Statement Of H. J. Roberts, MD, Concerning The Use Of Products Containing Aspartame (Nutrasweet) By Persons With Diabetes And Hypoglycemia.
I have treated many patients with diabetes mellitus and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in my capacity as a Board-certified internist and an endocrinologist member of the Endocrine Society). Since both groups should abstain from sugar, I initially rejoiced that these persons had an acceptable and presumably safe sugar substitute in aspartame.
Unfortunately, many patients in my practice, and others seen in consultation, developed serious metabolic, neurologic and other complications that could be specifically attributed to using aspartame products. This was evidenced by:
- The loss of diabetic control, the intensification of hypoglycemia, the occurrence of presumed insulin reactions (including convulsions) that proved to be aspartame reactions, and the precipitation, aggravation or simulation of diabetic complications (especially impaired vision and neuropathy) while using these products.
- Dramatic improvement of such features after avoiding aspartame, AND the prompt predictable recurrence of these problems when the patient resumed aspartame products, knowingly or inadvertently. I have cited many instances of severe complications in patients with diabetes and hypoglycemia caused by the use of aspartame products in my books and scientific articles. Here are few illustrations.
A 21 year-old insulin-dependent teacher suffered more frequent insulin reactions both at school and at home, while drinking many aspartame colas daily. He reported: When we cut down on aspartame, I stopped having so many reactions. A diabetic man suffered severe changes in vision when he was drinking four liters of aspartame soft drinks daily. An ophthalmologist assured him that there was no detectable diabetic retinopathy. The patient then chanced to read an article about aspartame-related eye problems. He promptly improved after avoiding these beverages, an unlikely event if the problem was primarily a diabetic retinopathy.
A 46 year-old man with insulin-dependent diabetes had been in good control for three decades until he began using several aspartame sodas and packets of tabletop sweetener daily. He summarized his experience in these terms: My diabetes went haywire, and I had terrible insulin reactions. His diabetes was fully controlled within one week after abstaining from aspartame products.
A 12 year-old boy with known diabetes required multiple hospitalizations for diabetic coma while consuming considerable aspartame products. Physicians at a university hospital had difficulty in stabilizing his insulin requirements while he used them.
In the light of this experience, I now advise ALL my patients with diabetes and hypoglycemia to avoid aspartame products. A number of alternatives are available.
I regret the failure of other physicians and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to sound appropriate warnings to patients and consumers based on these repeated findings which have been described in my corporate-neutral studies and publications. This is largely due to these factors:
- It has been virtually impossible to get on the programs for national meetings of diabetologists and other professional groups in order to describe these observations. Indeed, the ADA (of which I have been a member for over three decades) even refused to print an abstract of adverse reactions I encountered in 58 diabetic patients that was submitted for its 1987 annual meeting. This abstract subsequently appeared in CLINICAL RESEARCH (Vol. 3: 489A, 1988)... six years ago.
- Journals devoted to diabetes and internal medicine have refused to publish my manuscripts on this subject due to negative comments from peer review. The likelihood that some of these reviewer-authorities had self-serving interests in denying publication is suggested below.
- The AMA, the FDA, and the ADA dogmatically continue to express the unequivocal opinion that aspartame is completely safe for diabetics - and nearly everyone else.
- Manufacturers and producers accomplished the marketing miracle of the 1980s through highly effective PR campaigns, the underwriting of numerous research projects (a number involving flawed protocols) by investigators they granted on contracted with, and enormous bio-political clout in order to protect their billion-dollar market.
I detailed these matters in my two books on the subject: ASPARTAME (NUTRASWEET): IS IT SAFE? (Philadelphia, 1989, the Charles Press) and SWEETENER DEAREST: BITTERSWEET VIGNETTES ABOUT ASPARTAME (NUTRASWEET) (West Palm Beach, 1992, Sunshine Sentinel Press, PO Box 8697, 1-800-814-9800 FREE). They are also summarized in my two-tape lecture, IS ASPARTAME (NUTRASWEET) SAFE? A MEDICAL, PUBLIC HEALTH AND LEGAL OVERVIEW (West Palm Beach, 1992, Sunshine Sentinel Press, PO Box 8697, 1-800-814-9800 FREE).
I have discussed some of the reasons aspartame might aggravate diabetes and hypoglycemia in these books. The possible mechanisms include the following:
- Marked changes in appetite and weight as reflected by paradoxical weight gain or severe loss of weight.
- Excessive insulin secretion and depletion of the insulin reserve
- Possible alteration of cellular receptor sites for insulin, with ensuing insulin resistance
- Neurotransmitter alterations within the brain and peripheral nerves
- The toxicity of each of the three components of aspartame (phenylalanine; aspartic acid: the methylester, which promptly becomes methyl alcohol or methanol), and their multiple breakdown products after exposure to heat or during prolonged storage
I have asserted in my publications, and in testimony both to Congress and FDA advisory group, that the current wholesale ingestion of aspartame products by over half the adult population constitutes an imminent public health hazard. Yet, this warning continues to be ignored by the medical profession and the FDA.
Accordingly, informed and concerned consumers are justified in criticizing the industrial-medical complex that
- refuses to acknowledge the problem of aspartame disease, and
- fails to warn high-risk groups about the potential dangers.
In addition to patients with diabetes and hypoglycemia, they include pregnant women, children, patients with epilepsy, liver, kidney disease and eating disorders, older persons with memory impairment, and the relatives of aspartame reactors, diabetics and patients with phenylketonuria.
Many also correctly ask: Why is aspartame still on the market? Their concern is intensified by the high incidence of brain tumors in animals (known before FDA approval), and the reasonable doubt I have documented about the apparent contributory role of aspartame in human brain tumors.
1994 H.J. Roberts, M.D., F.A.C.P.,F.C.C.P.
6708 Pamela Lane, West Palm Beach, FL 33405
DIPLOMATE, AMERICAN BOARD OF INTERNAL MEDICINE (RE-CERTIFIED)