Artificial Sweeteners: Aspartame, Part I.

There are mixed beliefs about aspartame's safety. Some think it is perfectly safe. Others think it is deadly.
When trying to lose weight, a strict diet must be followed. This diet should consist of foods that are not high in sugar.

As we are all well aware, foods that contain sugar usually taste better than foods that don't. In this article, we will take a look at a very controversial artificial sweetener... Aspartame.


Origins Of Aspartame

Aspartame, commercially known as Nutrasweet, was accidentally discovered in 1965 by Jim Schlatter. Schlatter was trying to discover new treatments for gastric ulcers. It is made of two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid.

It is added to foods, such as yogurt, diet soda, and protein powders, to give them a sweeter taste without the extra calories. It is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar.

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A Look Into Aspartame

Aspartic Acid

    Aspartic Acid is a naturally-occurring, non-essential amino acid. Its functions include creating new DNA, and being a neurotransmitter to the brain. The body controls the amount of aspartic acid present. If the body does not have enough, it makes it. If there is too much, it is converted into energy.4

Phenylalanine

    Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid, which means it must be acquired through a person's diet. It functions as a precursor for the synthesis of tyrosine and neurotransmitters. The synthesis of phenylalanine to tyrosine requires a specific enzyme. Phenylketonuria is a disease in which a person lacks the enzyme responsible for this synthesis.4

Methanol

    Methanol is a monohydric alcohol. Aspartame has a little methanol in it, which is another reason why people think it is unsafe. There is more methanol in tomato juice, however, than in a can of diet soda.

    • Tomato Juice - 0.085 gram
    • Grape Juice - 0.046 gram
    • Diet Soft Drink - 0.024 gram
    • Apple Juice - 0.021 gram
    • Orange Juice - 0.018 gram

    Methanol is poisonous when it in consumed in large quantities, meaning tens to hundreds of grams. Aspartame does not contain enough methanol to be dangerous.4


Claimed Side Effects

Headaches, tumors, neurological diseases, and death are all effects that people claim are the result of aspartame intake. It is pointless to expand on these beliefs because there is no scientific evidence to support them. Not one of the sources that had negative information about aspartame backed it up in any way. The statements were just what people thought or had heard...

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Is It Safe?

Aspartame has undergone over 200 scientific tests since 1967. These test have been done on men, women, children, and animals. It has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Canada's Health Protection Branch, the World Health Organization (WHO), and over 100 other regulatory nations.1 But is aspartame safe...?

Clearly, there are mixed beliefs about aspartame's safety. Some think it is perfectly safe. Others think it is deadly. A study was done to determine the long-term effects of aspartame intake. In this particular study, 108 men and women, ages 18 to 62, volunteered to be part of a double-blinded, placebo-controlled experiment.

During this 24-week study, some volunteers were given 75 mg of aspartame for every kilogram of body weight per day. No lasting changes in vital signs, body weight, or other side effects were noted. The results from this test show aspartame to be safe.2

People often complain of headaches after consuming a product that contains aspartame. A study was done to see if these complaints were accurate. This study was a double-blind, placebo controlled test. The results show that aspartame is no more likely to cause a headache then placebo.3

Paul Cribb of AST Sports Science feels that aspartame intake is safe. To read his article, click here.

As of right now, aspartame appears to be safe to consume. If you still do not feel comfortable about taking aspartame, then do not use products containing it. There are a lot of companies that use aspartame in their protein powders, but there are also a lot which do not.

To find protein powders that do not contain aspartame, you can use BB.com's protein finder: http://www.bodybuilding.com/store/proteinfinder.htm.

Well, there ya go: a brief look at aspartame. I'm sure you will hear about it on the news and see new tests done on it. Aspartame is only one of the many artificial sweeteners used today. Be on the lookout for my upcoming articles on other popular artificial sweeteners.

Later,