The Truth About Aspartame

Aspartame is a non-nutritive sweetener which is approximately 200 times sweeter than sucrose, and can therefore add sweetness with fewer calories than sugar. Aspartame has however been subject to several controversies and is to date, one of the most abused and criticised food additives.

This artificial sweetener was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1974 with the submission of 168 studies to support its safety. This was highly contested by critics, claiming that the quality of the research was inadequate and that there were perceived irregularities in the FDA approval process. Aspartame was believed to have potential health risks including multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, depression, headaches and birth defects. Several blogs, spam letters and websites popped up to warn against the dangers of its use however none of these allegations could be backed up with scientific evidence.

On the other hand, these potential health risks have been extensively examined with scientific studies and they have proved Aspartame to be safe. Despite public criticism, it is still considered safe by the FDA, governments and major health and food safety organisations. The FDA describes aspartame as “one of the most thoroughly tested and studied food additives the agency has ever approved” and its safety is “clear cut”.

A review was published in 2007, summarizing hundreds of studies including meta-analyses and systematic reviews, which provide no evidence to support an association between aspartame and cancer in any tissue. They also found no effect on behaviour, cognitive function, neural function, seizures and it is safe for diabetics, even those with kidney failure. After this review, there were additional studies in various countries, producing results consistent to those as mentioned above. They found no link between aspartame and brain cancer, and a lack of correlation between artificial sweeteners and gastric, pancreatic, and endometrial cancers.  If these studies were conducted in various countries, with involvement of numerous and varying individuals and organizations, how big can a conspiracy be?

According to recent food consumption data for the U.S. population, the average intake of aspartame was determined to be 4.9mg/kg/day, however the U.S. FDA established an acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 50mg/kg/day and the European FDA of 40mg/kg/day. Therefore, the current levels of aspartame being consumed remains well below the ADI levels.

In conclusion, the weight of existing scientific evidence indicates that aspartame is safe at current levels of consumption as a non-nutritive sweetener. 

Article by @futurelifeZA

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