Effects of aspartame and glucose administration on brain and plasma levels of large neutral amino acids and brain 5-hydroxyindoles

H. Yokogoshi, C. H. Roberts, B. Caballero, R. J. Wurtman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Administration of the artificial sweetener aspartame (L-aspartylphenylalanylmethyl ester; 200 mg/kg) by gavage to rats caused large increments in brain and plasma levels of phenylalanine and its product tyrosine. Glucose administration (3 g/kg, by gavage, a dose sufficient to cause insulin-mediated reductions in plasma levels of the large neutral amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine) also elevated brain phenylalanine and tyrosine, and enhanced the increments caused by the aspartame, nearly doubling the rise in brain phenylalanine. Each animal's brain phenylalanine or tyrosine levels were highly correlated (r = 0.97 and 0.99, respectively) with its plasma phenylalanine or tyrosine ratios, affirming that aspartame's effects on the brain amino acids result from the changes it produces in plasma composition. As described previously, glucose consumption increased brain tryptophan levels, and consequently, brain levels of the 5-hydroxyindoles serotonin and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid. Aspartame alone had no effect on these compounds but completely blocked the changes in 5-hydroxyindoles caused by glucose. Each animal's brain level of tryptophan (r = 0.89) and 5-hydroxyindoles (r = 0.74) was also significantly correlated with its plasma tryptophan ratio, affirming that the effects of glucose or aspartame on these brain constituents also result from the changes they produce in plasma composition. The aspartame-glucose combination also reduced brain levels of leucine, isoleucine, and valine to a significantly greater extent than aspartame or glucose alone. These observations indicate that high aspartame doses can generate major neurochemical changes in rats, especially when consumed along with carbohydrate-containing foods. However, they should not in any way be interpreted as demonstrating that aspartame significantly affects the human brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1984
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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