|ASPARTAME INDUCED ARRHYTHMIAS AND SUDDEN DEATH
A recent extensive review of sudden death in young athletes (1) made no mention of aspartame as a primary cause or suspected contributory factor, especially when demonstrable pathology was absent. This issue has assumed great public health importance because "diet" products containing this chemical are being consumed by over two-thirds of the population - especially weight-conscious persons.
I have repeatedly reported the serious cardiovascular, 'neuropsychiatric, metabolic and other adverse effects of aspartame products. (2-4) Among the first 1200 aspartame reactors in my data base, 193 (16%) had symptomatic arrhythmia's, 85 (7%) atypical chest pain, and 64 (5%) recent or aggravated hypertension.
One hypertensive patient developed complete heart block within hours after consuming his first diet cola.
Another had undergone unsuccessful radio frequency ablations in the heart before awareness of having aspartame disease.
Pheochromocytoma was suspected in several aspartame reactors.
The issue of sudden death related to aspartame and its breakdown products has been raised a number of times, particularly among previously well individuals using such products... including pilots and drivers , (3,4,6) and athletes. I have detailed the release of norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine and free methanol by aspartame; a host of pertinent-related pathophysiologic conditions, (e.g., cumulative formaldehyde adducts derived from aspartame in tissue proteins and nucleic aids; excessive insulin release); direct oropharyngeal absorption from gum, "breath fresheners" and other products; and the increasing problem of aspartame addiction. (4-7)
The likelihood of pulmonary hypertension induced by the vasoconstrictive effects of aspartame products also has been considered. (5) It is relevant that unexplained dyspnea was experienced by 110 aspartame reactors, usually with prompt improvement after abstinence. Moreover, primary pulmonary hypertension was found at autopsy in a 27 year old female aspartame reactor.
The lack of familiarity of most physicians and medical examiners with the foregoing considerations can have serious legal consequences. A case in point is that of a young woman (also a Sunday School teacher) who has been sentenced to serve 50 years in a Virginia prison for allegedly poisoning her husband with methyl alcohol. Elevated methanol blood concentrations were found postmortem in this body builder/basketball player who drank ten diet drinks and other aspartame products daily. She remains incarcerated despite affidavits indicating that 10% of aspartame becomes free methyl alcohol after consumption.
The need for clinicians and corporate-neutral investigators to evaluate the contributory role of aspartame in cardiopulmonary disorders and sudden death, and drug interactions with aspartame, is underscored by the frequency of persons dying unexpectedly being categorized as "death due to causes yet to be determined." One interested resident of Orange county (California) found 192 persons listed in this category between July 11 and November 15, 2003 according to the Orange county Register.
Maron BJ, Sudden death in young athletes, N Engl J Med 2003;349:1064-1075
H. J. Roberts, MD, FACP, FCCP