What is aspartame?
Aspartame (two brand names: Equal and Nutrasweet) is a low-calorie sugar substitute. It is a combination of 2 amino acids: aspartic acid and phenylalanine. It is about 200 times sweeter than sugar.
Aspartame provides sweetness and enhances the flavor of food without adding as many calories as sugar. Unlike sugar, it does not contribute to tooth decay. It also does not raise blood sugar levels. This may be helpful if you have diabetes and have to be careful about how much sugar you consume.
What products contain aspartame?
Aspartame can be found in thousands of processed foods and drinks. Products that contain aspartame include yogurt, frozen desserts, pudding, dry dessert mixes, chewing gum, and soft drinks. It is also used as a tabletop sweetener (for example, to sweeten a glass of iced tea). Aspartame can also be found in some medicines (for example, cough drops) and vitamins.
Aspartame should not be used as a substitute for sugar when you are baking. It loses its sweet taste when it is heated.
Who should not consume aspartame?
People who have a rare condition called phenylketonuria (PKU) should not consume aspartame. This is because their bodies are unable to metabolize phenylalanine, which is one of the amino acids in aspartame.
If you are concerned that consuming aspartame is affecting your health, talk to your family doctor.
Is aspartame safe?
Aspartame is one of the most researched sugar substitutes available in the United States. More than 100 studies have examined its safety. It has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food additive since 1981. This means that the FDA has reviewed scientific evidence to be sure that aspartame is safe for use in foods and drinks.
According to the National Cancer Institute, there is no evidence that aspartame and other sugar substitutes approved for use in the United States cause cancer or other serious health problems. Medical research studies have shown that these sweeteners are safe for most people when used in moderation.
See a list of resources used in the development of this information.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff