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Side Effects Of Aspartame

Aug 17, 2007
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener found in most diet, sugar-free and diabetic products that would normally contain sugar. Beverages, baked goods, ice cream, gelatins, candy, syrups, jams and jellies are some of the foods that commonly contain aspartame. While the sweetener was long touted as a wonderful substitute, allowing diabetics to enjoy sugar-free sweets. The side effects are now known, though, and they can be quite debilitating.

In 1965, a chemist was working on an anti-ulcer drug. He licked his finger after accidentally contaminating it with the drug and found it to be very sweet. This was the birth of aspartame. Preliminary tests caused brain tumors in rats so it was not approved by the FDA for many years. By 1983, it was approved for many foods and by 1996, all restrictions had been lifted in the US.

The only warning aspartame carries is for those born with phenylketonuria (also known as PKU.) One ingredient of aspartame, phenylalanine, is dangerous for those with PKU and can cause mental retardation. More recently, though, other health risks have been associated with aspartame consumption, though the FDA has not yet taken any action towards restricting it.

Aspartame is commonly marketed under the name NutraSweet, Equal and Canderel. Saccharin and sucralose, the main ingredients in other artificial sweeteners, do not pose the exact same risks as aspartame, though they do each come with their own set of potential side effects.

Side Effects

In 1995 it was reported, by the FDA, that aspartame accounted for three quarters of all adverse reactions to food substance reports from 1981 to 1995. Among the nearly 100 reported symptoms reported, the mild ones include:

Feeling flush in the face
Other allergy-like side effects
Burning eyes and throat
Excessive thirst or hunger
Inability to concentrate
Numbness or tingling of extremities
Weight gain

More serious symptoms include:

Asthmatic reactions
Impotency and sexual problems
Anxiety and panic attacks
Menstrual problems or changes
Higher susceptibility to infections
Muscle spasms
Noticeable personality changes
Nausea or vomiting
Chronic fatigue
Hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia
Hair thinning or loss
Hearing and vision loss
Chest pains and heart palpitations
Seizures, convulsions and tremors

Aspartame has also been linked to lymphoma and brain cancer in a few cases.


Aspartame research is as controversial as the reported side effects are. Scientists conducting human studies often choose capsules, which are slow releasing, rather than a common form of ingestion, like sugar-free beverages. Because the absorption is much slower with the capsules, the results of the tests aren't necessarily reliable.

What Makes Aspartame Dangerous

When you consume aspartame, about 10% of it is broken down into methanol in the small intestine. Methanol is transformed into formaldehyde, a potentially lethal substance that is known to cause rapid, shallow breathing, hypothermia, and can cause comas.

A 1998 study in Spain found that formaldehyde produced by methanol breakdown from aspartame consumption collected in the brain, liver and kidneys in lab animals. Some scientists, however, claim there is not enough methanol produced to cause toxicity.

Many users of aspartame treat it like a blank check to eat all the sweets and sugary foods they desire. Because most foods that contain aspartame are either free of nutrients and/or filled with empty calories, like processed flour, it likely contributes to being overweight or obese. While refined sugar consumption also contributes to obesity, when used in moderation it usually carries few other long term effects.
About the Author
Scott White is a certifiedpersonal trainer and nutritionist located in Scottsdale, Arizona. Personal Trainer | Personal Training. and head trainer here: a style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline" href="http://www.successfitnesstrainer.com/"> Personal Trainer Arizona Scottsdale.
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