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Aspartame

 

Aspartame was first made in 1965 and approved for use in food products by the FDA in 1981. It is about 200 times sweeter than table sugar. Aspartame is a nutritive sweetener (provides a small amount of calories.) The caloric intake from aspartame is considered negligible since only a small percentage is absorbed by the body. In addition, only a small amount is needed to provide the same sweetness as sugar. 


Since aspartame has a longer lasting sweetness than table sugar, it is often combined with acesulfame potassium to match the flavour profile of sugar. Aspartame is used in a large variety of sugar free sweet products, the most notable being diet soft drinks. 

 

Aspartame is considered safe for human consumption by all food authorities at the set ADI levels. The exception is for people with a rare genetic disease called phenylketonuria (PKU) due to the presence of phenylanaline (a naturally occurring essential amino acid) in aspartame.

 

Therefore all aspartame products are required to show they contain phenylanaline. It should be noted a typical diet such as milk, meat and fruits will lead to significantly more ingestion of phenylalanine compared to aspartame sweetened products.

 

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding aspartame. This has come from studies which suggested a link between aspartame consumption and various damaging health effects. However a critical review by over 100 governmental regulatory authorities and (regularly) revised risk assessments of aspartame have concluded: there is no evidence to suggest aspartame can cause the suggested health effects at advised ADI levels.

 

This includes studies which suggested aspartame is linked to various cancers, migraines, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, seizures, strokes, dementia. These have been dismissed in the reviews by all food authorities at recommended ADI levels.

ADI

FSANZ has established an ADI for aspartame of 0 to 40 mg/kg body weight per day. This is the amount of aspartame that can be consumed daily, over a lifetime without any appreciable health risks.

 

The US FDA has set an ADI of 0 to 50mg/kg body weight per day.

 

Consuming 40 mg/kg body weight would require a 60 kg person to drink 12 cans of diet soft drink (375ml cans containing 200mg aspartame), or 4.5L of diet soft drink everyday; which is a very unlikely scenario and someone with a very unhealthy diet!


How is it safe for consumption?

 

According to the US FDA aspartame is “one of the most thoroughly tested and studied food additives the agency has ever approved” and its safety for general population’s consumption is “clear cut” 

https://web.archive.org/web/20070102024642/https://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/1999/699_sugar.html

 

This is similarly supported by all major food authorities around the world.

 

All studies which linked aspartame to serious health risks have been reviewed and dismissed by numerous scientific research groups.

Common Myths

 

There are many myths circulated about aspartame. There is no available scientific evidence that can conclude any of these myths to be true.

  • Aspartame has been incorrectly associated with causing cancer (or being a carcinogen) for humans. 

  • The amount of methanol and formaldehyde created from aspartame is so tiny, it is not a risk to our health. The human body regularly produces and uses 1000 times more formaldehyde through foods like apples, citrus fruits. 

  • Aspartame does not cause weight gain or increase sweet cravings.

  • Aspartame has been incorrectly concluded to lead to increased risk of heart disease. The studies monitored a group's diet and any cardiovascular diseases. So there is a correlation in the foods and heart disease, but not causation between sweeteners and heart disease. The likely cause is these diets consisted of more processed foods.

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