Is Aspartame Dangerous?

As the launch of Jotunheim Nutrition draws nearer there are a few questions that bears elaborating on, one of them is in regard to aspartame. The short answer to the question in the title is: no, aspartame is not dangerous. Had I concluded that aspartame was dangerous I would not have consumed products containing it.
Below are a few scientific studies for those who would like to know more.

NO EVIDENCE OF HARM – ASPARTAME LINKS TO MEDICINE JOURNALS AND STUDIES DEBUNKING MYTHS – ‘’ Most studies in people have not found that aspartame use is linked to an increased risk of cancer.

One early study suggested that an increased rate of brain tumors in the US during the 1980s might have been related to aspartame use. However, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the increase in brain tumor rates actually began back in the early 1970s, well before aspartame was in use. And most of the increase was seen in people age 70 and older, a group that was not exposed to the highest doses of aspartame, which might also make this link less likely. Other studies have not found an increase in brain tumors related to aspartame use. ’’


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the use of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners in the United States. In 2007, the FDA stated:


Considering results from the large number of studies on aspartame’s safety, including five previously conducted negative chronic carcinogenicity studies, a recently reported large epidemiology study with negative associations between the use of aspartame and the occurrence of tumors, and negative findings from a series of three transgenic mouse assays, FDA finds no reason to alter its previous conclusion that aspartame is safe as a general purpose sweetener in food.


The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assesses the safety of sweeteners such as aspartame in the European Union. According to a 2009 report from its Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Food:


Overall, the Panel concluded, on the basis of all the evidence currently available… that there is no indication of any genotoxic or carcinogenic potential of aspartame and that there is no reason to revise the previously established ADI for aspartame of 40 mg/kg [body weight].


‘’According to Walters, the body has mechanisms for filtering out small amounts of methanol. About 24 g of methanol is considered a lethal dose, but aspartame, which is 180 times sweeter than sugar, is used only in milligram amounts. What’s more, Stadler notes, methanol already occurs in many foods at higher levels than those delivered by products containing aspartame.

However, Walters says, people with the rare genetic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) lack an enzyme for properly metabolizing phenylalanine, so they need to regulate their aspartame intake. In the U.S., all products containing aspartame must, by law, carry a warning for PKU patients.’’


‘’Although the National Toxicology Program (NTP) has not conducted standard 2-year rodent bioassays with aspartame, a number of chronic rodent cancer studies have been performed and are outlined in the Introduction to this report. These studies have been interpreted as showing no consistent carcinogenic response that would raise concerns about the safety of this widely consumed artificial sweetener. ‘’


‘’aspartame was well-tolerated by experimental animals given doses of up to 6 to 8 g aspartame/kg body weight per day (Molinary, 1984). In the current studies, the highest dietary concentration of 50,000 ppm was estimated to provide doses of between 6 and 10 g aspartame/kg body weight per day throughout the studies with all three mouse models. There were no specific clinical signs or consistent effects on body weight gains or survival in any of the studies.’’


‘’A double blind study subjected 55 overweight youth to 13 weeks of a 1,000 Kcal diet accompanied by daily capsules of aspartame or lactose placebo. Both groups lost weight, and the difference was not significant. Weight loss was attributed to caloric restriction. Similar results were reported for a 12-week, 1,500 Kcal program using either regular or diet soda.’’


‘’Interestingly, when sugar was covertly switched to aspartame in a metabolic ward, a 25 percent immediate reduction in energy intake was achieved. Conversely, knowingly ingesting aspartame was associated with increased overall energy intake, suggesting overcompensation for the expected caloric reduction. Vigilant monitoring, caloric restriction, and exercise were likely involved in the weight loss seen in multidisciplinary programs that included artificial sweeteners.’’


‘’Does aspartame produce enough methanol to harm people? The short answer is, “there is a lot of controversy around this question,” as you will see in several of the links below. Most people regularly consume up to 10 mg of methanol per day as part of their normal diet. One 12-ounce can of aspartame-sweetened soda contains about 200 milligrams of aspartame [reference]. You’d add a tenth of this amount to your diet as methanol following digestion (20 mg).’’


‘’Using a comprehensive battery of psychological tests, biochemistry and state of the art metabonomics there was no evidence of any acute adverse responses to aspartame. This independent study gives reassurance to both regulatory bodies and the public that acute ingestion of aspartame does not have any detectable psychological or metabolic effects in humans.’’


  • Some concern requiring further investigation exist for some cancers, especially hematopeitic ones, but the data do not clearly identify a relationship.
  • Overall exposures up to 40 mg/kg/day do not pose safety concerns based on modeling of evidence-based safe blood levels in a dose-response model.
  • Overall, intakes of aspartame are not associated with an increased risk of adverse outcomes in populations who do not have PKU.


‘’The problem with many of the “aspartame toxin” stories is that they contain just enough science to make them sound plausible. Unless one understands the science, it is hard to figure out what is right. The short reply to this allegation is that it doesn’t make any difference if there is ethanol in fruits and vegetables or in aspartame-sweetened products, because none provide enough methanol to cause toxicity.’’


‘’Therefore, the argument that the ethanol protects against methanol poisoning is correct. However, this fact applies only in cases of actual methanol poisoning and has absolutely nothing to do with dietary sources of methanol. In the case of consuming aspartame (as with fruit and vegetable drinks or other sources of methanol), the levels are so low that it makes absolutely no difference whether ethanol is present or not.’’


‘’These results further document the safety of the long-term consumption of aspartame at doses equivalent to the amount of aspartame in approximately 10 L of beverage per day.’’


‘’However, accumulating evidence suggests that frequent consumers of these sugar substitutes may also be at increased risk of excessive weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. This paper discusses these findings and considers the hypothesis that consuming sweet-tasting but noncaloric or reduced-calorie food and beverages interferes with learned responses that normally contribute to glucose and energy homeostasis. Because of this interference, frequent consumption of high-intensity sweeteners may have the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements.’’

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