Aspartame is used as a substitute for sugar in some food and drink products. It has been at the center of debate concerning potential dangers to those who consume products containing the sweetener. Some groups have suggested that the dangers of aspartame include cancer, headaches, mood disorders, and a host of other medical conditions, while others refute those claims.
Manufacturers use aspartame as a sugar substitute in various products. This artificial sweetener is most commonly found in diet beverages. Since the caloric value of aspartame is so small, many see it as a way to continue consumption of diet and others that contain the ingredient in an effort to achieve weight loss goals.
Initially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1981, various food and health safety agencies around the world followed suit. Since allegations of dangerous side effects have surfaced, several countries, manufacturers, and jurisdictions have taken up further scientific studies on the additive. Some manufacturers, especially those in the United Kingdom, have voluntarily stopped using the ingredient in their private label products due to some of the reported dangers of aspartame.
Various safety risks have been associated with aspartame. Some of the dangers of aspartame have been related to hoax, but some have been related to scientific studies and consumer reports. Cancer, headaches, and mood disorders, such as anxiety and irritability, have all been associated with aspartame.
Studies have focused on the metabolites when discerning the dangers of aspartame. The metabolites of aspartame include methanol, aspartic acid, and phenylalanine. There appears to be no associated risk of these byproducts of aspartame consumption. In fact, the average person consumes higher amounts of these metabolites in meats, vegetables, and other food products.
Concerns surrounding the dangers of aspartame tend to rest with the level of consumption and not with the additive itself. Those with an abnormally high consumption of diet beverages and other products containing aspartame should be concerned and limit their intake to recommended daily allowances. The current recommended allowance is 40 milligrams per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight according to the European Commission’s Scientific Committee of Food, while the FDA recommends a level of 50 milligrams per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight.
Studies continually demonstrate that aspartame poses little risk to the average person, with one exception. Reports do show a possible increase in the occurrence of migraines with the consumption of products containing aspartame. Aside from migraines, limited proof exists for the other alleged risks.