Our Foodfacts.com Blog research on aspartame has revealed additional speculation and claims worth exploring.
The National Institutes of Health characterize aspartame as an artificial sweetener that’s 220 times sweeter than sugar. It’s a combination of phenylalanine and aspartic acid. Both of these ingredients are considered amino acids, which can make them sound somewhat healthy in nature. However, there are links between the consumption of aspartame and depression.
The phenylalanine found in aspartame is defined as a neurotoxin by the Suicide and Mental Health Association International. Neurotoxins are substances that actually inhibit the function of neurons as well as block the release of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals within the brain responsible for mood. One of the key neurotransmitters in relation to mood is serotonin. When aspartame is consumed, it goes directly into the brain and lowers serotonin levels.
While serotonin is responsible for mood, it’s also linked to depression. The Mayo Clinic explains that neurotransmitters are thought to play a direct role in depression. When abnormalities occur with the activities of neurotransmitters, like serotonin, they affect a person’s mood and behavior. The more serotonin left in the brain, the better a person’s mood, so depleting this level could decrease neurotransmission and thereby hurt mood and behavior.
A study conducted by the Department of Psychiatry at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in 1994 demonstrated that 30 milligrams per kilogram of body weight of aspartame each day increased the severity of symptoms for patients with a history of depression. These symptoms increased over a course of only seven days. Reactions were so severe that the study was halted by the International Board of Review.
The significance of the study involves not only the sensitivity to aspartame in those individuals suffering from mood disorders, but also the lack of effect on people without a history of depression. During the study, people without depression didn’t experience symptoms associated with this mood disorder. Although the Suicide and Mental Health Association International believes otherwise, aspartame doesn’t appear to cause depression in people lacking a history of the disease.
The Department of Psychiatry at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine discourages the consumption of products containing aspartame in people with mood disorders. Based on the information, someone suffering from depression could see an increase in the severity of symptoms, including the feelings of sadness, agitation, restlessness, fatigue, worthlessness, guilt or irritability.