Parkinson’s disease is a common central nervous system disorder that mainly affects the elderly population. It is believed Parkinson’s disease is caused by a lack of dopamine, which is a chemical neurotransmitter responsible for controlling muscle movement. When dopamine levels are reduced, nerve endings cannot properly send movement messages, and muscle function is impaired. The scientific community regularly studies various food and beverage ingredients to determine if it has an effect on Parkinson’s disease, and initial studies suggest the artificial sweetener aspartame has little to no effect on this nervous system disorder.
Aspartame is a common sweetener found in low-calorie beverages and foods and it is constructed of three primary compounds: phenylalanine, methanol and aspartic acid. This artificial sweetener does not occur naturally, thus it must be manufactured or synthesized. As your body digests this substance, it is completely broken down into its three primary constituent parts. Bernadene Magnuson, Ph.D. states in a report published by the American Dietetic Association Evidence Analysis Library that the compound methanol is converted into formaldehyde. If your body does not require extra formaldehyde, it is rapidly converted into formic acid.
Effects on Parkinson’s Disease
As of 2011, there was no scientific research suggesting aspartame has a positive or negative effect on Parkinson’s disease. Anti-aspartame proponents claim this artificial sweetener may have a negative effect on memory loss or may inhibit the absorption of Parkinson’s disease medications. The Aspartame Information Center cites a statement made by The National Parkinson Foundation Inc. saying aspartame has not been shown to block the absorption of medications. The Aspartame Information Center further states that the Alzheimer’s Association has found no link between memory loss and aspartame.
Side Effects of Aspartame
Some of the reported side effects of aspartame include headache, allergic reactions and an increase in depression symptoms. It also may trigger epileptic seizures. While studies have shown this compound may cause these side effects, other studies have found inconclusive evidence that aspartame causes any side effects at all. Due to the lack of evidence regarding specific side effects, discuss the safety of aspartame with your physician.
If you wish to avoid aspartame, but do not wish to consume standard table sugar, consider sweetening your beverages with natural honey or agave nectar. Honey is known as having antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, while agave nectar has a lower glycemic index than honey and is sweeter than table sugar.
- PubMed Health; Parkinson’s Disease; May 2011
- American Dietetic Association Evidence Analysis Library; Relationship Between Aspartame, Methanol and Formaldehyde
- Elmhurst College; Aspartame – NutraSweet, Equal; Charles E. Ophardt; 2003
- Holistic Healing Web Page: Scientific Abuse in Methanol/ Formaldehyde Research Related to Aspartame
- GreenFacts.org; Scientific Facts on Aspartame; July 2011