Aspartame: Facts vs Fiction

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener. Known to most as a sugar substitute. This non-nutritive sweetener is chemically made and processed. While the FDA has approved that high-intensity sweeteners (such as aspartame) are safe to consume in the amounts people typically consume them in, intake for aspartame in the United States has only been measured from 1984 to 1992. But, how much is too much? What are the long-term effects of consuming aspartame? Is there a safe amount?

The following foods, beverages and medications commonly contain aspartame:

  • Diet soda

  • Sugar-free breath mints

  • Sugar-free cereals (or “no sugar added”)

  • Sugar-free condiments (or “no sugar added”)

  • Some Flavored coffee syrups

  • Some Flavored water

  • Sugar-free ice cream and/or toppings

  • Diet iced tea products

  • Low-sugar or sugar-free fruit juices

  • “Nutrition” bars

  • Sports drinks (especially “sugar-free” varieties)

  • Soft candy chews

  • Yogurt (sugar-free, fat-free and some drinkable brands)

  • Some Vegetable juice drinks

  • Fiber oral powder supplements

  • Appetite control supplements

  • Meal replacement shakes/snacks

Most aspartame is found in diet soft drinks and “sugar free” products we may often indulge in. Most of these products are consumed by dieters, adults and children with diabetes, and women of child-bearing age. Based on the most recent studies, the amounts of aspartame consumed in the United States is way below the ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake) amount proven to show adverse effects. The limit required is based on body weight. For example, a 40-pound child would need to eat 24 packets of aspartame or four 12oz cans of diet soda a day to experience any adverse effects.

Adverse effects of using aspartame include an increase in one’s sweet threshold. As a result, the brain is triggered to crave more sweet foods. Excessive amounts of aspartame can also interfere with insulin and glucose tolerance. Especially for those in the obese population. Unfortunately, this sweetener may also alter the healthy bacteria in your colon which also affects glucose intolerance. 24 23 Some sweeteners even alter your taste buds and affect your appetite in the process.

There is only one group of people who should eliminate artificial sweeteners from their diet completely always. This group are those medically diagnosed with phenylketonuria (PKU). This population is unable to metabolize phenylalanine, an amino acid found in aspartame. With that said, one should still be mindful of consuming artificially sweetened foods and drinks. These options aren’t always the most nutritious and can oftentimes consist of empty calories that leave you hungry and unsatisfied. Make sure all your options are nutritious. Fruits are a great way to add a natural sweet taste to your food. For example, plain yogurt with berries, chopped fruit in your oatmeal or cereal, and your own trail mix with fruit and tree nuts. Healthy alternative sweeteners may also include Stevia, raw honey or Monk fruit (a fruit based sweetener that has no calories and evident to lower risk of diabetes and cancer while fighting infections).

Live well!

Whitney & Jasmine



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