A British mom suspects artificial sweeteners in chewing gum may have ultimately killed her daughter.
Samantha Jenkins, 19, died in the hospital on June 3, 2011, after exhibiting violent fits and complaining of headaches.
Doctors said the teen’s brain had been starved of oxygen, but were baffled as to what caused the “vibrant, happy and fun-loving” teenager to collapse and go into a coma.
Samantha’s mother Maria Morgan is bringing the case before a Coronor’s Court in Swansea attempting to discover if the gum her daughter consumed may have played a role in her mysterious death.
In the days after Samantha’s passing, Morgan says she found her daughter’s room littered with gum wrappers, and claims the teen would sometimes chew as many as 14 sticks of gum a day.
“I looked through my daughter’s bags, drawers, and bedroom and I found hundreds of sugar-free Trident wrappers and receipts with several packets of chewing gum on them,” said Morgan.
The distraught mother admits she initially believed the notion to be “ridiculous,” but says her hypothesis was “worth mentioning” since doctors failed to provide a sufficient explanation for Samantha’s death.
Morgan says doctors at the time concluded Samantha may have been “poisoned.”
“From the time Sam went into hospital on the Friday evening till they turned her machines off Monday evening, the doctors, neurosurgeons and numerous consultants were baffled as to what had caused all her salts to be so dangerously low, and convinced she had been poisoned,” she said.
“The continuous fitting had caused her brain to swell, causing her to have a brain stem death. She never regained consciousness.”
An autopsy also found wads of gum in Samantha’s stomach, which doctors believe may have contributed to malabsorption of nutrients.
A pathologist told the court he had never seen such a severe adverse reaction to gum, but that the notion it may have caused Samantha’s death is not entirely unfounded.
“There is very little evidence. There is only two case reports about weight loss. No one has actually died as a result of chewing gum. I think there is a potential for this much chewing gum to cause this problem, but it’s not hard fact,” said Dr. Paul Griffiths.
Previous research has found the artificial sweetener aspartame, found in nearly every gum on supermarket shelves, can cause cancer in laboratory animals.
“In a two-year study conducted by the manufacturer of aspartame, twelve of 320 rats fed a normal diet and aspartame developed brain tumors while none of the control rats developed tumors, and five of the twelve tumors were in rats given a low dose of aspartame,” reports Dr. Joseph Mercola.
The dangers of aspartame were so evident, it took the FDA over 20 years to approve it for public consumption after some of its own researchers concluded the risk of the artificial sweetener producing cancerous brain tumors was too high.
In addition to seizures and headaches, holistic practitioner Dr. Michael B. Schachter says ingesting aspartame can produce “neurological or psychiatric symptoms” anywhere in the body.
Other neurologic or psychiatric symptoms include dizziness, unsteadiness, confusion, severe drowsiness and sleepiness, numbness, hyperactivity–especially in children, severe depression, irritability, anxiety, aggression, personality changes, insomnia and phobias.
Visual changes may include blurred vision, blindness, pain and reduced tears. Ringing or buzzing in the ears, hearing impairment or noise intolerance occur in some people. Palpitations, shortness of breath or recent high blood pressure may mimic a heart condition.
Other systems that can be affected are the gastrointestinal system, including diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pain; the skin, including itching and hives; and the endocrine system, including loss of control of diabetes, menstrual changes, marked weight loss or gain and aggravated low blood sugar.
A 1993 study published in Biological Psychiatry found that consumption of aspartame also exacerbated symptoms of depression.
“We conclude that individuals with mood disorders are particularly sensitive to this artificial sweetener and its use in this population should be discouraged,” researchers wrote.
Mrs. Morgan says she needs to find out the truth in order to warn other parents.
“My daughter was a vibrant, happy, fun-loving 19-year-old who had her whole life ahead of her.”
“I just want answers for my beautiful little girl so that we as a family can finally have closure and that maybe the public response could mean changes in awareness of these additives, warning on packets and educating families on the dangers of these additives.”
“She had no idea whatsoever that she was slowly killing herself. The last four years have been a living hell on earth, waiting for answers.”