Is Aspartame Safe?

BlogHer Original Post

If you're trying to avoid sugar, you may find yourself turning to products with artificial sweeteners, like aspartame. But, there has long been controversy over the safety of aspartame, and there are still many more questions than answers.

I'm not sure aspartame is as bad as some believe, but, I also don't think that it's 100% safe. Personally, I haven't cut artificial sweeteners totally out of my diet, but I do try to use them in moderation. Here is a look at what other women are writing about aspartame.

From Natural Parenting in a Toxic World...

Aspartame is a synthetic ingredient that my family steers clear from whenever possible. What is it composed of? Aspartic acid and phenylalanine, chemically bound with methanol. So let's start with breaking these 3 compoments down:

  • Aspartic Acid - normally, aspartate acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. However, as with other excitotoxins, the presence of too much aspartate in the brain can cause the killing of certain brain cells by over-stimulating them. This slow damaging of neurons can lead to Parkinson's disease and memory loss as well as many other neurological problems. It actually reacts very closely to the effects of MSG.
  • Phenylalanine - is an amino acid normally found in the brain. Human testing has shown phenylalanine levels in the blood are increased significantly in those who chronically use aspartame. Excessive levels of phenylalanine in the brain can cause the levels of serotonin to decrease, which can lead to depression, schizophrenia and make one more susceptible to seizures.
  • Methanol (aka wood alcohol) - is “considered a cumulative poison due to the low rate of excretion once it is absorbed. In the body, methanol is oxidated to formaldehyde and formic acid; both of these metabolites are toxic.” Formaldehyde? Wow. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogeon (cancer causing ingredient)

From Frances Ellen Speaks...

I guess I’m stuck in some frivolous time warp because this week I’m going to discuss chewing gum. Did you know that if you want to chew gum nowadays, most of the gum on the market contains aspartame? This applies to all chewing gums, not only sugar-free gum.

The reason I’ve singled out chewing gum is because if I chew gum that contains aspartame, my tongue develops small, painful cuts. After many months of wondering where these cuts were coming from, I finally realized it was the aspartame in the chewing gum. So, here’s the problem if you happen to like chewing gum. Try to find some that contain no aspartame–Chiclets and Big Red are the only ones I’ve found. That’s it!

Considering what aspartame does to my tongue, it got me thinking what it could be doing to one’s stomach.

From The Enlightened Homemaker...

The review of prior research found that aspartame, marketed as NutraSweet, Equal, Canderal and Tropicana Slim, leads to both direct and indirect changes in the brain when consumed in high quantities. Among these effects, the chemical can disrupt amino acid metabolism and structure, degrade nucleic acids, and interfere with the function of nerve cells and hormonal systems. It also appears to change the concentration of certain neurotransmitters in the brain.

From Healthy Hot Mama...

If you believe what you read on the aspartame website, then you might think it is completely safe. Now if you go to it’s critic’s site, then you would think aspartame is the anti-Christ. So who is correct?

Well there have been studies that suggest there is a link between the consumption of aspartame and diseases such as brain tumors, brain lesions, and lymphoma. That’s really all I need to hear in order for me to decide to stay away from this product, but what if it is false. Well, it is a an artificial sweetener and anything artificial tends to not be good for the body, so why risk it.

It is a fact that approximately 10% of aspartame is broken down into methanol in the small intestine. Most of the methanol is absorbed and quickly converted into formaldehyde. This in itself is enough for me to decide I do not want this crap in my body.

The fact remains that since 1981 when aspartame was approved by the FDA, brain tumors have been on the rise. Maybe it is a coincidence, maybe not. Why risk it? This is another product I will avoid like the plague though.

I found this video at Deprogram...

From Fighting Fatigue...

Dr. Olson says that people start using artificial sweeteners for two reasons: to lose weight and to suppress their sugar addiction. But he claims that artificial sweeteners do neither. In fact, he says artificial sweeteners will make sugar cravings worse.

But, not everyone is sold on the harmful affects of aspartame...

From the Salt Lake Tribune...

As a registered dietitian, I would like to clarify the record regarding a statement made in Kathy Stephenson's recent story about sweeteners, "How sweet it is" (Tribune, Oct. 7).
The Italian studies mentioned in the article run counter to 40 years of research confirming aspartame safety. After reviewing the Italian work, multiple health experts, most notably the European Food Safety Authority, concluded that there is no credible evidence that aspartame is carcinogenic and that there is no need to further review the safety or to revise previously established levels of safe and acceptable intake.
Obesity is a problem in today's society that truly does present a health risk. Safe, low-calorie sweeteners like aspartame are tools that help my clients manage calorie intake while enjoying good-tasting foods and beverages. I appreciate the article's review of sweeteners, but we must be careful not to scare consumers with claims that have been dismissed by health experts.

From Nutrition With Amy...

The review of the literature found that “aspartame did not have adverse effects on nervous system function, learning or behavior; no valid cancer link; no effects on reproductive health or lactation”. They also state that it is safe for people with diabetes and chronic renal failure to use aspartame.

To date it seems that many of the accusations are not supported by the literature. However, as with anything else in nutrition, moderation is usually the key!

Also See:

How do you feel about Aspartame? Are you concerned about the safety of using Aspartame? Do you try to avoid it? Let me know what you think in comments.

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
at, Capessa Health & Fitness, The Political Voices of Women


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