Okay, if you have followed me very long you know 2 things:
1. I do consume artificial sweeteners with pride
2. I go straight to the source (clinical trials) to tell you why
Aspartame was originally "discovered" in 1965. He was preparing an intermediate step in a drug formulation and licked his finger (yea I know weirdo right HA) and discovered that whatever that taste was, was really sweet.
And there it began...
It was approved in 1975 based on many different studies however it was pulled from the market in 1980 due to tumors found in rats that were undetermined whether they caused harm in humans.
That's when the rumors all began running rampant. Everyone was TERRIFIED of aspartame, and people ran as far as they could get away from it without even really consulting the REAL data which CLEARLYYYY stated that it was UNCLEAR but just to be on the safe side, we aren't going to approve it.
To date, aspartame is thought to be the most widely studied food chemical. If you go look for data, you could literally read for days and days and I don't claim to have read every single study (ain't nobody got time for that). In 1996, the FDA released a statement that after intricate studying, aspartame was found to be safe even in consumption of what would be considered "toxic levels" (like 11,000 sodas per day).
I will give you a quick run down of the most typical fears of aspartame so we aren't here all day:
1. Does it cause cancer? The thyroid tumors that were found in mice was due to a specific enzyme that rats have that we don't. Many many studies have been done on tumor growth and no difference is seen every single time.
2. Does it cause neurological defects or seizures? No. The study shows insignificance. I don't understand how these rumors even get started when you go to the study and it concludes that this was a false claim.
3. Does aspartame cause you to inadvertently gain weight from hunger and cravings? NO NO NO! This one just annoys me. It's a negligent caloric intake but it has this bad reputation for causing you to crave more sweet products. That's just simply not the case in clinical trial and everyone that was put in the studies were shown to LOSE weight when the only thing that was replaced was aspartame. The ORIGINAL study had no patient control factors so the patients that were intaking aspartame could have also been pigging out during that time and they didn't control for this. It was a study of about 20 patients, but yet people believe it like the truth of the Bible.
4. Does aspartame give you headaches? This is something that is the most common side effect of aspartame and I can even attest that I feel it causes me to have some headaches. This is a discomfort therefore if you are having migranes and are consuming lots of diet soda, it's something to consider. But the headaches aren't associated with any sort of damage. It just simply causes some different inflammatory changes causing the blood vessels to dilate.
5. What products contain aspartame? This one is funny because people act like they avoid the artificial sweetener packets and diet soda and they are avoiding aspartame. It is in EVERYTHING. Some individuals have a true allergy to aspartame, and that must be HARD because it's unavoidable.
6. Do I work for Diet Pepsi or Diet Sundrop? I wish!!! ;) I'm kidding and I'm trying to endorse these products. They contain an acidity that I haven't looked into as much and I'm not telling you to go out and consume tons of it however if you want one, it's not a big deal. You aren't going to die. One study was actually done in rats where they injected the equivalent of 11,000 diet sodas into one rat over the span of 10 years looking for tumor growth. Nothing. You heard right....NO DIFFERENCE!!!
Aspartame is also not the only sweetener as you know. There are many other formulations, and they have been studied and found to be safe as well.
I feel as if when people are trying to make healthy changes in their life, they begin cutting everything. They do a sweeping generalization and cut out everything enjoyable in their lives. Just focus on changes that aren't so devastating, and right now, don't focus on aspartame. You'll be okay!!
This was a really quick rundown from just the top of my head. If you would like the actual articles, you can find these on pubmed or I can send you links of any individual study that you would like to read for yourself and see that I'm not just pulling a fast one on you! :)
I drink diet soda every day. I use sweet n low every day and I don't feel unhealthy because of it.
With love of aspartame,