What is aspartame?
Aspartame is a low-calorie sugar substitute. It is a combination of 2 amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. It is about 220 times sweeter than sugar and leaves no aftertaste when consumed. It is also known by the brand names Equal and Nutrasweet.
What is it used in?
Aspartame can be found in thousands of foods and drinks, as well as a tabletop sweetener. Some foods and drinks with aspartame include yogurt, frozen desserts, pudding, dry dessert mixes, chewing gum and soft drinks. Aspartame can also be found in some medicines, such as cough drops and vitamins.
Aspartame can extend the sweet taste of some fruit flavors, such as orange or cherry. When it is added to food with these flavors, it makes the taste last longer. For example, chewing gum made with aspartame maintains its sweet flavor longer than those made with sugar.
Aspartame should not be used as a substitute for sugar when you are baking at home. Aspartame loses its sweet taste when baked.
Who should not eat aspartame?
People who have phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot eat aspartame. This is because their bodies are unable to metabolize one of the amino acids in aspartame, phenylalanine.
Benefits of aspartame
- Does not contribute to tooth decay
- Does not have an aftertaste
- Can extend the sweetness of certain flavors, making them last longer
Is aspartame safe?
Aspartame is one of the most researched sugar substitutes available in the United States, with more than 200 studies examining its safety. There has been a lot of misinformation about aspartame since it came onto the market in 1981. However, studies have concluded that it specifically does not cause headaches, seizures, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, lupus or multiple sclerosis. In fact, no unsafe health consequences of aspartame have been identified. If you are concerned that aspartame or another sweetener could be affecting your health, please discuss this with your family physician.
See a list of resources used in the development of this information.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff