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Is Aspartame a Safe Sugar Substitute?

Due to America's obsession with dieting, the popularity of aspartame (NutraSweet) has soared.  Because it is about 200 times sweeter than sugar, much smaller amounts of aspartame are needed to sweeten the taste of foods.  This artificial sweetener pervades supermarket shelves.  It is especially prevalent in diet foods, and can be found in the following products:

  • Instant breakfasts.

  • Breath mints.

  • Cereals.

  • Sugar-free chewing gum.

  • Cocoa mixes.

  • Coffee beverages.

  • Frozen desserts.

  • Gelatin desserts.

  • Juice beverages.

  • Laxatives.

  • Milk drinks.

  • Multivitamins (yes - vitamins) - none of our company's products contain aspartame.

  • Nonprescription pharmaceuticals.

  • Shake mixes.

  • Tabletop sweeteners.

  • Tea beverages.

  • Instant teas and coffees.

  • Topping mixes.

  • Wine coolers.

  • Yogurt.

Aspartame consists of three components:  the amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid, and methanol, which is also known as methyl alcohol or wood alcohol.

Although it has been claimed that the amino acids in aspartame are metabolized in the same way that their natural counterparts, found in foods, are metabolized, research suggests otherwise.  Consumption of aspartame in sodas, for instance, appears to cause a flooding of the amino acids in the bloodstream - a prompt rise that does not occur after the ingestion of dietary protein.  This rise, it is believed, may cause problems.

No one disputes that aspartame should be avoided by people with phenylketonuria (PKU).  People with PKU lack the enzyme needed to convert phenylalanine into tyrosine, another amino acid.  As a result, high concentrations of phenylalanine accumulate and can cause brain damage.  It should be noted that a number of people who have disorders other than PKU - people with iron deficiencies and kidney disease, for instance - also may be prone to high levels of this amino acid.  For such people, the consumption of aspartame may increase the risk of toxicity.

Methanol, the third ingredient in aspartame, is known to be poisonous even when consumed in relatively modest amounts.  Disorders caused by toxic levels of methanol include blindness, brain swelling, and inflammation of the pancreas and heart muscle.  Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that exposure to methanol through aspartame consumption is not of "sufficient quantity to be of toxicological concern," the cumulative effects of high doses of aspartame are unknown.

Regardless of any claims of the FDA, a significant number of people have reported suffering ill effects as a result of aspartame consumption.  According to Aspartame (NutraSweet):  Is It Safe? by H.J. Roberts (The Charles Press, 1990), reported reactions include headaches, mood swings, changes in vision, nausea and diarrhea, sleep disorders, memory loss and confusion, and even convulsions.  Aspartame appears to be especially dangerous for children.

Needless to say, of you have experienced a reaction to aspartame, you should refrain from using foods that contain this additive.  Better yet, avoid all additives, and enjoy a diet rich in fruits and fresh juices.  These foods are naturally sweet, free of artificial coloring and preservatives, and full of the nutrients needed for good health.

Stevia - Alternative to Aspartame (Can be found in most health food stores and also at Kroger.)  Comes in powder packets, liquid and tablets.

Diet Pop article

Read more articles on Aspartame.


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This information is not intended to treat or cure any disease. For questions concerning health conditions and the use of dietary supplements, please consult your physician. Do not use this website as a substitute for appropriate medical care and consultation, nor should any information in it be interpreted as prescriptive. See Disclaimer for further information.