Science policy expert challenges EFSA over biased review of aspartame

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Science policy expert challenges EFSA over biased review of aspartame

Erik Millstone, professor of science policy at the University of Sussex, has submitted a report to EFSA challenging its biased review of the artificial sweetener aspartame. EFSA had issued an opinion saying aspartame is safe, though history and much scientific evidence says otherwise.

Prof Millstone emphasizes that a fundamental problem at EFSA is its asymmetrical evaluations of evidence. It habitually accepts at face value industry-sponsored data claiming aspartame is safe, yet relentlessly criticises and dismisses studies from independent scientists pointing to risks.

There are clear parallels with the way EFSA treats evidence on genetically modified foods, pesticides, and chemicals.

Below is the executive summary of his report to EFSA. (Download Prof Erik Millstone’s full report.)

EFSA on Aspartame (January 2013): A lost, but not the last, opportunity

By Prof Erik Millstone. Submitted to the EFSA on 22 Feb 2013

Executive summary

The draft report on the safety of aspartame, issued by the European Food Safety Authority’s ANS panel on 8 January 2013, is deeply flawed.

There are at least two main types of flaws: those arising from the criteria by which ‘evidence’ has been selected, and those arising from the criteria by which those studies are interpreted.

The criteria of inclusion have been overly narrow, and have in particular excluded vital documents that bear directly on the scientific competence with which some pivotal studies were conducting and on the accuracy with which they were reported. Such documentary evidence is directly relevant to the reliability of the reported data, and on the truth of the claims based on those studies.

The implicit criteria of interpretation of the studies that have been included are perverse and biased. The panel could only have reached its conclusion that aspartame is safe by implicitly assuming that almost all studies indicating no adverse effects are entirely reliable, even though they have numerous weaknesses and were almost all commercially funded, while all the studies indicating that aspartame may be unsafe are deemed unreliable, even though they sometimes have particular methodological strengths and even though they have all been funded independently of vested commercial interests.

On each of the 80 occasions when the panel discusses a study that indicated no apparent risks from aspartame those studies are taken at face value and typically assumed to be reliable. However, on each of the 27 occasions when the panel discusses studies that indicate that aspartame may pose risks, the panel is unremittingly critical of them, implicitly assuming that they must be misleading, so dismissing them. Often those worrying studies are dismissed not because of evidence but on flimsy grounds, for example by invoking speculative hypotheses without supporting evidence.

The panel reached its conclusion that aspartame is safe not by applying uniformly critical standards to all the evidence from all studies, but by routinely forgiving the shortcomings of favourable studies yet being unremitting critical of all the studies suggesting any possible risks. The panel’s overall conclusions is driven more by the panel’s biased assumptions than by the evidence adduced.

One possible explanation for the asymmetric bias in the interpretation of studies might be found in the pattern of conflicts of interest that characterise the members of the panel. Of the 17 members of the EFSA panel, 7 have direct commercial conflicts of interest, and another 5 have institutional conflicts of interest – for example because their employers have already announced that aspartame is safe. Only 4 panel members are not characterised by some relevant conflicts of interest.

EFSA should therefore discount the draft report, convene a new panel composed only of, and supported only by, experts who are free of any conflicts of interest. They should be asked to review all the evidence, not just some of it. They should also make explicit their criteria of interpretation, and then show that those criteria have been consistently applied, and they should be applied to prioritises the protection of consumer and public health over commercial or industrial considerations. The European Commission and the European Parliament should also take responsibility for ensuring that EFSA acts properly to protect consumers rather than assisting the food and chemical industries.

Download Prof Erik Millstone’s full report

11 March 2013

By |March 11th, 2013|Posts|5 Comments

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5 Comments

  1. Barbara Metzler 29 March 2013 at 11:50 pm

    The makers of diet soda care only about money, not the health of people who consume diet soda.
    I have been hoping for diet soda to be removed from the market for over 25 years!
    I have been hoping this because I care about people and I know that diet soda causes many serious problems.

    More than 20 years ago, when my daughter was in her early 20’s and studying for a Master’s Degree, she noticed that she was experiencing bizarre symptoms that were quite alarming.
    This truly bright girl, whose college tuition was entirely funded by scholarships and who won a Telluride Association Scholarship in competition with more than one million students from the entire US, realized that she was becoming very confused. In addition to her intellectual deterioration and drastic personality change, she developed epileptic-type seizures, and she began to lose her vision in both eyes. She
    went to Boston for special studies on her brain, and the doctors at the Clinical Research Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology confirmed that it was the aspartame that had made her so sick. They said that she had been totally misdiagnosed by the neurologist and that she did not have temporal lobe epilepsy at all. She also saw a highly-respected ophthalmologist who explained why her vision loss was due to aspartame. She stopped diet soda and recovered.

    I am especially upset when students drink diet soda.

    In addition to causing other serious health problems, aspartame can definitely have a subtle effect on cognitive functioning and can interfere with the concentration and attention skills of the students.
    Aspartame upsets diabetes and causes weight gain. It is useless and harful.

  2. Barbara Metzler 30 March 2013 at 4:48 pm

    When my daughter stopped her one can of diet soda a day, luckily she recovered from her serious problems caused by aspartame.
    I personally know hundreds of people made ill by aspartame.
    Thank You, Prof. Millstone for trying to educate the EFSA and the world.

  3. Rich Murray 31 March 2013 at 4:36 am

    A litre aspartame diet drink gives 60 mg methanol, same as from smoke from a pack of cigarettes, and is made by ADH1 enzyme into formaldehyde right inside cells in 19 specific tissues.

    http://www.whilesciencesleeps.com/audio-book/

    Table 5.2: Target Organs of Methanol Toxicity (Bad ADH1 Sites)
    pages 60-1 “While Science Sleeps” textbook 2012 January, 236 pages,
    Chapter 5 “The Silent Battle That Turns Methanol into Disease” —

    the key chart that summarizes how ADH1 enzyme in high levels in 20
    tissues in body and fetus makes methanol into formaldehyde right
    inside cells, initiating over 20 human diseases:

    http://www.whilesciencesleeps.com/references/

    7 ADH1 references for 16 tissue types (some tissues
    have several diseases) 218, 220, 221, 357, 503, 514, 563, 637, 638,
    640;

    18 target tissues for formaldehyde harm;

    over 20 specific modern novel “diseases of civilization”;

    each with huge growth in incidence in the last 35 years — 25 references;

    U shaped curve (those who never drink ethanol get twice the harm for 6
    of these diseases as those who drink once daily, since ethanol is a
    potent antidote that prevents ADH1 from making methanol into
    formaldehyde) — 8 references;

    18 diseases from smoking cigarettes (a strong methanol source) — 23
    references;

    13 diseases from using aspartame — 22 references;

    Monte didn’t have enough room on this 2-page figure to include the
    suite of 12 of the same symptoms and tissues from cases of often fatal
    chronic and acute methanol toxicity, page 133, with copious
    references.

    A liter of diet drink gives the same methanol (wood alcohol) as the
    smoke from a pack of cigarettes, 60 mg — methanol has a half-life in
    the human bloodstream of 3 hours, showing that its elimination is
    slow, while it reaches every part of the body and the fetus every
    minute.

    Methanol is actually less toxic than ethanol, except when it goes
    easily into cells that also happen to have high levels of free
    floating ADH1 enzyme, in 19 specific human tissues, including inner
    walls of blood vessels in the brain and eye, as well as in the rods
    and cones of the retina — the methanol is made quickly into free
    floating formaldehyde inside these cells, where it naturally wrecks
    havoc, interfering with all biochemistry, just as in its well known
    uses for embalming and sterilizing medical tools.

    The resulting stew of formaldehyde modified proteins activates the
    inflammation process of the immune system, producing complex evolving
    pussy lesions — brain in Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis, inner
    walls of blood vessels in atherosclerosis, skin fibroblasts in lupus,
    pancreas in diabetes 2, retina in macular degeneration, joint
    fibroblasts in rheumatoid arthritis…

    Methylation of DNA and RNA leads to cell dysfunction and death, many
    later cancers, and birth defects, spina bifida, autism, preterm birth,
    Fetal Alcohol Sydrome.

    Two key ATP enzymes are impaired in mitochrondria, shutting down
    aerobic energy metabolism, leading to reduced metabolism and anaerobic
    buildup of lactic acid, resulting in acidosis.

    Many of these diseases, including diabetes 2, are twice as harmful for
    those who never drink ethanol, compared to those who have just one
    standard drink a day, due to the inhibition by ethanol of formation of
    formaldehyde from methanol by ADH1.

    Many people are protected by methanol in their blood from fermentation
    by bacteria in the GI tract.

    high levels of ADH1:

    liver, kidney, lung;
    intima and media (inner walls) of blood vessels, notably base of brain
    and retina;
    rods and cones in retina;
    purkinje cells of vermis in cerebellum;
    islets of Langerhans in pancreas;
    fibroblasts in skin, bone marrow, synovial tissues in joints;
    milk ducts of breast;

    Men have several times more ADH1 in their GI tract than women, so less
    methanol gets into the blood to attack other tissues, so now four
    times as many women get multiple sclerosis as men.

    sources of methanol (wood alcohol):

    smoke from cigarettes, wood, peat;

    aspartame, and chewing gums;

    some dark wines and liquors;

    fresh tomatoes, black currants;

    unfresh fruits juices vegetables cut up and preserved wet at room
    temperature in sealed cans jars plastic containers (including home
    preserves and jugs of apple cider by farming families);

    jams jellies marmalades;

    smoked fermented spoiled foods;

    some fresh coffees;

    approved food additive dimethyl dicarbonate;

    vehicle fuels;

    medical chemical mortuary facilities, home and industry solvents,
    factories for processed wood and paper products — formaldehyde heated
    to 150 deg C releases methanol…

    welcome to the WC Monte methanol formaldehyde toxicity paradigm via
    this treasury of studies — depression, diabetes, retina harm,
    multiple sclerosis, cancer — crisp Michele Bouchard 2001 review —
    hangovers: Rich Murray 2013.02.21
    http://rmforall.blogspot.com/2013/02/welcome-to-wc-monte-methanol.html

    Prof. Ruud A. Woutersen can confirm with C13, in humans methanol is
    made by ADH1 into formaldehyde inside cells in 20 specific tissues
    (Kun Lu, 2012) — WC Monte paradigm — Prof. Rolaf van Leeuwen will
    chair EFSA aspartame session Tuesday April 9: Rich Murray 2013.03.27
    http://rmforall.blogspot.com/2013/03/prof-ruud-woutersen-can-confirm-with.html

    EFSA aspartame (methanol, formaldehyde) toxicity scientific meeting [
    charade? ] in Brussels, 7 hours, English language, Brussels, April 9,
    they select participants from online applicants by March 24: Rich
    Murray 2013.03.08
    http://rmforall.blogspot.com/2013/03/efsa-aspartame-methanol-formaldehyde.html

    within the fellowship of service,

    Rich Murray,
    MA Boston University Graduate School 1967 psychology,
    BS MIT 1964 history and physics,
    254-A Donax Avenue, Imperial Beach, CA 91932-1918
    rmforall@gmail.com
    505-819-7388 cell
    619-623-3468 home
    http://rmforall.blogspot.com

  4. Rhett 21 June 2013 at 3:56 pm

    [quote name=”Barbara Metzler”]The makers of diet soda care only about money, not the health of people who consume diet soda.
    I have been hoping for diet soda to be removed from the market for over 25 years!
    I have been hoping this because I care about people and I know that diet soda causes many serious problems.

    More than 20 years ago, when my daughter was in her early 20’s and studying for a Master’s Degree, she noticed that she was experiencing bizarre symptoms that were quite alarming.
    This truly bright girl, whose college tuition was entirely funded by scholarships and who won a Telluride Association Scholarship in competition with more than one million students from the entire US, realized that she was becoming very confused. In addition to her intellectual deterioration and drastic personality change, she developed epileptic-type seizures, and she began to lose her vision in both eyes. She
    went to Boston for special studies on her brain, and the doctors at the Clinical Research Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology confirmed that it was the aspartame that had made her so sick. They said that she had been totally misdiagnosed by the neurologist and that she did not have temporal lobe epilepsy at all. She also saw a highly-respected ophthalmologist who explained why her vision loss was due to aspartame. She stopped diet soda and recovered.

    I am especially upset when students drink diet soda.

    In addition to causing other serious health problems, aspartame can definitely have a subtle effect on cognitive functioning and can interfere with the concentration and attention skills of the students.
    Aspartame upsets diabetes and causes weight gain. It is useless and harful.[/quote]

    Then dont drink soda you know its bad but you drink it anyways. I find it Ironic that people always want to blame everyone but themselves as no one made you drink that or eat that but are the first to complain about all the medical problems they have. And yet wont do what it takes to just quit doing what you do to yourself.

  5. RJ Herrmann 26 August 2013 at 5:18 am

    Dr. Russell Blaylock has been writing about this for decades. Aspartame kills brain cells. I personally know people that had seizures from drinking one diet soda. For those that don’t have seizures, what protection do they have? The FDA should have never approved it.

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