As I dietitian, one of the most common questions/statements that I hear from clients, friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers is that aspartame is BAD for you. Especially when I have a can of diet coke in hand. I have a hard time biting my tongue when it comes to the topic not only because I use it myself but because I feel confident in recommending it’s use to others.
So, I decided it’s time to do some up-to-date research and enlighten all my followers as to what the researchers, health professionals, and national organizations have to say on the subject.
Aspartame was permitted for use as a food additive in 1981 and is one of the most widely used and researched artificial sweeteners to date. It is composed of two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid, creating a compound which is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Amino acids are the naturally occurring building blocks of protein and are found in a variety of foods. Since aspartame is so much sweeter than sugar, food producers are able to use a much smaller amount to achieve the same level of sweetness, leading to a much lower calorie content. Aspartame can be found in products such as soft drinks, yogurt, desserts, chewing gum and as a table top sweetener.
Those individuals who suffer from the metabolic disorder, Phenylketonuria (PKU), are unable to break down the amino acid, phenylalanine, therefore cannot safely consume aspartame. PKU is detected in infants through a routine blood screening shortly after birth and results in life long restriction of phenylalanine.
The acceptable daily intake (ADI), determined by Health Canada, is set at 40 milligrams per kg of body weight per day, which is equivalent to the consumption of 19 cans of diet pop (for a 130 lb person). ADI’s are set for a number of different nutrients and food additives such as caffeine, vitamins, and minerals.
Rumors of negative health effects associated with consumption of aspartame are as widespread as the evidenced based research supporting the consumption of aspartame as safe practice. Be sure to consider the source of your information when using the internet or any other medium to further your knowledge. Government regulated agencies such as Health Canada and professional organizations such as American Cancer Society and Canadian Diabetes Association are sure to share credible, evidenced based information.
The following are responses to allegations against consumption of aspartame as summarized by Health Canada:
Allegation: The methanol in aspartame is toxic and is linked to numerous health problems including lupus and blindness, and also mimics multiple sclerosis
Allegation: Aspartame is especially dangerous for person with diabetes
Allegation: Aspartame causes cancer and brain tumours
Allegation: Aspartame causes seizures
Allegation: Aspartame causes allergic reactions
If you would like additional information on this topic feel free to visit http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/addit/sweeten-edulcor/aspartame-eng.php or http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/aspartame.