Aspartame was originally invented in 1965, but the restrictions on it’s use weren’t lifted by the FDA until 1996. Even though the EU and FDA have declared that it is safe to consume, many anti-aspartame activists hold the belief that it can cause the following symptoms.
- weight gain
- birth defects
- multiple sclerosis
The FDA has been wrong before, can we trust that Aspartame is safe to consume?
What is Aspartame?
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener, used in many diet related foods as a replacement for sugar. It’s about 200 times as sweet as sugar and doesn’t have the bitter aftertaste of other artificial sweeteners. That’s why you need 200 times less aspartame to give a drink or food the same taste as sugar. This means that you’re consuming 200 times less calories which makes Aspartame essentially zero calorie. In addition, Aspartame doesn’t affect your appetite, glucose or insulin levels and can easily save you lots of calories in your diet.
I believe that Aspartame has gotten a specifically bad rap because it sounds like a chemical. It even has an official alpha-numeric code. Aspartame is food additive E951. The E-number is in fact a certificate of safety. It means the European Union has decided a food additive is safe for human consumption.
What happens to Aspartame in your body?
The interesting thing about Aspartame, is that it is digested and broken down into completely harmless substances. Your body hydrolizes aspartame efficiently and fully. The substance is in your body for a short time and doesn’t accumulate. Aspartame gets broken down to 50% phenylalanine, 40% aspartic acid, and 10% methanol.
Ok, but what is phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol?
All of these substances can be found in tomatoes, milk, eggs, and meat.
The acceptable daily intake of aspartic acid in most people’s diets is 60 times higher than what can be converted from aspartame. For phenylalanine it’s 35 times higher. A glass of tomato juice contains 6 times more methanol than the same amount of aspartame-sweetened soda.
The acceptable daily intake recommendations from the FDA and EFSA are:
- FDA: 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight
- EFSA: 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight
A can of diet soda contains about 185 milligrams of aspartame. A 150 pound (68-kilogram) person would have to drink more than 18 cans of soda a day to exceed the FDA daily intake. Alternately, they’d need nearly 15 cans to exceed the EFSA recommendation.
So the bi-products of Aspartame seem to be safe, is there anything else to be concerned about?
Does Aspartame do anything before it’s digested?
It can. At high enough doses, Aspartame can be dangerous. There are dozens of rat studies showing aspartame intake is related to cancer or some other health problem. However, the point of these studies was not to suggest that Aspartame causes these issues, but instead to determine the recommended dosage. Any substance, even water, can be dangerous at high enough doses.
When looking at the dosage of some of these studies, the sheer amount of liquid in the equivalent diet soda would most likely kill you before the aspartame would.
Almost anything can be dangerous at large enough quantities. Aspartame is no exception. If weight loss is your goal, and aspartame containing foods or drink allow you to fend off those sugar cravings, diet foods and drink can be a good alternative. Don’t expect these foods to cause you to lose weight without a calorie deficit. If you want to learn more about how to achieve weight loss, check out my other articles on weight loss.