Mis à jour : 11 févr. 2020

Aspartame and risk of dementia

Original article: The lancet journal: Butchko, H. H. (1997). Safety of aspartame. The Lancet, 349(9058), 1105.


Aspartame was discovered by accident in 1965 by James Schlatter, a chemist of G.D. Searle Company. G.D. Searle was founded in 1888 and has long been a fixture of the medical establishment. The company manufactures everything from prescription drugs to nuclear imaging optical equipment. 1

In 1981 the FDA approved limited use of Aspartame. In 1985, Monsanto purchased G.D. Searle and in 1996 the FDA expanded its approval to use in all foods and beverages. 2

Aspartame is composed of phenylalanine (50%), aspartic acid (40%) and methanol (10%). Phenylalanine plays an important role in neurotransmitter regulation, whereas aspartic acid become a neurotoxin. When Aspartame is ingested and enters the blood stream, those three toxins are " propelled " throughout the body very rapidly reducing dopamine and serotonin production. 3

This topic is very important because of the rising numbers of people living with dementia. In Ontario alone, close to 228,000 are currently living with dementia, it is expected to reach 255,000 in 2020 and over 430,00 by 2038. The scary part, is that these cases are people between the age of 40 and 65 where normally, dementia develop in people over the age of 65. 4

Summary of results

My original article is not about a study but it is about an article in a journal that I found, and I didn’t agree with the article because of my finding about the author which I will describe in my scientific critique section.

Her conclusion is stated as follows: “The unanimous conclusion is that aspartame is a safe food additive”.

Scientific Critique

  • The author of the original article is Harriet H Butchko who is affiliated with The NutraSweet Kelco Company, Box 730, Deerfield, IL 60015-5239, USA.

  • She uses a book as one of her reference and she is one of the editors of that book: The clinical evaluation of a food additive: assessment of aspartame. 5

  • In her article she mentions criticisms from Rolla AR but she is also part of the study that Rolla refers to in the book review. 6

Many studies have been conducted on aspartame since 1969 concluding that Aspartame is linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease among many other long-term health issues.

While doing my research, I soon realized, that the owners, directors and other key players in the Aspartame industry are very rich, important and influential people and almost 100% of industry funded studies have conclusion that aspartame is safe, while 92% of independently funded studies have found that aspartame has the potential for adverse effects. In 1991 the National Institutes of Health, a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services, published a bibliography, “Adverse Effects of Aspartame”, listing not less than 167 reasons to avoid it. 7

Another supporting article was a prospective cohort study done in 2017, and the conclusion was that, artificially sweetened soft drink consumption was associated with an increased risk of stroke and dementia. 8

In a European journal of clinical nutrition, it was concluded that aspartame disturbs amino acid metabolism, protein structure and metabolism, integrity of nucleic acids, neuronal function, endocrine balances and changes in the brain concentrations of catecholamines leading to a compromised BBB. So, overall oxidative stress and neurodegeneration are present. These studies were an accumulation of long-standing intensive research into the brain chemistry-altering effects of a toxic, artificial sweetener consumed daily by hundreds of millions of unsuspecting individuals. 3 9

Our brain, is the hard drive of our physical body, the controller for nerve-endocrine coordinating functions and its feedback network. One of the pathways to supply nutrients, oxygen, and other selective chemicals to the brain is the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB). Phenylalanine is in competition with the other amino acids and is absorbed slowly from the digestive track (10 to 20 hrs), making it helpful rather than harmful; but the Phenylalanine (isolate) from the can of aspartame-laced soda pop is absorbed in about five minutes. 3

This "overdose" of the competitive phenylalanine isolate (and aspartic acid) incapacitates the enzyme actions which controls several types of neurotransmitters reducing dopamine and serotonin production. Further neuron insult is added from the known carcinogenic properties of the methanol: methanol →formaldehyde → formic acid components. 3


There are way too many conclusive studies that proves Aspartame is a health hazard to just ignore it.

My conclusion would be to educate people about the risk to consume Aspartame every day. Another big education would be about the chemical names used on our food labels as Health Canada does not require that artificial sweeteners or their amounts be included on the Nutrition Facts Table, and they may be listed as part of the ingredients by their chemical name. 10


1 Mercola, D. (2013). Aspartame: By Far the Most Dangerous Substance Added to Most Foods Today. Mercola. com.

2 G. D. Searle & Co. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on G. D. Searle & Co. (n.d.). Retrieved from

3 Bowen, J., & Evangelista, M. A. (2002). Brain cell damage from amino acid isolates: a primary concern from aspartame-based products and artificial sweetening agents.

4 (2016, September). Retrieved from

5 Tschanz C Butchko HH Stargel WW Kotsonis FN The clinical evaluation of a food additive: assessment of aspartame. CRC Press, Boca Raton; 1996

6 Harriett H. Butchko, W.Wayne Stargel, C.Phil Comer, Dale A. Mayhew, Christian Benninger, George L. Blackburn, Leo M.J. de Sonneville, Raif S. Geha, Zsolt Hertelendy, Adalbert Koestner, Arthur S. Leon, George U. Liepa, Kenneth E. McMartin, Charles L. Mendenhall, Ian C. Munro, Edward J. Novotny, Andrew G. Renwick, Susan S. Schiffman, Donald L. Schomer, Bennett A. Shaywitz, Paul A. Spiers, Thomas R. Tephly, John A. Thomas, Friedrich K. Trefz. (2002) Aspartame: Review of Safety. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 35, S1-S93.

7 "Adverse Effects of Aspartame-January '86 through December '90," Current Bibliography series, National Library of Medicine pamphlet, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1991.

8 American Psychatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. Text revision. Arlington, VA: American Psychatric Association; 2000.

9 Humphries, P., Pretorius, E., & Naude, H. (2008). Direct and indirect cellular effects of aspartame on the brain. European journal of clinical nutrition, 62(4), 451.

10 Government of Canada, Canadian Food Inspection Agency. (2018, September 19). Former - List of Ingredients and Allergens.

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