Some time ago, a colleague introduced me to the work of Woodrow Monte, Ph.D.. Dr. Monte has dedicated his academic career to the research and teaching of the composition and safety of foods. For more than 25 years he has raised serious concerns about the consequences of Aspartame/methanol consumption.
A Google search regarding methanol toxicity from aspartame consumption will produce a mix of results for and against Aspartame safety. A typical pro safety position can be found at the website healthline.com, which states: “When your body processes aspartame, part of it is broken down into methanol. Although toxic in large quantities, small quantities of methanol are not toxic. It is naturally produced by the body and is also found in fruit, fruit juice, fermented beverages, and some vegetables. The amount of methanol resulting from the breakdown of aspartame is low. In fact, it’s far lower than the amount found in many common foods.”
Many people would feel comfortable in continuing to consume Aspartame after reading such a statement. Unfortunately, Dr. Monte addresses why such a statement is incorrect in Chapter 2 of his book While Science Sleeps. In fact, Dr Monte feels this is such an important issue, he has graciously made Chapter 12 of his book open access and allowed us to post it on thepaleodiet.com. I strongly recommend you read it.
Chapter 12 details the connection of Aspartame consumption and the prevalence of Autism. Obviously, Aspartame would not have been consumed by Paleolithic humans, and anyone following a Paleo Diet template will try to eliminate processed foods as much as possible. But most of us do allow non-Paleo foods into our diet around 15% of the time which might include Aspartame, knowingly or un-knowingly.
An awareness of Dr. Monte’s research might make us a little more diligent in trying to avoid such an un-natural product, particularly for those who are pregnant. So it is with great pleasure that I introduce Woodrow Monte, Ph.D., and thank him for sharing with our readers Chapter 12 of his book and his introduction to the same.
Mark J. Smith, Ph.D.
There are many chemical compounds that would be very hard to find in the human diet of the Pleistocene. One such chemical, methanol, is a common component of highly processed foods and is also produced from the sweetener aspartame.
The question is whether the elimination of chemical toxins such as methanol is part of why the Paleo Diet, introduced by Dr. Loren Cordain, is so effective and helpful for so many people? Is it why the food supply of early man kept them from the litany of the modern diseases of civilization?
There are many possible toxins that can be linked to the diseases and maladies of the present day. I have spent most of my career as a food scientist studying in great depth just one of these chemicals and have written a book on the topic (While Science Sleeps). It goes into the fascinating details of why I think that methanol is a very likely culprit as the causative agent for many of the very slow “auto-immune” diseases that have plagued humans since we began processing food.
Methanol is indeed a food to all other animals except for us. Humans are unique because of a genetic anomaly marginalizing the effectiveness of our catalase enzyme so that methanol oxidation to formaldehyde is not done safely in our peroxisome as it is in all other animals. For humans but not other species, formaldehyde is produced in an unprotected manner in places like the brain. For some of the major diseases of mankind whose origin remains a mystery there appears strong evidence of a powerful causative linkage to chronic methanol poisoning.
In 1983, the claimed best tasting artificial sweetener ever, was first introduced into diet soda by the Coca Cola Company. With a fine flavor, no aftertaste and sweetness two hundred times more powerful than sugar, it had only one problem – it turned into methanol and, unfortunately, in the developing infant brain methanol turns into formaldehyde. Nine months after that fateful corporate decision, the now infamous epidemic of Autism officially began. Autism is a complex birth defect whose incidence continues, to this day, to eerily reflect the changes in the yearly consumption of this dangerous and uncontrolled sweetener.
The real tragedy was the fact that aspartame was demonstrated to cause brain related birth defects in two different private laboratories in 1977 but this finding was unconscionably held secret by the industry and a select group of FDA insiders for over 30 years 1. This goes a long way to explain why aspartame has never been suspected as a likely culprit in this unparalleled formaldehyde toxicity on the human brain despite the clear links of formaldehyde made from methanol and methanol made from aspartame.
Attached please find the chapter of my book While Science Sleeps that explains the possible connection between the Paleo-relevant poison methanol and Autism.
Woodrow C. Monte Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor of Nutrition
Arizona State University