Side Effects of Aspartame

By Jason Chavis

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener used as a substitute for sugar in a variety of products. Marketed as Equal and NutraSweet, aspartame is found most readily in soft drinks, sugar-free products and diabetic foods. Side effects have been identified since aspartame's approval in 1974. Even though there are reported side effects, the volume of consumption needed to create negative conditions in the body is higher than most people ingest.

Significance

According to both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Food state that some minor health effects are possible in high doses. Despite this research, a number of urban myths still exist regarding the side effects of aspartame.

Methanol

According to the "Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry," 10 percent of aspartame is broken down into methanol in the intestines. Methanol does have the possibility of disrupting physiological processes in the human body; however, the amount is too small to cause damage.

Seizures

Fifty percent of aspartame is broken down into an amino acid within the body. The phenylalanine created has been shown to cause seizures and changes in neurotransmitter levels in the brain. Again, the levels of consumption must be very high to create this effect.

Considerations

The average diet beverage drinker in the United States consumes 200mg aspartame per day, according to the National Cancer Institute. To surpass the 3,750 mg limit put forth by the FDA, a consumer would have to drink 21 cans of diet soda.

Aftertaste

According to the Institute of Food Technologists, a number of consumers describe aspartame as containing an unpleasant aftertaste. Some people feel it has no flavor, while others compare it to water.

References

About the Author

Jason Chavis has been a professional freelance writer since 1998. He is the author of four books, two movies and a play as well as numerous articles for "Scientific American," The History Channel, City Pages and "The Onion." In 1996, Chavis won the award for "best science fiction/fantasy" from the River Valley Writer’s Conference.

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