Aspartame is a non-calorie sweetener which mainly comprises of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Aspartame was originally discovered in 1965 by a man named James Schlatter. He came across Aspartame while researching on a product to treat stomach ulcers. As amino acids build up proteins, Aspartame is naturally found in many foods.
This artificial sweetener is 200 times sweeter than standard sugar, hence, it is said to lower calories if used in food and beverages. It is usually distributed under brand names like Equal, Nutra Sweet, Spoonful, Sweet One etc.
Aspartame is a long lasting sweetener as it leaves a lingering taste in the mouth for a long time, after consumption. Hence, many diet sodas contain Aspartame as it gives the same sweetness as other regular sodas. However, according to a research, it has been deduced that the artificial sweetener is responsible for diabetes, Fibromyalgia and some forms of Cancer.
What is Aspartame used for?
The artificial sweetener, Aspartame, is used in a variety of products in order to enhance sweetness and minimize calorie count. According to the Aspartame Information Centre, it was found that the sweetener is used in more than 6000 foods and beverages sold throughout the world.
Aspartame is often found in gum, chocolate, carbonated soft drinks, pie filling, pudding, gelatin, ice cream, cocoa, beverages, fruit juices, nutritional bars, weight loss shakes, jams, jellies, breath mints, protein drinks, maple syrup, flavored water and cereals.
Furthermore, it is also found in a number of pharmaceuticals for example laxatives, cough syrups and vitamin supplements.
Aspartame is also popular in a variety of cooking and baking recipes. It, however, is usually avoided in lengthy heating and baking recipes as it is said to lose sweetness when exposed to heating for a longer time. It produces best results in recipes which do not require heating.
Common Aspartame side effects
The major components of Aspartame lead to a multitude of health problems. The side effects usually occur gradually. However, there can be immediate reactions depending on genetic individuality.
The most common side effect found is headaches. Moreover, neurological symptoms have also been reported like dizziness, numbness, and tingling and sleep problems. Diarrhea and vomiting have also been found, in some cases, after consumption.
Other common side effects include abdominal pain and cramps, seizures/convulsions, change in vision, fatigue and memory loss. Along with these, links to the sweetener are also made for Fibromyalgia, cramps, tinnitus, joint pains, slurred speech, anxiety attacks, in explainable depression, multiple sclerosis, Systematic lupus and certain forms of cancer.
One of the reasons why Aspartame is linked to so many medical conditions is the fact that it does not get metabolized when consumed, which means that it does not excrete in the same form as it is when consumed. Hence, it should be avoided completely by people with metabolism disorder, PKU.
Aspartame side effects on children
Children’s exposure to Aspartame can cause a number of health issues as children’s immune system is weaker as compared to adults. A child’s body is at a stage where it’s growing and developing at a steady pace. The problems that Aspartame causes in adults tend to be worse in children.
According to medicine.net, individuals exposed to Aspartame reported severe headaches, which were worse than a typical headache. The same symptoms were found in children who were ingested with Aspartame according to Food and Drug administration.
In addition, Aspartame is also linked to increase in depression in children.
Elevated anxiety levels as well as an increase in other mood disorders were also found when consumed by children. It was further found out that Aspartame blocks anti-depressant medication, hence, it interferes in the treatment of these mood disorders.
Hyperactivity and trouble concentrating in children are additional effects which have been found out. Moreover, Aspartame is also said to increase hunger, hence, it might trigger obesity and the risk of metabolic syndrome in children.
Aspartame side effect on men
According to a research, it was deduced that men, who tend to consume more than one bottle of soda per day are exposed to a greater risk of developing multiple Myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, this effect of Aspartame was not found in women.
It was found out, in a study that the enzyme ADH tends to have a higher activity in men. This enzyme metabolizes methanol and changes it to Formaldehyde. Higher levels of Formaldehyde in your body pose a higher threat to cause greater damage. In addition, Leukemia is also linked with the intake of diet soda in men.
Aspartame side effects on women
According to the 2011 article in the ‘American Journal of Chemical Nutrition’, it was deduced that several female patients reported a painful skin rash which lasted for a few days after the intake of Aspartame, while quite a large number of women also reported severe headaches.
Women who are lactating should avoid intake of Aspartame as a higher level of it can slightly increase the amounts of Phenylalanine in breast milk.
Furthermore, other common side effects reported by women included decreased vision, epileptic seizures, migraines, palpitations, loss of control of diabetes and menstrual changes.
Aspartame side effects on pregnant women
Pregnancy is a sensitive time period for women as babies get their required nutrients straight from the mother’s diet. Hence, it is highly recommended that mothers don’t consume food which does not contain a calorie structure. A pregnant woman is in a greater need for calories.
Furthermore, according to some tests, it was found out that the increased level of phenylalanine during pregnancy might interfere with the growth of the baby’s brain. In addition, Aspartame contains methanol, which is also known as wood alcohol. Alcohol, in any form, should be avoided during pregnancy at all costs.
Women suffering from Phenylkelonuria (PKU) have a greater risk of complications during pregnancy and child birth. In extreme cases, it might also lead to brain damage of the baby.
However, diabetic pregnant women can consume a limited amount of the artificial sweetener when required.
Aspartame side effects on elderly
In elderly, the reported side effects of Aspartame are namely headaches, allergic reactions and an increase in depression symptoms.
Furthermore, the Parkinson’s disease, which is commonly found in the elderly, is caused by a lack of Dopamine. This is a neurotransmitter which controls the muscle movements in the body. When Dopamine levels fall, nerve endings fail to transmit movement messages, hence, the muscle function stops. Various researches are conducted on food and beverages’ ingredients regularly to find out its effects on Parkinson’s disease. The initial studies concluded that Aspartame had no effect on Parkinson’s disease.
However, in later researches which were conducted, it was found that the sweetener has a negative effect on memory loss and interferes with Parkinson’s medication.