Studies in MS and Other Conditions

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No well-conducted studies have shown that aspartame causes MS or worsens symptoms in most people with the disease. Through www.ms-cam.org, the CAM website of the Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis Center, we conducted a survey of aspartame use among a large group of people with MS. We had 3,075 people with MS respond to this survey. A minority (15 percent) of those who responded experienced problems that they attributed to aspartame use. Headache was the most common complaint, which was noted by about one third (36 percent) of those who noticed symptoms related to aspartame. Among MS symptoms, those that were reported to be worsened most commonly by aspartame were fatigue, thinking problems, weakness, and numbness. Nearly two-thirds of people reported that their aspartame-related symptoms began within minutes or hours of using the sweetener. Overall, these findings indicate that the majority of people with MS do not have problems with aspartame and that the most common symptom provoked by aspartame, headache, is not an MS-specific symptom. The full results of this survey may be viewed on the website, www.ms-cam.org.

Limited studies indicate that aspartame may provoke migraine headaches and worsen depression. Interestingly, one migraine medication that dissolves in the mouth, known as rizatriptan or Maxalt-MLT, actually contains aspartame and may worsen headache in those with aspartame-provoked migraines. In terms of other neurologic disorders, clinical studies do not indicate that aspartame worsens Parkinson's disease or epilepsy.

Aspartame is of potential concern because the body may convert aspartame to methanol and then convert the methanol to formic acid, which may produce serious toxicity. However, consuming moderate or even large quantities of diet soft drinks does not significantly increase blood levels of methanol or formic acid.

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