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Part 1: Aspartic Acid and Phenylalanine in Aspartame

What are aspartic acid and phenylalanine, and what are their roles as ingredients in the manmade product called aspartame? Is aspartame dangerous or linked to cancer? Many claims exist, but here are some facts and information on the subject, which you might want to consider.

First of all, aspartame is an artificial sweetener; it is known as NutraSweet® and Equal® as well as Spoonful, and Equal-Measure, and is claimed to be up to 200 times sweeter than sugar. Aspartame was, in 1981, approved for use in dry goods, and later in 1983 approved for carbonated beverages. Aspartame basically has three main ingredients: aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol.

I will go briefly over these three ingredients below and then discuss their use in aspartame…

Aspartic acid

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and aspartic acid, also known as asparaginic acid, is a non-essential amino acid. “Non-essential” means that it is not necessary to get this amino acid from food or supplements since the human body makes it on its own. Our bodies need and use aspartic acid within cells to help the body work, especially regarding nervous system functioning, and hormone production/release.

Phenylalanine

Phenylalanine is also an amino acid, but an essential amino acid, which means it can only be gotten from food (our body does not make it on its own). Phenylalanine is the precursor for the amino acid tyrosine, which acts as a neurotransmitter in our brain for signaling dopamine, norepinephrine (noradrenaline), epinephrine (adrenaline), and melanin (skin pigment).

Phenylalanine is also found in breast milk and is a necessary nutrient for newborn babies, which is why it is added to baby formulas. Phenylalanine is a nutritional supplement in food and drink products and is known for its antidepressant and analgesic effects.

All 22 common amino acids, including aspartic acid and phenylalanine, can be gotten from protein foods such as meats, fish, and eggs, and smaller amounts from dairy, legumes, nuts, and vegetables.

Methanol

Where aspartic acid and phenylalanine are natural substances, and needed for proper bodily functioning, methanol is toxic to the human body. Methanol is known as wood alcohol, methyl alcohol, wood naphtha, or wood spirits and is a chemical produced mostly as a byproduct of the destructive distillation of wood. Modern methanol is produced industrially from hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. Methanol is simple as alcohols go, flammable, volatile, colorless, and sweeter than ethanol (drinking alcohol). Methanol is used for producing biodiesel, as a fuel, denaturant for ethanol, and is a greenhouse gas.

Ingesting large quantities of methanol causes it to be metabolized to formate salts and formic acid. These may cause coma, blindness, or even death, because they are poison to the central nervous system. Special emphasis on “large quantities.” Why? Keep reading…

CONTINUE TO Part 2: Aspartic Acid and Phenylalanine in Aspartame

References:

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002234.htm

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/06/aspartame-most-dangerous-substance-added-to-food.aspx

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/aspartame

http://andevidencelibrary.com/topic.cfm?cat=4089&auth=1

Branched-Chain Amino Acids and Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease has many facets, and the metabolism of branched-chain amino acids also play a role in heart disease. Branched-chain amino acids, also referred to as BCAA’s, also play a key role in organisms in general, concerning the metabolism processes as well as in cardiovascular protection, say VH Lyzohum, TV Zaval’s’ka, et al., from the Ukraine.

The researchers said that branched-chain amino acids were pivotal in the “mitochondrial biogenesis, antioxidant and antiaging processes, its antihypertension and antiarrhythmic effects, its role in obesity and diabetes mellitus” as well. Cardiovascular disease and BCAA/BCKA catabolism’s role in the action of heart failure are related. But how?

Branched-chain amino acids role in heart disease

The images in this article, according scientists, Y Huang, M Zhou, et al., from the Department of Pathophysiology, Key Laboratory of Cell Differentiation and Apoptosis of Chinese Ministry of Education, at the Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine, in Shanghai, China, are of the “potential impact of reduced expression of PP2Cm in stressed heart in BCAA catabolism and cardiac remodelling. … BCAA, branched-chain amino acids; BCKA, branched-chain keto acids…” and show the role of branched-chain amino acids.

But what exactly is the role of branched-chain amino acids in such heart disease? The researchers’ question was whether it was an epiphenomenon or an actual culprit?

Their research showed that in order to understand the pathogenesis of why the heart fails, there has to be metabolic remodeling. They claim that even though we have knowledge about heart failure, less is known about why amino acid metabolism has to do with the onset of heart disease itself. They said, “Although most amino acid catabolic activities are found in the liver, branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) catabolism requires activity in several non-hepatic tissues, including cardiac muscle, diaphragm, brain and kidney.”

The researchers focused on new discoveries from genetic models that were developed using branched-chain amino acids catabolic defects as well as studies in metabolomics (for both humans and animals). What they found out is that, indeed, the “potential role of BCAA catabolism in cardiac pathophysiology and have helped to distinguish BCAA metabolic defects as an under-appreciated culprit in cardiac diseases rather than an epiphenomenon associated with metabolic remodelling in the failing heart.”

If you haven’t yet done so, please visit our other health news portals, too.  Learn more about amazing health benefits of medicinal mushrooms at Medicinal Mushroom Information Center at http://medicinalmushroominfo.com.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24605627

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21502372

Part 2: Aspartic Acid and Phenylalanine in Aspartame

In Part 1: Aspartic Acid and Phenylalanine in Aspartame, I covered what the amino acids “aspartic acid” and “phenylalanine” are, and the wood alcohol “methanol” is. Next will be whether any of these have a scientifically known link to cancer or not.

Dangers of aspartame and cancer?

According to some sources claiming aspartame causes cancer, as well as a host of other diseases and health problems, it is important to note that aspartame is made up of approximately 40% aspartic acid, 50% phenylalanine, and 10% methanol. Where some of these sources claim that aspartic acid and phenylalanine could be to blame for health issues, others think that methanol may actually be the culprit.

According to the experts at the American Cancer Society, there is no scientifically discovered proof that aspartame has been linked with cancer. A large study, says the ACS, discussed cancer rates in over 500,000 older adults and found that “compared to people who did not drink aspartame-containing beverages, those who did drink them did not have an increased risk of lymphomas, leukemias, or brain tumors.”

Putting aspartame’s ingredients into perspective

Bernadene Magnuson, PhD, from Cantox Health Sciences International, wrote Relationship Between Aspartame, Methanol and Formaldehyde Explained and put the reality of aspartame into perspective as thus:

“Aspartame is a dipeptide molecule produced by joining phenylalanine and aspartic acid. Aspartame itself does not occur naturally but is a manufactured substance. When aspartame is consumed, it is completely broken down by the enzymes in the digestive system (esterases and peptidases) into the two amino acids and a type of alcohol called methanol. The amounts of these are much less than found in foods. …

“It is important to understand that the human body is well-equipped to use small amounts of methanol produced from foods and beverages, as well as from aspartame. …

“First, the methanol from the intestinal tract goes to the liver via portal blood, where the liver enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase converts methanol into formaldehyde. The body very rapidly uses formaldehyde and so formaldehyde never builds up in the body. If the body doesn’t need it, formaldehyde is converted to formic acid within seconds. The formic acid will be either excreted in the urine or broken down to carbon dioxide and water. …

“The breakdown of formic acid is slower than the breakdown of formaldehyde, so if there is a very large dose of methanol (or formaldehyde) coming into the body, formic acid can build up and that causes the adverse effects seen in methanol poisoning.

“To put this into perspective, studies in healthy adults and infants consuming up to 200mg per kg of body weight (50 times the amounts Americans consume on average), showed no change in the levels of formic acid in the blood.”

Bottom line about aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol

Although the jury is still out for some people on whether aspartame is dangerous, it is clear that aspartic acid and phenylalanine are typically safe for human consumption and needed by the human body.

However, whether small amounts of methanol are “safe” is a factor that some prefer to avoid in their diet, just in case, while others simply consume the poison in these minute amounts. Methanol is typically only poisonous in large quantities. It is really up to the consumer to do the research and decide, as well as seek out professional opinions on the matter.

Please ask your doctor as well, if you have further questions on whether aspartame (or its ingredients aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol) might be safe enough to consume for you in your particular diet and circumstance.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002234.htm

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/06/aspartame-most-dangerous-substance-added-to-food.aspx

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/aspartame

http://andevidencelibrary.com/topic.cfm?cat=4089&auth=1