What is aspartame?

Aspartame is a white-colored, odorless powder that is used as a commercial non-caloric sweetener. This powder is about two hundred times sweeter than sugar. Discovered in 1965, this substance is used in many foodstuffs all over the world. Today, it is used in many artificial sweeteners, and is marketed under many brand names. A lot of debate has taken place regarding the safety of this substance. Although there has been a lot of controversy about aspartame, internationally, an accepted daily intake has been established. However, even after this, the debate about the potential risks of this substance continues.

Aspartame, when dry, is a stable compound. It keeps dry even in the frozen state. However, when it is added to a liquid and stored at room temperature, it slowly starts to lose its sweetness till it becomes completely bland. A lot of research has gone into the compound and with each research a new debate sparks off. Some of the studies done suggest that this compound may cause epilepsy, tumors in the brain, and mild to severe headaches. The accepted daily intake of aspartame has been set to 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. This daily intake has been established by the Food and Agriculture Organization together with World Health Organization. After being ingested, aspartame doesn’t start getting digested till it reaches the small intestine, where it is broken down into three components. These three components are phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol. If the actual intake of the compound exceeds the allowed intake, the concentration of phenylalanine begins to rise in the blood. This can be very harmful for the body.

Most of the studies done on aspartame aim to negate the many allegations against the compound. Till date, there has been no proof that may link the ingestion of aspartame to genetic damage. None of the studies till date have been conclusively able to associate aspartame with cancer. A very high dose, approximately hundred times more than the acceptable intake can have minor affects on the human body. Apart from this, the compound has not yet been linked to any disorders of the nervous system. When taken by individuals who are already depressed, this compound may have some affect on the mood or cognition. Apart from that, in normal individuals, such anomalies have not been encountered. Although it has been suggested that prolonged use of aspartame may cause persistent headaches and epileptic seizures, it has not been established and most of the studies have refuted these claims.

answered by M W

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