Aspartame is one of the most common artificial sweeteners available, sold under the brand names Acesulfame potassium (K), AminoSweet®, Equal®, Neotame®, NutraSweet®, Advantame®, NutraSweet®, AminoSweet®, Pal Sweet Diet®, Blue Zero Calorie Sweetener Packets™, and Canderel®. Aspartame is made by joining together the amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and are found naturally in many foods.
Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar and is used in many beverages and foods. Because of this, you can use much less of it and still achieve sweetness. A major selling feature of aspartame is that it contains far few calories (two calories per teaspoon) than sugar and can, therefore, help with weight loss. It tends to be found in diet sodas but because of health concerns and public perception, some companies, like Pepsi, dropped the sweetener (In 2015, but in 2016, they added it back in due to declining sales of Diet Pepsi). Aspartame is added to over 6,000 packaged foods worldwide to enhance sweetness without adding sugars or calories and runs rampant in “diet” and “sugar-free” labeled products.
Over the years, much attention has been focused on a possible link between aspartame, cancer, and many neurological issues. However, research has not fully supported this. Claims have also been made that aspartame consumption may lead to a number of side effects. These include:
- Headaches or Migraines
- Slurred speech
- Digestive problems
- Numbness of Limbs
- Severe Tremors
- Facial Pain
- Mood changes to include depression and ADHD
- Weight Gain
- Birth defects
- Muscle spasms
- Memory Loss
- Premature Menstruation
Serious health issues have also been attributed to the use of aspartame, which includes:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Birth defects
- Attention deficit disorder
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Development of Autism
- Kidney Disease
- Heart Disease
Research is ongoing to confirm or invalidate connections between these ailments and aspartame, but currently, there are still inconsistent outcomes in studies. Some research reports increased risk, symptoms, or disease acceleration, while others report no negative outcomes with aspartame intake.
Today, Aspartame can be found in:
- Diet soda
- Sugar-free breath mints
- Sugar-free (or “no sugar added”) Breakfast cereals
- Sugar-free (or “no sugar added”) condiments
- Flavored coffee syrups
- Flavored water
- Sugar-free ice cream and/or toppings
- Diet iced tea products
- “Low-sugar”, “Sugar-Free” or “Reduced-Calorie” fruit juices
- Meal replacement shakes/snacks
- “Nutrition” bars
- Sports drinks (especially “sugar-free” varieties)
- Soft candy chews
- Yogurt (sugar-free, fat-free, and some drinkable brands)
- Vegetable juice drinks
- Natural fiber laxative
- Fiber oral powder supplements
- Appetite control supplements
- Chewing Gum
- Sugar-Free ice cream
- Sugarless Candy
- Baby Food
- Cough or Sore Throat Lozenges (for coughs and sore throats)
Note: Painkillers and vitamins, mostly chewable varieties, contain aspartame to make them taste sweet. Always read labels, as many brands such as Centrum, One-A-Day, and even Flintstones Vitamins were found to be sweetened with aspartame.
So now the question is do I cut it out or not? The problem today is the Internet, it has way too much conflicting information about many things including Aspartame. But it does seem to cause health issues in some people and well, I have many of those health issues, so I guess I will cut it out entirely where I can.
Sitting at my desk, I pulled out my pack of gum and sure enough, Obit gum contains Aspartame, as does my pack of Five and Stride gum. I have already given up my Diet Mountain Dew and Mello Yello Zero because of Aspartame, but now my freaking gum, seriously.
Four alternatives are Stevia (made from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant); Erythritol which is a sugar alcohol found naturally in certain fruits. However, powdered erythritol available for purchase is most likely made via an industrial process; Xylitol is a sugar alcohol with a sweetness similar to sugar; Yacon Syrup is from the yacon plant; then there is honey, agave nectar, blackstrap molasses, coconut sugar and oh wait for it plan old sugar which is by the way 100% natural. In case you didn’t know refined sugar (the sugar you put in your coffee or on your cereal) is 100% natural, it is extracted from sugarcane or sugar beet, is refined to remove the molasses and then the sugar syrup is concentrated and crystallized.
Good article about Aspartame – https://www.healthy-holistic-living.com/spin-aspartame2
List of foods that contain Aspartame: