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Subject: Re: How Safe is Nutrasweet?
From: (Jay Mann)
Date: Jul 28 1995

Mark Gold ( wrote:
[regarding amount of wood alcohol in our diet]
: Approx. 56-93 mg/liter of diet soda, plus more from thousands of 
: other aspartame products.
: We get very little from food as far as I can tell (reletive to 
: aspartame).

Methanol (wood alcohol) is such a trivial health issue, in these sorts of
levels, that there doesn't seem to be much recent study, unless the USDA has
figures in some internal report.  Since methanol is so widely present in
plant foods, measurements of its occurrence are trivial and uninteresting.

As guidance, pectic substances (the major source of methanol in plants)
amounts to 0.5 to 1.0% of the fresh weight of apples.  So a 200 gram apple
has 1 to 2 grams of pectin.  Pectin starts out about 80-90% methylated, then
during fruit ripening becomes about 40% methylated, because internal plant
enzymes do the cleavage.  I'm going to assume that the methyl groups are
about 5% of the total pectic substance (a data-free analysis), so that makes
the 2 g of pectin in an apple have about 50-100 mg of potential methanol. 
Assume that only half of these methyl groups are cleaved, so now we're down
to 25-50 mg of methanol in one single apple.

Pectin, and it's de-esterifying enzymes, are found in nearly every fruit,
from strawberries through to bananas.  Apple juice would be especially high
in methanol, since manufacturers treat it with commercial pectin esterase to
get rid of cloudiness, and in this case there isn't anywhere for the
methanol to go except to stay in solution.

Although pectin isn't degraded by mammalian enzymes in the human gut, this
doesn't matter because plants themselves contain the enzymes.  Moreover,
bacteria in our large intestines will be able to cleave pectin in most
cases, so any residual methylated pectin will form methanol in the bowel.

Really, the quantitative difference between the amount of methanol that
causes blindness in chronic alcoholics who drink it as a cheap drunk, and
the amounts of methanol in either apple juice or aspartame, is so great that
it's really a scam to pretend that there is no difference.

Jay D Mann  <>
Christchurch, New Zealand

From: (Steven B. Harris )
Date: 04 Aug 1995
Newsgroups: bionet.neuroscience,,rec.aviation.misc,,,,,,alt.usenet.kooks

In <3vsadp$> (Peter
Polson ) writes:

>Hey!, guys and gal:
>All of this is starting to get --well--  mind-numbing.
>Betty has reams of "documentation" that she believes proves her point.
>Those of us who have encountered pathological science in other arenas
>know that perception is reality to such persons.  There is always a
>nugget of truth in the arguments that are presented for _The Hazard_
>(of the month).  Methanol _is_ hazardous at certain levels.  What are
>the levels that even the most ardent consumers of aspartame are exposed
>to?  (Wait for the counter arguments about long-term low-level
>It seems to me that Betty is gathering information and rebuttals for
>her best-seller expose book.  For her, case studies and anecdotes will
>win every time over controlled scientific studies.  (Try sci.sceptic
>for other examples.)
>I'm going to have a martini or two.   I know they are narcotic and
>hazardous to my health in excess, affecting brain function, vision,
>balance, motor coordination, slurring of speech, disturbed sleep,
>visions of pink elephants, etc., but....also enjoyable!  ;-)

   Yes, only the dose makes the poison.  Too much vitamin A, iron,
selenium, even pure water will make you very sick, permanently injure,
even kill you.  Does that mean smaller quantities are bad for you?  Not
necessarily.  The same goes for ethanol.  And the same goes for
methanol.  So methanol is a "cumulative poison" we are told.  Now
honestly-- do you know any poisons that aren't?  Poisons are all
capable of causing permanent damage, and permenent damage is by
definition cumulative.  This entire argument is bizarre in the extreme
to anyone with a shred of knowledge in toxicology.

                                         Steve Harris, M.D.

Subject: Re: Nutrasweet and Airline Pilot grand m
From: (Jay Mann)
Date: Aug 11 1995

Dave Blake ( wrote:
: Mark Gold's often repeated argument for this one (but apparently
: people just haven't heard it enough) is that when methanol is naturally
: present in fruit juices, ethanol is also present. The body's breakdown of
: the ethanol is in some manner protective of the effects of methanol. 

Methanol is metabolised first to formaldehyde, then to formic acid.
(Assuming the methanol isn't first secreted in urine or exhaled in the
breath.)  After large doses of methanol (100 to 500 times bigger than
drinking 10 cans of diet coke a day), the formic acid can build up to toxic
levels.  The enzyme that oxidizes methanol also acts on ethanol.  The
corresponding delay in methanol=>formaldehyde=>formic acid conversion gives
more time for the methanol to be evaporated or secreted.  In one published
case, a man cleaned a petrochemical tank while wearing positive-pressure
breathing apparatus, but no protective clothing.  After 2-3 hours, he came
on deck and stayed there while his methanol-soaked clothing dried.  In about
8 hours he started showing symptoms of methanol poisoning.  He was saved by
[copious] administration of ethanol from the ship's booze supply, without
any other treatment.  Khattab et al.  Occupational Medicine 42(1):47-9,

Incidentally, this demonstrates that methanol is effectively secreted or
evaporated, that is, it's not a cumulative poison in low doses.

Subject: Re: Orange juice is deadly
From: (Jay Mann)
Date: May 27 1996

J. D. McDonald ( wrote:
: Hey there! "Methyl methanoate" is just another name for
: "methyl formate". Yes, it releases methyl alcohol into the
: bloodstream. It also releases formic acid ... like, you know, ants.
: Methyl alcohol is oxidized in the body to formaldehyde, then to formic acid.
: Do it gets you drunk, enbalmed, and pickled all in a row!!

Last time I looked methyl alcohol was evaporated into the air from the 
lungs and, presumably, the skin.  Formaldehyde is also a volatile 
compound.  Only when you reach formic acid have you come to a relatively 
non-volatile chemical.  So the motto is that when you drink orange juice 
or any other product that releases methanol, you must remember to keep on 
breathing.  If you forget, and stop breathing for several hours, the 
methanol will probably not get evaporated, and you might find yourself in 

Jay D Mann  <>
Christchurch, New Zealand

From: (Jay Mann)
Subject: Re: methylated spirits vs. denatured alcohol for Fondue fuel?
Date: 2 Feb 1997 20:56:45 GMT

Brian Sandle ( wrote:
: Methanol (methyl alcohol) is used as a racing car fuel, too.
: But ethanol (ethyl alcohol) would be closer to methylated spirits.
: Some Russian fisherpeople became very ill or died from drinking 
: methanol off the coast of New Zealand. So wouldn't the fumes of it be a bit 
: toxic, too?
: What is wood alcohol?

Wood alcohol is methanol (methyl alcohol).  Derived mainly from the 
methoxyl groups in lignin.  Most plant juices have a bit of methanol, 
coming from the methyl esters of pectin.  A small amount of methanol is 
harmless, but if worried note that the best antidote for methanol 
poisoning is copious amounts of ordinary ethanol.  The ethanol 
competitively slows down the biochemical oxidation of methanol to 
formaldehyde, while the methanol is lost by simple evaporation from skin 
and lungs.   In at least one published case, a member of a ship's crew 
who had been overcome by methanol fumes after inspecting a mostly-empty 
solvent tank, was saved by the heroic action of his shipmates in breaking 
open the medicinal alcohol locker and plying him with booze.

Jay D Mann  <>
Christchurch, New Zealand

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