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Aspartame is one of the most common artificial sweeteners used in the world. It is a commonly found ingredient in diet sodas and other low-calorie food.

Aspartame is composed of phenylalanine and aspartic acid, both naturally occurring sweeteners.

Despite it being approved from regulatory agencies around the world (including FDA, WHO, AHA, and ADA) and its almost ubiquitous nature, there continue to be doubts about the side effects caused by Aspartame.

People Who Should Avoid Aspartame

The intake of Aspartame is contraindicated for a select group of people who suffer from phenylketonuria or are on treatment for being schizophrenic.

The reasoning behind these is very simple. In the condition called phenylketonuria, the body is unable to properly process phenylalanine and since that is one of the constituents of aspartame, its intake can cause a toxic reaction in the body.

Similarly, the phenylalanine is also responsible for interacting with the medicines used for treating schizophrenia. Apart from these, there is no concrete scientific evidence of any side effects caused by Aspartame.

That being said there are plenty of claims that are made by people that oppose the use of aspartame in food products.

Potential Side Effects of Aspartame

  • Cancer:

An increased tendency to develop cancer in people that have large amounts of aspartame has been widely circulated. This is one of the persistent rumors that seems to never die even though a number of studies undertaken by very respected agencies have found no evidence supporting it.

Perhaps one of the reasons why this rumor started in the first place was because of the FDA banning two other artificial sweeteners, cyclamate and saccharin.  Lab tests conducted on animals showed that these compounds could be associated with a higher incidence of cancer.

The European Food Safety Authority conducted a review of over 600 Aspartame studies in 2013 and found there was nothing to suggest that it was associated with a higher risk of causing cancer.

  • Weight Gain:

Some studies have shown that the body may not be necessarily metabolizing aspartame and other artificial sweeteners like sugar but since it is preparing to do so, the same amount of hormones are released in the body. This can play havoc with the function of the hormones, can lead to cravings for food, and even lead to insulin resistance.

There are question marks raised over the scientific validity of these findings and more long-term studies need to be done to completely understand this process.

Other symptoms and conditions reported to be associated with aspartame use include:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis

The American Cancer Society has released the acceptable daily limit of aspartame that can be had without any side effects occurring. This dose is around 40-50 milligrams per kg of body weight. Just to give you an idea of how many diet soda cans one would have on a daily basis before this threshold is reached: 185 milligrams of aspartame is found in a soda can. For a 68 kg person, 18 such cans would be required to the reach the 50 milligrams per kg level before any potential side effects are seen.


While the debate on the side effects of aspartame may rage on, moderation in the intake may be the way to go. For people that are convinced about the ills of aspartame, natural sweeteners like those made from stevia leaves are also available in the market.  






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