The Safety of Aspartame

Main Article Content

Nadia Makar Abdel Messih


Aspartame is one of the most extensively tested food additives, yet public confusion remains about its safety. With an increase in sedentary lifestyles and rising obesity rates, a need exists to reduce the population's caloric intake. One way to accomplish this is by reducing sugar intake in food products by substituting sugar with a non-­‐caloric sweetener such as aspartame. Aspartame is approximately 180 times sweeter than sucrose. Upon ingestion, it is metabolized into three molecules – aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol. Health Canada claims that there is no evidence that the consumption of aspartame, along with a healthy diet, poses a health risk to consumers. One can consume up to 40 mg/kg per day over the course of a lifetime without any risk. This is approximately 16 cans (351 mL each) of a diet soft drink per day for a 70kg (154 lb) individual. No scientific evidence exists to suggest that aspartame causes brain tumours, brain damage, multiple sclerosis, or any other pathological conditions. An instance where aspartame would need to be avoided altogether is in the case of a rare condition called phenylketonuria. It has been proposed that aspartame can increase appetite and preference for sweet tastes and thus, can contribute to increases in caloric intake and the prevalence of obesity, but there have been no studies conducted to support this claim. Ultimately, Health Canada, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, and the World Health Organization have proved aspartame safe for human consumption.