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Straight Answers about Aspartame
What is aspartame?
Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetening ingredient that
provides the sweet taste of sugar without the calories. Aspartame has been used
in numerous foods and beverages for more than 20 years and is enjoyed by
millions of Americans every day.
How is aspartame handled by the body?
Aspartame is broken down in the body to the amino acids
aspartic acid and phenylalanine as well as a small amount of methanol. These
components are also found naturally in foods such as meats, milk, fruits and
vegetables. The body uses these components in exactly the same way whether they
come from aspartame or common foods. In fact, the foods you consume every day
provide much greater amounts of these components than does aspartame.
Is aspartame safe?
Yes. Aspartame's safety has been documented in more than
200 objective scientific studies. The safety of aspartame has been confirmed by
the regulatory authorities in more than 100 countries, including the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration, Health Canada, and the European Commission's Scientific
Committee on Food, as well as by experts with the United Nations' Food and
Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization.
What products contain aspartame and how can I tell?
Aspartame is used to sweeten products such as low-calorie
tabletop sweeteners, carbonated soft drinks, powdered soft drinks, puddings,
gelatins, frozen desserts, yogurt, hot cocoa mixes, teas, breath mints, chewing
gum and other foods, as well as some vitamin and cold preparations. To locate
these products, look for the word "aspartame" on the ingredient list.
Who can use aspartame?
Consumers can enjoy products sweetened with aspartame as
part of a healthful diet. Aspartame can replace all or part of the sugar and
calories in foods and beverages. However, it is important to keep in mind that
children, particularly young children, need ample calories for rapid growth and
development. In addition, pregnant and breastfeeding women need to consume
adequate calories to nourish the fetus or infant and should consult with a
physician or a registered dietitian about their nutritional needs.
Individuals with the rare genetic disease, phenylketonuria
(PKU), cannot properly metabolize phenylalanine. PKU is detected at birth
through a mandatory screening program, and these individuals must monitor their
intake of phenylalanme from all foods, including foods containing aspartame.
That's why the following statement is found on aspartame-containing products: "Phenylketonurics:
How do foods and beverages sweetened with aspartame fit
into healthful eating?
As a sweetener, aspartame can reduce or replace the sugar
and calories in foods and beverages while maintaining great taste. Thus,
aspartame offers one simple step to help people move closer to achieving a more
Health experts agree that eating well and being physically
active are keys to a healthful lifestyle. To help people achieve a more
healthful lifestyle, the US government provides the "Dietary Guidelines for
Americans." One of the guidelines states, "Choose beverages and foods to
moderate your intake of sugars. The World Health Organization also recommends a
number of dietary guidelines to combat increases in chronic diseases such as
obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes. One recommendation is to
limit sugars added to some foods and beverages.
How do products sweetened with aspartame aid weight
With nearly two out of three Americans classified as
overweight or obese, taking steps to assure appropriate calorie intake is
important for many people. Because products with aspartame are lower in calories
than their sugar-sweetened counterparts, using products with aspartame together
with regular physical activity can help with weight management. Simply
substituting a packet of tabletop sweetener with aspartame for two teaspoons of
sugar three times daily-in coffee, on cereal and in ice tea, for example-adds up
to a savings of about 100 calories. In addition, a 3-year scientific study done
at Harvard Medical School showed that aspartame was a valuable aid to a
long-term weight management program that included diet and physical activity.
How does aspartame help people with diabetes?
Aspartame offers people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes
greater variety and flexibility in budgeting their total carbohydrate intake and
helps them satisfy their taste for sweets without affecting blood sugar. People
with diabetes are more likely to stick with a healthful meal plan when they can
include foods they enjoy. In addition, consuming products with aspartame can
reduce calories, which helps people with diabetes manage their weight.
Is there any truth to the negative information about
aspartame I see on the Internet or in the media?
No. Negative allegations that aspartame may be associated
with numerous ailments are not based on science. Unfortunately, urban myths
about aspartame continue to be circulated over the Internet. Aspartame-sweetened
products offer yet another choice for those individuals who want to limit
calories and moderate sugar intake but not sacrifice great taste.
The safety of aspartame has been proven numerous times and
has been backed by more than three decades of research and 200 scientific
studies. Recently, several governments and expert committees carefully evaluated
the Internet allegations and found them to be false, reconfirming the safety of
aspartame. Leading health authorities, such as the American Medical Association,
the American Dietetic Association, and the American Diabetes Association, agree
that aspartame is safe.
If you are looking for more information about Aspartame,
please click on the links below:
AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY (ACS)
AMERICAN COUNCIL ON SCIENCE AND HEALTH (ACSH)
AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION (AHA)
ASTHMA AND ALLERGY FOUNDATION OF AMERICA (AAFA)
CALORIE CONTROL COUNCIL (CCC)
CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL (CDC)
INTERNATIONAL FOOD INFORMATION COUNCIL FOUNDATION (IFIC)
MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (MIT)
MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS FOUNDATION (MSF)
U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA)
U.S. FDA`S CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY AND APPLIED NUTRITION
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO)
Source: 2003 ADA - American Dietetic Association,
Nutritional Fact Sheet
Adapted by Editorial Staff, August 2006
Last update, August 2008