How Aspartame, Affects the Pancreas.

The trouble with sweeteners
H J Roberts.  Nutrition Health Review.  Haverford:2003.  Iss. 85,  p. 3
Abstract (Summary)
An interview with Dr H. J. Roberts is presented. Roberts talks about
the role of the pancreas, the chemical aspartame, and how sweeteners
containing aspartame affect the pancreas.
Full Text (2560  words)
Copyright Vegetus Publications 2003

Q. What is the role of the pancreas?
A. The pancreas is a vital organ with several major functions. It has
a digestive function by virtue of making the pancreatic enzymes that
digest the food and an important endocrine function by virtue of
having the islets that secrete insulin and other hormones.
Q. What are some of these hormones?
A. In addition to insulin, there is glucagon, along with several others.
Q. What is aspartame?
A. Aspartame is a chemical that originally was conceived as a
treatment for peptic ulcer. The molecule closely simulates the
hormone gastrin, which is involved with hydrochloric acid secretion.
Aspartame consists of three components-phenylalanine and aspartic
acid (both amino acids) and a methyl ester, which becomes free methyl
alcohol when it enters the stomach. The combination is approximately
50 percent phenylalanine, 40 percent aspartic acid, and 10 percent
methyl alcohol. Around 1965, this chemical was found to taste sweet.
It was therefore submitted as a sweetening supplement and the drug
application with-drawn.
Q. Was aspartame ineffective as a drug?
A. It was never really marketed as a drug for a peptic ulcer,
although that was the original intent.
Q. Are artificial sweeteners that contain aspartame safe?
A. A number of artificial sweeteners, including saccharin, have been
around for a long time. In my opinion, aspartame has many hazards.
Saccharin is essentially safe. The sweetener called stevia, which is
increasingly being used, comes from a shrub found in Paraguay, South
America. It tastes very sweet. In my experience, it is also safe.
I have reservations about the other sweeteners, such as acesulfame-K
(e.g., Sunette, Sweet One(R)), sucralose (Splenda(R) No Calorie
Sweetener), and the cyclamates. Then there are the analogues of
aspartame, such as the high-intensity product Neotame(R). For
example, acesulfame-K induces chromosomal aberrations; sucralose is
associated with several effects in animals, is weakly mutagenic, and
increases the glycosylated hemoglobin in diabetic patients.
The cyclamates were initially withdrawn in the U.S. because of
concern about bladder tumors. The National Academy of Science has
subsequently concluded that cyclamates were not carcinogenic in
humans. However, there is a great deal of concern in Europe about
their wide-spread use, especially in children. As for Neotame(R) and
other analogues of aspartame, they pose problems similar to those of
Again, stevia and saccharin appear to be safe, but I am uncertain
about the other substances.
Q. How do sweeteners affect the pancreas?
A. They can have direct and indirect effects. One result, of course,
is the secretion of insulin. When humans take something that is
sweet, the body infers that sugar is being ingested. In anticipation
of its arrival, the pancreas reflexively releases insulin. This is
one way in which aspartame affects the pancreas. It can also cause
considerable stimulation of the exocrine part of the pancreas that
involves the pancreatic juices. This may even produce
pancreatitis-inflammation of the pancreas-which in the process might
disturb the islet cells.
There is an enormous reserve of pancreatic juices. At least 60
percent or more of the pancreas would have to be destroyed before
interfering with pancreatic function would occur. One way to
stimulate the pancreas to produce its secretions is to give amino
acids, including phenylalanine, with or without another amino acid.
In my experience, aspartame products have produced clinical
pancreatitis. To my knowledge, neither the long-term effects to the
secretory pancreas nor the relationship to the subsequent
overstimulation of the pancreas, in terms of tumors, has been studied.
Q. If the safety of aspartame has been questioned, why has no one
been able to prove the dangers?
A. To me, it is quite clear that aspartame products can cause severe
illness. Indeed, I feel that this product should not have been
approved for human consumption, as it was in 1981. The sweetener was
released over the violent objections of in-house FDA [Food and Drug
Administration] scientists, consultants for the General Accounting
Office, and even a public board of inquiry in 1980-all of whom were
emphatic that it should not be released, especially in light of the
high incidence of brain tumors in animals.
I have repeatedly listed and detailed the many complications and side
effects of aspartame products. My recent book, Aspartame Disease, has
more than 1000 pages of what I consider direct complications of the
use of these products.
In regard to those who say this is not so, it seems to be a
phenomenon of denial on the part of the FDA. This is a
multibillion-dollar industry that has proponents for self-serving
economic interests who maintain that all reservations are nonsense.
There is an overwhelming input of complaints indicating that this is
a frequent and severe disorder, which I call “aspartame disease.”
Now the problem with many of these studies they refer to is that
protocols were flawed in terms of how the product was prepared and
administered and how subjects were followed. It has been very
difficult to detail these objections about published studies
asserting that aspartame is safe for various reasons, including the
power of this industry.
In my opinion, those “negative studies” all require confirmation by
corporate-neutral investigators using real-world products taken from
market shelves that have been exposed to excessive temperatures or
prolonged storage. Indeed, that is currently the subject of
considerable interest by the European Parliament as to whether
aspartame should be considered unsafe.
Q. What do you think will come about from that?
A. Ultimately, I think there will be no question-with the anecdotal
information that has already been accrued-that aspartame products are
found unsafe for many individuals. These products are being consumed
by more than two thirds of the population. This is a very large
number in terms of the many neurologic and neuropsychiatric problems,
the allergic problems, the effects on patients with diabetes and
hypoglycemia, and the long-term effects in pregnancy and infants . .
. along with numerous other problems, including the issue of brain
tumors in humans.
Q. Should diabetic patients, in particular, be concerned about aspartame?
A. Yes. I believe that aspartame can aggravate diabetes and its
complications, especially eye problems and neuropathy, or it can
simulate the complications of diabetes. In other words, aspartame
disease can simulate diabetic retinopathy or peripheral neuropathy.
When patients discontinue these products, they usually get better.
In terms of aggravating diabetes, consuming aspartame either can
bring out latent diabetes clinically or can lead to insulin
resistance, which would require patients to take oral drugs to
increase the amount of insulin required. The bottom line is that when
people stop ingesting these products, the symptoms usually improve.
Q. Have there been cases in which people did not improve after
discontinuing aspartame?
A. There are certain criteria for diagnosing aspartame disease . . .
similar to the Koch postulates for infection:
* Patients either took or increased the amount of aspartame products,
such as drinking more presweetened iced tea in hot weather.
* Patients then experienced symptoms and realized that they might be
related to aspartame.
* When the aspartame products were discontinued, these features
either totally subsided or improved in a relatively short period of time.
* Finally, patients re-challenged themselves, either knowingly
(saying it was just a coincidence) or inadvertently (with a prompt
return of symptoms).
This sequence would happen five, ten, or twenty times, and the
patients realized a cause-and-effect relationship.
These criteria hold true for many of the disorders related to
aspartame. In most instances, there would be marked improvement. If
there were severe ocular or other damage, especially in the nervous
system, much of the harm might have already been done.
Q. How does aspartame affect the pancreas in diabetic patients?
A. There can be several outcomes. First, patients might be making too
much insulin and can have severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
attacks. Aspartame can release almost as much insulin as glucose.
It has been known for many years that oral and intravenous
phenylalanine and other amino acids cause marked elevation of
insulin. In my books, I go into this in great detail. On the one
hand, we are talking about the stimulation of more insulin and
hypoglycemia. Further study is needed to determine whether, over the
long term, this will overstimulate the islets that make insulin.
The other aspect is the diabetogenic state and loss of diabetic
control through various mechanisms that include the wasting of
insulin, the impairment of glucose transport, the increase of the
growth hormone and glucagon, and perhaps blocking insulin receptors.
Q. Do artificial sweeteners affect patients with type 1 diabetes and
patients with type 2 diabetes differently?
A. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of diabetic patients have type 1
(formerly called juvenile) diabetes, and the rest have so-called
adult-onset or insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes. In type 1
diabetes, which may be largely an autoimmune effect early in life,
there is a marked decrease in the amount of insulin produced. In
patients with type 2 diabetes, especially among those who are
overweight, there is still considerable insulin. In many of my
earlier studies in the 1960’s, we showed an “exhaustion” effect with
hyperinsulinism, leading into diabetes-which is why I call it
diabetogenic hyperinsulinism. Thus, aspartame products can affect
both types of diabetes, albeit through different mechanisms.
Q. How do you know if your pancreas is being damaged by aspartame?
A. We can check the blood sugar (glucose) in various ways-either
randomly or during the course of glucose tolerance testing. A
person’s blood glucose level may decrease, with a tendency toward
hypoglycemia, or it may go up, as a tendency toward diabetes. Of
course, this occurs in a cyclic manner because we change
metabolically as the day goes along. Early in the evolution of the
diabetogenic tendency, elevations may not show up in the morning but
they do so later in the day.
In the early 1960’s, I devised the afternoon glucose tolerance test;
the glucose load is given at noon, and blood glucose and insulin
levels are followed. The more dramatic rise in insulin later in the
day than in the morning also has been shown in five or six different
animal species. In people who are potentially diabetic, one can show
these changes by a grossly diabetic glucose tolerance response with a
marked increase or decrease in insulin.
In terms of the pancreatic enzymes, more studies are required.
Considerable loss of pancreatic functioning occurs before these
changes are evident. Of course, if someone has severe pancreatitis
induced by aspartame, it could influence both the secretions and
insulin production. A number of patients have shown this dual problem
Q. What can be done to protect the pancreas from aspartame?
A. I think that aspartame products should be taken off the market
because of my belief that this artificial sweetener is an imminent
public health hazard. I have stated this recommendation to Congress
and have mentioned it in many articles and texts.
Q. Can sugar damage the pancreas?
A. Sugar might be one of the contributing factors leading to the
exhaustion of the insulin reserve, and, ultimately, to diabetes.
Sugar can also cause changes in triglyceride and cholesterol levels
and can lead to carbohydrate-induced hypertriglyceridemia (high serum
triglyceride levels).
Q. How do sweeteners affect hypoglycemic patients?
A. Sweeteners cause an increased elaboration of insulin, especially
as the day goes on and during the night, when the brain is most
vulnerable to decreased circulating glucose levels. Glucose is the
central nervous system’s chief source of energy. It is during the
night when many of the complications of hypoglycemia occur.
Q. Why do you think pancreatitis is increasing?
A. There are many causes of pancreatitis; it can be related to
alcohol use and other factors. In this case, there has to be more
thinking about the contributory role of dietary products containing
aspartame. Then there is the matter of pancreatic cancer, the
incidence of which has decidedly increased. Whether aspartame or
other sweeteners are related to this increase has yet to be determined.
Q. Why do you think pancreatic cancer is on the rise?
A. Cancer of the pancreas is definitely on the increase, but the
reasons are not clear. Certainly, if you have a substance that can
irritate the pancreas, as with aspartame products, corporate-neutral
studies are in order.
Q. Why does type 1 diabetes seem to be on the rise?
A. I think there is a spectrum. Today we use the terms “type 1” and
“type 2” diabetes. In my earlier publications on diabetogenic
hyperinsulinism, I pointed out that this is probably the same
disorder seen in different age groups. The tendency to
hyperinsulinism is a biological trait that we have inherited. Before
the 20th century, it was a defense mechanism against famine. The
extra insulin laid down more body fat, which gave people metabolic
protection in times of famine. As we changed our diet radically-with
the consumption of a large amount of carbohydrates and more calories
and a change in our lifestyle and eating habits-this protective
mechanism became a pathogenic mechanism culminating in obesity,
changes in lipid metabolism, heart disease, and other problems.
Q. How accurate is the glucose tolerance test, and how do sweeteners
affect it?
A. The glucose tolerance test must be done under proper
circumstances. Patients should consume adequate calories for at least
several days before the test. Under general circumstances, it is a
helpful test to see whether people have a tendency to diabetes and
hyperinsulinism. As noted, the patient’s carbohydrate metabolism and
insulin release may be more accurately shown later in the day and by
conventional morning glucose tolerance testing.
Q. How effective are the hemoglobin A^sub 1C^ tests?
A. An elevated glycosylated hemoglobin level (above 6 percent) can
indicate the average increased glucose concentration over the
previous several weeks. It is a useful parameter for diabetes control.
Q. How do sweeteners affect glucose levels after we fast and after we eat?
A. Glucose levels can decline if the sweeteners produce a great deal
of insulin, or they can go up if a tendency toward diabetes already exists.
Q. What is the ideal glucose level?
A. We are interested not only in the fasting level but also in the
ideal level during the greater part of the day when we are active.
The ideal glucose level should less than 115 milligrams per deciliter
(mg./d1.), but that is not an accurate reflection of what it is
during the entire day. Certainly, at random measurements during the
day, it should probably be less than 140 mg./d1. This value changes
during the course of the day.

Diabetes Testing Could Prove Useful
New research published in the April 2003 issue of Diabetes Care shows
that hemoglobin A^sub 1c^ (HbA^sub 1c^) testing might be useful in
separating transient hyperglycemia from an underlying case of diabetes.
When hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) is detected in a new patient
with no history of the condition, it is often called a “stress
response” and is ignored if the symptoms subside.
Investigators found that this test might be worthwhile to determine
whether diabetes may be developing.
[Author Affiliation]
An interview with H.J. Roberts, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.C.C.P.
[Author Affiliation]
H. J. Roberts, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.C.C.P. is a Board-certified
internist, internationally known medical consultant and independent
researcher. He is on the staff of Good Samaritan Hospital and St.
Mary’s Hospital in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Director of the Palm
Beach Institute for Medical Research. His books are available for
purchase by calling 1-800-827-7991.

Indexing (document details)
Subjects: Physicians,  Pancreas,  Artificial sweeteners
People: Roberts, H J
Author(s): H J Roberts
Document types: Interview
Publication title: Nutrition Health Review. Haverford: 2003. ,
Iss.  85;  pg. 3
Source type: Periodical
ISSN: 01647202

More information on aspartame on,  and  Aspartame Toxicity Center,  Aspartame Information List,, scroll done first page to banners. 


One Response to “How Aspartame, Affects the Pancreas.”

  1. bart58103 Says:

    Thank you very much for the input. God Bless!

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