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I just read an e-mail about aspartame in diet soda and how it poisons your system, resulting in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) like symptoms. They claim hundreds have been mis-diagnosed as having MS when really they consumed too much aspartame.

Is there research supporting this? Also, I am curious to know if Diet Coke or other sugar-free drinks have other bad side effects.

As a computer programmer that sits all day, I'm trying to eat and drink fewer calories by drinking sugar-free drinks. If the drawbacks are more than the benefits then we need to stop drinking those drinks.

Update: someone replied an answer that had this and this link in it and then removed the answer. Honestly, I don't trust this kind of sources. They are trying to scare people and sell books. I need scientific resources like studies that printed in a known journal.

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Aspartame toxicity has been well studied by several groups.

Here you can find an interesting literature review, which covers also other sweeteners, such as saccharin and cyclamate.

Artificial sweeteners--do they bear a carcinogenic risk? - Weihrauch and Diehl, Ann Oncol. 2004

They conclude:

Owing to the existing studies, the following statements can be made about the carcinogenic potential of artificial sweeteners. Saccharin induces bladder cancer in rats, when fed in high doses. However, rodents react to most sodium salts, such as sodium ascorbate, with urothel proliferation and neoplasia of the bladder. Heavy artificial sweetener use (>1680 mg per day) leads to an increased relative risk of 1.3 for bladder cancer in humans. A more precise determination of the exact agents is not possible, because many artificial sweeteners are combined in current food products. Despite unscientific articles in the mass media and scientific press, there is no evidence that the artificial sweetener aspartame bears a carcinogenic risk. The approvals of new generation sweeteners (acesulfame-K, sucralose, alitame and neotame) are too recent to establish any epidemiological evidence about possible carcinogenic risks.

A more recent article indicates that DNA damage is increased by acesulfame-K and saccharin (more than aspartame), although none of those was mutagenic. Unfortunately I do not have access to the full-text, so I cannot really comment on the results.

Genotoxicity testing of low-calorie sweeteners: aspartame, acesulfame-K, and saccharin. - Bandyopadhyay et al., Drug Chem Toxicol. 2008

From the abstract:

The comet parameters of DNA were increased in the bone marrow cells due to the sweetener-induced DNA strand breaks, as revealed by increased comet-tail extent and percent DNA in the tail. ASK and saccharin were found to induce greater DNA damage than ASP. However, none could act as a potential mutagen in the Ames/Salmonella /microsome test. These findings are important, since they represent a potential health risk associated with the exposure to these agents.

There are several other studies and plenty of reviews and the general consensus is that there is no scientific proof that aspartame is carcinogenic.

As for multiple sclerosis I could not find one single paper linking MS to aspartame or sweeteners.

Aspartame has been said to cause pretty much any of the diseases à la mode of our time (cancer, MS, autism, depression, even death). This is mostly due to the preaching of some anti-aspartame groups that, alas, do not have any scientific proof to back up their beliefs. I bet the email you received did not have any references in it, did it?

This page on the Media Awareness Network is pretty enlightning on the matter.

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There's a pretty good QA here on skeptics that is directly concerned with Aspartame. It talks more about its relation with cancer, but it seemed relevant to your question as you were concerned with other implications it can have on health.

Does the artificial sweetener aspartame cause cancer?

It should be noted that aluminum is a neurotoxin and while aluminum aluminum is not a direct ingredient, it should be of concern when discussing neural dysfunction symptoms. Remember that it still contains what your are ingesting. It may seep into your drink.

Aluminum neurotoxicity:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11130287

It should also be noted that aluminum cans are lined with BPA and that can have neural implications as well.

Here are two 2004 studies demonstrating BPA and it's possible effects on cognition http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1247475/?rendertype=abstract http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15079872

This is important because any Neural condition can produce MS like syptoms because MS is a Neural condition which involves degeneration of the Myelin sheaths surrounding the Axon of the neuron, impairing transmission and symptoms can be vast as the Nervous System pretty much controls everything in the body.

It is important to note that MS can be very easy to misdiagnose and difficult to diagnose MS. In order to have a definitive diagnosis for MS, several other nervous system conditions need to be eliminated. There's at least 12 other conditions that need to be eliminated before you can safely assume MS.

It would not be outrageous to think that yes, it diet sodas may have the potential produce MS like symptoms depending on the individual and concentration of ingested drinks.

As to the other implications it can have on ones health, break down the ingredient list.

Hopefully this was helpful.

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