Warning Phenylketonurics: Contains L-Phenylalanine

Have you ever noticed this on your product labels - WARNING: The amino acid L-phenylalanine should not be used by pregnant women or by those who suffer anxiety attacks or those who have high blood pressure or with pre-existing pigmented melanoma (form of cancer), or people with phenylketonuria (PKU). The amino acid DL-phenylalanine should be used with caution if you are pregnant or diabetic, if you have high blood pressure or suffer anxiety attacks.

If you have read this, do you really know what it means? Do you put the item back on the shelf, or do you simply shrug your shoulders, put this bunch- of- chemistry- text out of your mind, and decide to buy the product anyway?

To work your way around the meaning of this ominous label on your food, let's start at the beginning. The dangers of aspartame poisoning have been a well-guarded secret since the 1970s. The research and history of aspartame proving it is a cause of illness and toxic reactions in the human body is conclusive. Aspartame is a dangerous chemical food additive, and its use during pregnancy and by children is one of the greatest modern tragedies in human history. But if you are Phenylketonuric (PKU), you need to be especially cautious to avoid aspartame and its sugar-twin, neotame, so you must pay attention to these labels. (For more information about the history of aspartame, visit Aspartame History Highlights. Be sure to read the previous article in this newsletter pertaining to neotame.

Aspartame is 180 to 200 times sweeter than sugar and contains about four calories per gram. It's synthesized from the two amino acids L-aspartic acid and L-phenylalanine, which are bonded by methanol. Aspartame breaks down easily and loses its sweetness when heated, and the methanol breaks free inside your body.

Neotame is the most potent sweetener marketed today and is 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar. Neotame is basically a modified version of aspartame, and contains all the same elements found in aspartame plus a couple more thrown in so it can qualify for a new patent. The ingredients in neotame are the amino acids L-aspartic acid and L-phenylalanine, plus two organic groups, one known as a methyl ester group and the other as a neohexyl group. (Aspartame's patent expired in the early 1990s.) Joined together, these components equal 8,000 teaspoons of sugar. Aspartame on steroids, you think??

One of the most deadly reactions to aspartame is by those with Phenylketonuria (PKU); and this is the reason the warning label is placed (or should be placed) on anything containing aspartame.

So, what is Phenylketonuria (PKU)?

PKU has not been studied enough, in my opinion, especially its relationship to aspartame. To date, scientists have determined that it is a genetic inborn error of metabolism that is detectable during the first days of life with appropriate blood testing (newborn screening by pricking the baby's heal for a blood sample). The absence or deficiency of certain enzymes responsible for processing the essential amino acid phenylalanine is the primary characteristic of PKU in human beings. With normal enzymatic activity, the body converts phenylalanine to the amino acid tyrosine, which is then utilized by the body. However, when the phenylalanine hydroxylase enzyme is absent or deficient, phenylalanine abnormally accumulates in the blood and becomes toxic, typically lethal, to brain tissue.

Without treatment, most infants with PKU develop mental retardation. Those with untreated PKU may also develop additional neurologic symptoms as time goes on.

To prevent mental retardation and future deterioration, treatment for PKU consists of a carefully controlled and restricted diet started during the first days or weeks of life. Most experts suggest that a restricted diet should be life long, and I absolutely agree. More importantly, the avoidance of any food, drink, medication, and even lip gloss that contain aspartame should be a primary concern for anyone with PKU and for those who carry the gene. A carefully maintained diet can prevent further mental degradation, as well as progressive neurological, behavioral and dermatological problems. It is generally believed that keeping blood phenylalanine levels in the range of 2-6mg/dl is safe, especially during infancy and early childhood. Frequent blood monitoring is typically done to monitor for this goal.

But bottom line - the avoidance of aspartame that has been saturating the American food and medical supply for 20 years, and now neotame, which is NOT labeled in food, drink, or medications, is the biggest threat to those with PKU or concerned about it. And research concerning this inherited, recessive trait IS NOT KEEPING UP in America. Too little is being done about PKU.

Yes, PKU is believed to be an inherited, autosomal recessive trait. In other words, both parents must be carriers of the gene in order for their infant to be at risk of having PKU. When both carriers conceive a child, there is a one in four or 25% chance during each pregnancy that the baby will have PKU. It is estimated that PKU occurs in one in 15,000 newborns in the United States. The incidence varies in other parts of the world.

This is not a mainstream concern, but it should be, especially now that neotame is on the market - hidden, without warning!.

Beyond PKU, scientists have proven that aspartame alters brain function and prompts behavior changes in all humans. Many people have reported the following side effects from aspartame (taken from the 1992 FDA list of complaints filed against NutraSweet):

  • Fibromyalgia syndrome and fibromyalgia symptoms
  • Multiple sclerosis symptoms
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Menstrual problems
  • Weight gain

According to research scientist Russell Blaylock, M.D., a current review of recent scientific studies has disclosed a connection between aspartame and multiple sclerosis (MS). In 1996, according to Blaylock, it was shown that the lesions produced in the myelin sheath of axons in cases of multiple sclerosis were related to excitatory receptors on primary brain cells, called oligodendroglia. Recent studies have now confirmed what was suspected--the loss of myelin sheath on the nerve fibers characteristic of MS are due to the death of these oligodendroglial cells at the site of lesions (called plaques). Further, these studies show that the death of these important cells is a result of excessive exposure to excitotoxins at the site of the lesions. Aspartame is an excitotoxin, a chemical that enters the brain and activates the brain cells until they "burn out." Brain cell death occurs. Memory loss and Alzheimer's on are the rise; coincidence, you think?

Aspartame's blueprint (and now neotame's) is deadly. The design of aspartame seems simple, but what a complicated structure aspartame really is. Two isolated amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, are fused together by a third component, methanol. Methanol bonds the two amino acids, but when released at a mere eighty-six degrees Fahrenheit, the methanol becomes a poisonous free radical, breaking down into formic acid and formaldehyde (a main ingredient of embalming fluid). Methanol is proven to be a dangerous neurotoxin, a known carcinogen that causes retinal damage in the eye, interferes with DNA replication and causes birth defects.

Aspartic acid makes up forty percent of aspartame. Aspartic acid is a neuroexcitor, which means it negatively affects the central nervous system. Under excessive conditions, aspartic acid can cause endocrine (hormone) disorders and vision problems. Hyperactivity is stimulated by aspartic acid, so aspartame is not recommended for ADD/ADHD conditions and should be avoided during pregnancy.

Adverse reactions to aspartic acid are:

  • Headaches/migraines
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disorders
  • Vision problems
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Depression
  • Asthma/chest tightness

The second isolated amino acid in aspartame's chemical blueprint is phenylalanine, fifty percent of aspartame. Too much phenylalanine in the diet causes:

  • Seizures
  • Elevated blood plasma
  • Negative effects during pregnancy that could result in retardation
  • Increased PMS symptoms due to the blockage of serotonin
  • Insomnia
  • Severe mood swings

But don't despair - there are plenty of safe alternatives to keep life "sweet." Remember nothing is without consequence, but natural is always a better choice. All of the following alternatives should be eaten in moderation, as most can impact blood sugar levels. It is best to use any type of sweetener, even the all-natural ones, sparingly, if at all, with the optimal choice being to savor the natural flavors in your food and resist the urge to add any extra sweetness.

Natural sweetener choices:

  1. Barley Malt
  2. Brown Rice Syrup
  3. Date Sugar
  4. Honey (raw unpasteurized honey is best)
  5. Maple Syrup and Sugar
  6. Molasses
  7. Sorghum
  8. Stevia
  9. Sucanat

If you purchase these alternative natural sweetener choices, make sure you buy the original forms of the sweetener and not any adulterated, manufactured forms that are diluted, replete with artificial fillers and food colorings. Read your labels!

Posted October 2008 | Permanent Link

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