Aspartame: Friend or Foe?

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is used as a sweetening agent in over 6,000 food and beverage products. It is calorie-free and commercialized widely in the "dieting" industry ("sugar-free" "calorie-free" & "diet" claims). It was approved by the FDA in 1981 and has had to reaffirm its safety 26 times since then. It is the most scrutinized artificial sweetener and the most widely consumed worldwide. Aspartame is also known as: Nutrasweet, Equal, SweetOne & Spoonful.

Aspartame is made of two amino acids, phenylalanine & aspartic acid. Once ingested, these amino acids breakdown into methanol (aka wood alcohol) before becoming formic acid & formaldehyde.
There are NUMEROUS research articles that focus on the health effects of aspartame. Some claim that it is safe while others claim it is the most poisonous food additive out there. If you are really interested in the nitty gritty then you need to search out these articles and then make your own personal, health decision.

The FDA has set the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for aspartame at 50 mg/kg of body weight/day. The ADI for aspartame is the equivalent of a 70 kg (154 lb.) person consuming about 20 cans of aspartame-sweetened beverage or about 100 sachets of tabletop sweetener with aspartame per day...

WAIT! You are thinking that there is no way one person could possibly consume that much aspartame in a day... look at this short list of foods containing Aspartame:

Food/Beverage products that contain Aspartame: 
Breath Mints, Carbonated Soft Drinks, Cereals, Chewing Gum, Flavored Syrups for Coffee, Flavored Water Products, Frozen Ice, Frozen Ice Cream Novelties, Fruit Spreads, Gelatin, Sugar Free, Hard Candies, Ice cream Toppings, Ice Creams, No Sugar or Sugar Free, Iced Tea, Powder, Iced Tea, Ready to Drink, Instant Cocoa Mix, Jams & Jellies, Juice Blends, Juice Drinks, Maple Syrups, Meal Replacements, Mousse, No Sugar Added Pies, Non-Carbonated Diet Soft drinks, Nutritional Bars, Powdered Soft Drinks, Protein Nutritional Drinks, Pudding, Soft Candy Chews, Sugar Free Chocolate Syrup, Sugar Free Cookies, Sugar Free Ketchup, Table Top Sweeteners, Vegetable Drinks, Yogurt, Drinkable, Yogurt, Fat Free, Yogurt, Sugar Free, MULTIVITAMINS  

Now, ponder on that for a minute and then ask yourself "How much aspartame am I eating daily?" Even your multivitamins are not safe! There are over 6000+ possible ways aspartame could be sneaking its way into your diet without you knowing.

So, is Aspartame a good choice? Absolutely not. Who wants a neurotoxin to quench their thirst?! ...Apparently A LOT OF PEOPLE. 

A Little More Chemistry
Are you having trouble loosing weight? Do you buy "sugar-free" & "Carb-free" snacks? Those extra pounds that keep hanging around just might be your fault after all...

Artificial sweeteners (aspartame) are known to increase our craving for sugar and inhibit our ability to regulate hunger. So, we are trying to avoid extra calories and excess sugar by consuming an artificial sugar that in-turn makes use crave sugar and lose the ability to feel full! Great, now we are worse off than just eating the sugar. 
Artificial sweeteners are known to rapidly stimulate the release of insulin and leptin; two hormones that are intricately involved with satiety and fat storage. Insulin and leptin are also the primary hormones that regulate your metabolism.

Possible Adverse Reactions & Side Effects of Aspartame
  • abdominal pain
  • anxiety or panic attacks
  • bloating
  • edema
  • chronic cough
  • chronic fatigue
  • depression
  • diarrhea
  • excessive thirst
  • increased hunger
  • hair loss or thinning of hair
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • dizziness or vertigo
May Worsen the Following Diseases
  • Lupus
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Epilepsy
  • Arthritis
  • Alzheimer's Disease 
*There are numerous claims as to what ailments aspartame causes, 100+ symptoms/side effects. The symptoms & diseases listed are those that are more commonly reported.
How Do I Eliminate Aspartame From My Diet 

1. Get informed. Start reading food labels and making changes in your food & drink choices  THERE ARE OTHER THINGS TO DRINK BESIDES DIET COKE!!
2. Remove all sugar-free products from your diet  
3. Detox (you are going to have a headache and major cravings... fight through it!)
4. Start eating fresher foods

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  1. Over 90 regulatory authorities worldwide have examined aspartame and over twenty+ years found no safety problems when used as directed. But if you don't believe them, believe these facts about the critics.
    As to the others often cited as aspartame sources,consider this post,

    John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Nutrition)

    1. John, thank you for your thoughts but I think you may have misunderstood my reference to Mercola. I am not supporting his literature or his business. I was simply giving credit to the source I used to explain the breakdown of aspartame. And I do agree that there is a lot of “quack” nutrition on the internet and this is a major problem for consumers. With that said, I do stand by opinion of artificial sweeteners (in this case aspartame); they do more harm than good. I would prefer my clients learn to control their portions, identify satiety and lower their intake of processed foods. The real issue is over-consumption and artificial sweeteners are just another “short cut” that we do not need.

  2. Natalie,
    Aspartame IS one of the most thoroughly studies food ingredients, with more than 200 scientific studies and several reviews supporting its safety. Many health organizations including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Agriculture Organization, the Scientific Committee of Food of the European Union (SCF), the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the American Diabetes Association (ADA) along with regulatory agencies in more than 100 countries have reviewed aspartame and found it to be SAFE for use.
    Another great resource to check out is where the metabolic breakdown of aspartame is provided. While aspartame is broken down into aspartic acid, phenylalanine and a small amount of methanol Methanol is found in many types of foods, for example, a service of tomato juice provide 6 times more methanol compared to an equivalent amount of diet beverage with aspartame. It is also important to know that these three components do not build up in the body and are absorbed into the blood and used in normal processes.
    While there are a lot of products that contain aspartame, it is highly unlikely that one would consume enough aspartame to exceed the ADI in a 24 hour period. Additionally, it is important that the ADI has a built in safety factor of 100 fold, so even if the ADI were exceeded, the amount of aspartame consumed would not reach dangerous levels. Further, the amount of aspartame used is miniscule and used to sweeten foods and beverages to remove calories and provide a low-calorie product. In recent research there have been no links to aspartame causing neurological problems, worsening disease states, or causing increased craving for sweet food/beverages. Humans innately crave sweet tasting foods and beverages. There have also been no scientific studies that can prove any adverse side effects. It is important to keep in mind that while these studies may have shown associations between aspartame and these side effects, it is not a cause and effect model and is untrue to say that aspartame is the cause of those listed above.
    Below are some more references for your convenience. As a nutrition blogger for the Calorie Control Council I believe that it is important to present the most recent, scientific data to consumers in order for them to make wise and educated decisions.

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