July 10, 2015: In a paper published in a journal named Medical Hypotheses, Walton and Monte, both of whose earlier attacks on aspartame have been discredited, have now claimed that the sweetener is related to autism! They blame the small amount of methanol that is released when we consume aspartame. But the paper ignores the fact that methanol is produced from many foods that we consume every day and that form part of a healthy diet. The “hypothesis” that this normal dietary constituent causes autism is baseless. And the suggestion that the condition is caused by aspartame is both unfounded and irresponsible. A small banana yields about the same amount of methanol during digestion as a serving of aspartame-sweetened low calorie soft drink; a glass of tomato juice, about 3 times that. In December 2013, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reconfirmed the safety of aspartame and noted its very low contribution of dietary methanol relative to other foods such as fruit and vegetables.

One can quite easily superimpose any number of unrelated dietary or environmental factors (including the number of intense hurricanes!) to create the appearance of a relationship with the observed increase in autism over the last several decades. Speculation of this type undermines those who are conducting valid research to understand better the causes of this serious condition.