Aspartame was discovered in 1965 by James M. Schlatter, a chemist working for G.D. Searle & Company. Schlatter had synthesized aspartame in the course of producing an antiulcer drug candidate. He accidentally discovered its sweet taste when he licked his finger, which had become contaminated with aspartame, to lift up a piece of paper.
In 1984, Monsanto Company bought G.D. Searle, and the aspartame business became a separate Monsanto subsidiary, the NutraSweet Company. On May 25, 2000, Monsanto sold it to J.W. Childs Equity Partners II L.P. European use patents on aspartame expired starting in 1987, and the U.S. patent expired in 1992. Since then, the company has competed for market share with other manufacturers, including Ajinomoto, Merisant and the Holland Sweetener Company worldwide.
Aspartame is marketed under the names Equal, NutraSweet, and Canderel. It is in approximately 6,000 consumer foods and beverages sold worldwide, including (but not limited to) diet sodas and other soft drinks, instant breakfasts, breath mints, cereals, sugar-free chewing gum, cocoa mixes, frozen desserts, gelatin desserts, juices, laxatives, chewable vitamin supplements, milk drinks, pharmaceutical drugs and supplements, shake mixes, tabletop sweeteners, teas, instant coffees, topping mixes, wine coolers and yogurt. It is provided as a table condiment in some countries. Aspartame is less suitable for baking than other sweeteners, because it breaks down when heated and loses much of its sweetness. Aspartame is also one of the main sugar substitutes used by people with diabetes.
Aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA. Many of these reactions are very serious including seizures and death. A few of the 90 different documented symptoms listed in the report as being caused by aspartame include: Headaches/migraines, dizziness, seizures, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, weight gain, rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, tachycardia, insomnia, vision problems, hearing loss, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, loss of taste, tinnitus, vertigo, memory loss, and joint pain.
According to researchers and physicians studying the adverse effects of aspartame, the following chronic illnesses can be triggered or worsened by ingesting of aspartame: Brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, parkinson's disease, alzheimer's, mental retardation, lymphoma, birth defects, fibromyalgia, and diabetes.
Aspartame is made up of three chemicals: aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. - Dr. Mercola