Food for Thought: Aspartame, Depression and SSRIs

The eighties didn’t just bring us the magic of hot green biker shorts; it also gave us FDA approval of the artificial sweetener Aspartame and the antidepressant Prozac.

Three quick facts about Aspartame: it is the most widely abundant artificial sweetener on the grocery store shelves today, it took the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over 20 years to finally approve it, and when it finally did get approved, it had not been tested on humans even once beforehand (although animal studies concluded the substance caused cancer, neurological issues, and literally ate holes in brain tissue).

Aspartame is 50 percent phenylalanine, 40 percent aspartic acid, and 10 percent methanol (yummy). It comes from genetically modified (GM) E. coli bacteria, and by “comes from”, I mean Aspartame is GM bacteria poop (super yummy). Aspartic acid is an excitotoxin, methanol is wood alcohol used in antifreeze, and too much of the amino acid phenylalanine in the brain can decrease serotonin levels over time, leading to chemical imbalances that can cause mood disorders and depression.

Why? Because serotonin is the neurotransmitter widely believed to contribute to an overall sense of happiness and well-being. Not only can serotonin influence moods and emotions, but it can effect sleep patterns and aggression too.

The FDA first approved Aspartame for use in soda in 1983, after a two-decade-long battle that only ended when President Ronald Reagan fired the FDA commissioner holding things up and put in a new guy that would essentially rubber stamp the sweetener for then-Searle Pharmaceutical CEO Donald Rumsfeld, a key player in the shadow government power structure. Searle sold $600 million bucks worth of the stuff in just the following year, and Rumsfeld later became the U.S. Secretary of Defense after he played a major role in Monsanto’s acquisition of Searle.

But did you catch the part before that? Too much phenylalanine, a key component in Aspartame, can decrease serotonin levels and lead to depression. What would one need if they were, say, suffering low serotonin levels that contributed to depression?

Oh why, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) of course!

The global pharmaceutical company with extensive Bush family ties, Eli Lilly, got its SSRI Prozac approved in 1987, and the drug first appeared on the market in 1988. In just two years’ time, Prozac became the ‘most prescribed‘ SSRI in the United States.

A 2010 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that a fifth of the U.S. population drinks soda on any given day, and the second most popular soda is Diet Coke (with Aspartame). Four of the top ten sodas are diet and contain Aspartame. Today, one in ten Americans take SSRIs. Nevermind that a multitude of studies have linked antidepressants to everything from birth defects (causing the FDA to place a black box warning on them) to increased suicidal tendencies (causing the FDA to update the initial black box warning to include an additional suicidal tendencies warning).

Problem: Does Aspartame cause depression?
Reaction: Studies say it, in fact, can.
Solution: Antidepressants, please!

Hey, wait a minute. Is there a possible link between the best-selling artificial sweetener on the market today and the most widely-prescribed antidepressant in history?

Must be yet another coincidence, just like all of these people:


Food for thought.

Did You Know?
Donald Rumsfeld, former Searle CEO and Defense Secretary, sat on the board directors for Amylin Pharmaceuticals twice, and the second time was right before the company partnered with Eli Lilly. Rumsfeld ran the Pentagon under President George W. Bush, overseeing the Iraq War, while President George H. W. Bush was appointed to the Eli Lilly Board of Directors by the Quayle family after leaving his CIA Director post in the 1970s.

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About the author

Melissa Dykes

Melissa is a researcher and writer on anything that will help people make better decisions regarding what they are putting in their bodies to get healthier in this toxic soup we're all living in.

1 comment
Kraig Ward - September 30, 2014

For years I drank fizzy drinks & obviously consumed a lot of aspartemene, I now look on the back of juice (I rarely drink fizzy now) bottles & try to only buy products that do not contain it. This is a task in itself – it seems to be in every product!! Iv suffered from low mood, anxiety problems & generally just wanting to ‘sit around’ at home watching daytime TV. You could say all the crap TV made me depressed, all I know is the GP was quick to offer Citalopram & Prozac. I took the scripts but ever went to the pharmacy. 3 months later I finally recieved an appointment for counselling & could finally talk to someone about my problems. Giving my pills was never gonna help – I needed to talk & understand why I felt the way I did. Now I feel much better mentally (still have physical probs – poor circulation/ulcers on my right leg) my next mission is to educate myself further on GMOs & food additives, after all ‘We Are What We Eat’ or as I would say ‘Don’t Eat Shit If You Don’t Want To Fell Like Shit’!! Thanks for all the information – keep up the great work!!

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