Is Aspartame Dangerous?

To date, there has been no credible scientific evidence linking aspartame to any health-related problems. Since 1965, aspartame has been studied extensively, resulting in an impressive collection of scientific data. With approximately 200 studies conducted in humans and animals, the safety of aspartame has been well established. The results of these scientific documentations have shown that eating products sweetened with aspartame is not associated with adverse health effects.

The only people who must restrict their intake of aspartame are people with Phenylketonuria (PKU), who are on special diets that restrict consumption of phenylalanine; they must be aware that aspartame contains phenylalanine.

Aspartame has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a governmental agency that conducts scientific reviews to determine foods that are safe for public consumption. For all food additives, including nonnutritive sweeteners, the FDA determines an acceptable daily intake (ADI), which is defined as the amount of a food additive that can be safely consumed on a daily basis over a person’s lifetime without any adverse effect, and includes a 100-fold safety factor. Actual intake of all nonnutritive sweeteners, including aspartame, is well below the ADI and therefore does not pose health risks.

The American Diabetes Association considers aspartame, as well as the other FDA-approved nonnutritive sweeteners saccharin, acesulfame K, and sucralose, ¬ acceptable sugar substitutes and a safe part of a diabetic meal plan. The American Diabetes Association has stated publicly that aspartame is a safe sugar substitute for those with diabetes.

Aspartame is composed of two amino acids, aspartic acid and the methyl ester of phenylalanine. Aspartame is completely and quickly metabolized to its two amino acids (aspartic acid and phenylalanine) and methanol through normal pathways. Amino acids are building blocks of protein. The body treats aspartame the same way it handles other foods, such as bananas, milk and hamburgers. The methanol is identical to that which we consume in much larger concentrations in fruits, vegetables and their juices, for instance. It is part of the normal diet. The amount of methanol produced is approximately 10% by weight. The body then converts methanol to formaldehyde and then to a metabolite called formate. Formate is then quickly eliminated by the body in the form of carbon dioxide and water.

Some critics point out that methanol, an alcohol, is toxic. However, the amounts produced in metabolism are small, and are no greater than the methanol produced by the metabolism of many fruits and vegetables. For comparison’s sake, the amount of methanol resulting from drinking a 12-ounce can of soda sweetened with aspartame is less than obtained from drinking an 8-ounce glass of grape juice.

Scientific studies were conducted in which extreme doses of aspartame were administered to normal adults. Blood levels of methanol and formate (the toxic metabolite formed from methanol) were measured. Not only were the methanol levels far below those associated with toxicity, but there were no detectable changes in blood formate concentration. On the entire methanol issue, the FDA has stated that the amount of free methanol absorbed from aspartame does not produce a significant and rapid plasma methyl rise of alcohol and formate levels.

Aspartame ingestion, when above 86°F, does not cause metabolic acidosis as some critics claim. When aspartame is exposed to high temperatures for prolonged periods of time or in the presence of moisture some breakdown of aspartame is inevitable. No hazardous chemical changes occur from exposing products containing aspartame to high temperatures for a prolonged period of time. The result is simply a loss of sweetness. There is no safety concern since the components formed are the same whether the breakdown occurs in our bodies or in the product.

Allegations about multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosis, and Alzheimer’s Disease being linked to aspartame are not true. No one knows what causes these diseases, but they existed many, many years before aspartame came to the market. Aspartame is also know by the brand name ‘Nutra-Sweet’.