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Correcting Internet Myths About Aspartame

An article circulating on the Internet has called into question the safety of aspartame. To the best of our knowledge, none of the symptoms the writer and her "sources" have attributed to aspartame have been proven in any clinical scientific studies. We would like to respond to her comments to assure people with diabetes, who use products with aspartame, that we are unaware of any credible scientific evidence that aspartame is associated with any of the adverse effects noted in the Internet communication.

Aspartame is made up of two amino acids called aspartic acid and the methyl ester of phenylalanine. Amino acids and methyl esters are found naturally in foods like milk, meats, fruits and vegetables. When digested, the body handles the amino acids in aspartame in the same way as those in foods we eat daily.

Although aspartame can be used by the whole family, individuals with a rare genetic disease called phenylketonuria (PKU) need to be aware that aspartame is a source of the protein component, phenylalanine. Those who have PKU cannot properly metabolize phenylalanine and must monitor their intake of phenylalanine from all foods, including foods containing aspartame. In the U.S., every infant is screened for PKU at birth.

The Internet myth

"Especially deadly for diabetics": there is no question that aspartame has been beneficial to people with diabetes, enabling them to enjoy sweet tasting foods without the carbohydrates. Since it does not contain calories in the usual amounts consumed, it cannot affect blood glucose levels or cause weight gain.

The facts

An 8-oz glass of milk has six times more phenylalanine and thirteen times more aspartic acid than an equivalent amount of soda sweetened with NutraSweet.

An 8-oz glass of fruit juice or tomato juice contains three to five times more methanol than an equivalent amount of soda sweetened with NutraSweet.

Aspartame has been studied extensively, since 1965, with approximately 200 studies conducted in humans and animals. The safety of aspartame has been well established. The results of these scientific studies have shown that eating products sweetened with aspartame is no different from eating other foods and is not associated with adverse health effects.

It is unfortunate that the Internet's remarkable capacity to transmit information means that it can also transmit misinformation widely and with lightning speed.

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Page last updated: October 23, 2014