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Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener used to sweeten low-calorie and reduced calorie beverages and foods. It is 200 times sweeter than sugar and it is a compound of two amino acids: aspartic acid (a non-essential amino acid found in plant proteins) and phenylalanine (an essential amino acid found in protein, converted to tyrosine in the body).

Aspartame was authorized for use in solid foods in 1981 and in beverages in 1983. It wasn’t until 1996 that aspartame was authorized for use as a general sweetener.

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COMMON FOOD ADDITIVES Aluminum Amaranth Aspartame Azodicarbonamide Benzoic Acid Brilliant Black Calcium Benzoate Calcium Sulphite Calcium Stearate Canola Oil Carrageenan Corn Syrup Datem DHC (dihydrocoumarin) Hydrogenated Oil Guar Gum Modified Food Starch Modified Corn Starch MSG Paprika Oleoresin Paraben Potassium Nitrate Red no 2 Sucralose Caramel Yellow 6 Xanthan Gum


Marketed under the name NutraSweet and also known as Equal, aspartame is the most tested food ingredient in FDA history. To date the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been unable to link aspartame to any adverse health effects. Numerous scientific studies indicate that even in amounts that exceed recommended daily limits (50 mg/kg in the U.S., 40 mg/kg in Europe), aspartame is safe and not associated with any adverse health effects.

The overwhelming majority of complaints and media reports about aspartame occurred during the early to mid-80s. Complaints included: allergic reactions, headaches, changes in behavior, cognition and mood and seizures. Since then, complaints have declined and current studies by the FDA and CDC have reached the same conclusion as earlier studies: reported symptoms are mild and they are common in the general populace—aspartame is not associated with any adverse health effects.

While aspartame has been deemed safe by the FDA and CDC in recommended doses for healthy adults, there are some people who should limit their intake of aspartame. Individuals who have been diagnosed with phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare hereditary disease, should limit phenylalanine intake. Because of this, they should limit or avoid products that contain aspartame.

Due to conflicting studies and reports, it is believed by some that diabetics should avoid aspartame. However, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) states that “there is no credible scientific evidence linking aspartame to any health-related problems for people with diabetes.”


Aspartame is currently used in more than 6,000 products including carbonated beverages and bottled iced tea and juices as well as yogurt, frozen desserts, breakfast cereal, powdered drinks, gum, candy, pudding, fillings and dessert mixes, to name a few. Two of the most popular uses for aspartame are tabletop sweeteners and soda.

Other Uses:
Aspartame is also used for many over-the-counter medications and vitamins as well as sugar-free medications such as cough drops, throat lozenges and cough syrup.