartame in it.  Methanol is formed if the aspartame is exposed to temps greater than 86 degrees F.  It is also formed in the small intestine when aspartame is digested.  However, for a person to show symptoms of methanol toxicity, a person would have to drink large amounts of aspartame.  And the signs of methanol toxicity would disappear when the aspartame wasn't ingested anymore.

I would hate for people to think they are drinking methanol when drinking a diet drink.  I am not a fan of aspartame but we need to keep the facts straight.


405614 tn?1329144114
I've avoided Aspartame for many years; I had a climbing buddy that was the head of nursing at my college, and he gave me tons of information on the damage it could do.  I'm sure it was well before all the studies were in, but I had already noticed that it irritated my bladder horribly, so saw no reason to consume it.

This is a hot topic, by the way.  Google it, and you get information about Gulf War veterans drinking diet sodas that had been on a pallet in the sun for weeks, so that the troops were drinking methanol, which caused many of the symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome.  That's just one example of how super-charged the topic of Aspartame usage is.

I tried to get my mom to stop drinking her 6-pack of diet soda a day, but she wouldn't.  I don't know if any of her multitude of health issues was related to  that habit.

I don't drink soft drinks, and water is my main beverage.  For a big treat I have Pellegrino, or every once in a long while, sparkling fruit juice.  

I knew of a dietician that was really pushing the use of Stevia a few years ago, so I did some research on it.  I found some studies done in the UK that showed that it damaged DNA.

Now Coca Cola is about to release some drinks with a sweetener derived from Stevia, first in other countries, until the FDA approves it.  The EU still bans Stevia, from what I understand.

More recent studies aren't clear cut.  A UCLA study using rats showed some DNA  damage, but there is some question about methods, and other tests show no DNA damage.  Many countries such as Japan, Paraguay, and many others I've forgotten have used Stevia for years without any reported bad efffects.

I think I'll just stick to small amounts of regular sugar, barley malt syrup, brown rice syrup, honey, maple syrup; pretty natural products that haven't been processed and had their components split into different kinds of sweeteners.

Just my two cents!

572651 tn?1530999357
If you want to read more about this ongoing discussion, just google aspartame and migraines.  Lots of good links pop up - pick the ones that are connected to reputable organizations and not some of the more questionable sources.

The initial research supports looking into aspartame closer as a trigger for many spasms, including migraines, vasospasms and restless leg syndrom. The talk about it and MS must be circulating on the emails again, because my massage therapist just brought it up to me yesterday, right after I had read this thread.

Eventually aspartame may or may not be cleared but I figure why take the chance with anything else foreign in my body?  I already have enough going on inside!

Naturally sweet,
Avatar universal
For links to many articles and reports from scientific institutions, please see


This is a legend that won't die, despite ample research to the contrary.

195469 tn?1388322888
I am chewing Sorbitol as we speak.  Delicious sugar free gum.  In a couple of hours, I will break into my bottle of yummy Diet Pepsi and not think that any of it is actually causing harm to my body.  Maybe rritating the bladder, but now they say it's because of the carbonation that is in soda's, not the Sorbitol.  And artificial sweetners were blamed on periodontal disease, but found that it is also carbonation in drinks that irritates our gums.

So I have never believed the MYTH that aspartame in any form is hurting me.  My Neuro knows what I consume, as well as my PCP.  If these substances were causing my neurological symtpoms, I would think they would tell me not to consume them, post haste.

Diet drinks CAN cause your blood insulin to increase.  The brain "tastes" sweetness not the artifical sweetner.  So it signals the pancreas to produce more insulin.  Hence it HAS caused my blood sugar readings to go up when there is no other explanation for the rise.


710547 tn?1295446030
Wow - there are definitely some strong thoughts on this subject.  I don't have any stake in trying to connect aspartame and ms- I was just wondering what if anything people here knew about differentiating between merely symptom mimicking and the actual disease.  Since I asked the question, I did further research and realize there isn't an answer.  There are many neurologists and ms groups who speak out against any relationship, however, I am not interested in defending a position - just being as healthy as possible.  Elaine, I know the scientific facts concerning the chemicals in aspartame, but it doesn't answer all the questions.  Our bodies are hotter than the necessary threshold to create methanol from aspartame.  And, yes, stopping the ingestion of the chemical will rid the body of the methanol.  What recent research has shown, however, is that if damage has occurred, not all of it is reversible.  Just like we all have different degrees of disease activity and disability, there are also many differences in how each person responds to the chemicals in the food and beverages we consume.  I don't know of anyone who is saying that consuming diet sodas with aspartame is causing ms - but I have read of well run research that shows damage to the CNS that is of the same nature as ms; myelin sheath damage with plaques visible on MRI with the resultant neurological symptoms displayed.  This was very intriguing to me because I've defended my diet coke habit quite strongly for a long time.  I only started drinking it after I developed Systemic Sclerosis and had gone on pain meds and craved the caffeine.  Autoimmune diseases run in my family and so I wasn't looking for something in my diet to have made me sick.  I believe strongly that we all need to be open minded to learn everything we can from each other and from research to help us live as free from the effects of disease as possible.

I wrote my profile as to when and how I got my dx., but I'll briefly say here.  I had Raynauds and then Erythromelalgia (both vasospastic), and then developed joint pain.  My first dx was RA, but later UCTD.  A couple more years and I had Scleroderma Esophagus and Barrett's.  Then I was dx with Sys Sclerosis.  Then Interstitial Cystitis, Osteoporosis, Low Thyroid, and Chronic Pneumonia.  I began aspirating into my lungs upon falling asleep, which made my lungs worse.  I developed Pulmonary Hypertension and some other less fatal things, including cardiac problems.  This process developed over a decade.  Then, this year, after a brain MRI showed lesions in the white matter, I had 2 more follow up MRIs.  After more and more lesions kept showing up, an LP was ordered.  Now, I didn't suspect ms - nor did my Dr.  He kept trying to make my neurological symptoms fit into my Sys. Sclerosis.  I told him about some very strange and uncomfortable neuro symptoms, but it wasn't followed up on. Then a few weeks ago, I was in the hospital (after the LP) and a neurologist came in my room and told me the CSF tested positive for both the proteins and bands that verify ms. That, plus the pattern of my cerebral lesions made the diagnosis very easy.  She said I had a "slam dunk" diagnosis.  Needless to say, I was surprised.  I'll be starting Copaxone soon.  Because I'm already in very bad shape and considered fatal, I am trying to do what I can to improve my situation. I am divorced from a very abusive man (after 27 years) and have a daughter in college and a son who's a senior in high school.  I need to live a while! - don't we all.

I'm very new to this disease and so I appreciate the warm greetings from you all.  I could use some mentoring as I face the new challenges of my new meds as well as the challenge of untangling the various symptoms that I no longer know which disease (or medication) may have caused.

If anyone is interested in the many references for aspartame research, I'd be happy to give them.  
Avatar universal
Check this video out
Avatar universal
only if you drink a ton of the stuff.....
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