Food With Aspartame


In this article, we will be looking at what is food with aspartame and its impact on the human body. Aspartame has been in the news often in recent years and controversy over its safety has created a lot of questions in many peoples minds.

Food With Aspartame

Aspartame is found in a number of sugar-free food products, including:

  • Diet soda
  • Chewing gum
  • Gelatin
  • Ice cream
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Sugar-free cocoa mix

The artificial sweetener is also used to add a touch of sweetness to medications, such as cough drops, as well as chewable or gummy vitamins.

While there are many foods with aspartame, the artificial sweetener isn’t found in baked goods. The amino acid structure of aspartame isn’t stable when heated and loses some of its sweetness during the baking process.

You can also buy aspartame in bulk or packets and use it as you would regular sugar to sweeten your coffee, tea or lemonade. You can also sprinkle it on your grapefruit, oatmeal or bowl of berries for a little touch of sweetness without the calories or the sugar.

Aspartame and Your Weight

Despite being lower in calories and sugar-free, it’s not all good news when it comes to aspartame and your health. More specifically, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners may not be a friend to your waistline.

According to a July 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), which included more than 400,000 participants followed over a 10 year period, researchers found an association between the use of artificial sweeteners and an increase in body mass index. The researchers also noted an increase in diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension and cardiovascular events in those who used sugar-free sweeteners like aspartame.

While it’s not entirely clear why use of calorie-free sweeteners are causing waistlines to expand, Harvard Health Publishing theorizes that use of the artificial sweeteners may make you feel as though you can indulge in other treats since you’re saving calories elsewhere, leading to overconsumption of calories. The artificial sweeteners may also alter your taste buds so you crave sweet, unhealthy foods which may lead to poor high-calorie food choices.

Despite the association between consumption of foods with aspartame, weight gain and obesity, the researchers of the CMAJ study suggest more clinical studies are needed to better understand the relationship between artificial sweeteners and your health.

The American Diabetes Association, in a joint statement with the American heart Association, states that artificial sweeteners are OK to use to help with weight control and blood sugar management, as long as you don’t use those saved calories and carbohydrates to spend on other non-nutritious foods.

Benefits Of Aspartame

Aspartame is Beneficial in Weight Control

With the high incidence of overweight and obesity and related health problems, balancing calorie intake with physical activity is key to reducing and maintaining a healthy weight. Finding ways to lower calorie intake without sacrificing taste and eating pleasure is key. Several studies confirm that low-calorie sweeteners like aspartame can play a role. In a study comparing two groups, one consuming low-calorie sweetened foods and beverages and the other sugar-sweetened varieties, the sugar group consumed more calories, felt less full and gained weight while the low-calorie sweetener group ate fewer calories, felt more full and lost weight. An analysis of 24 studies demonstrated that replacing regular-calorie sweetened foods with low-calorie versions led to a modest weight loss. Another review of 16 studies found that foods and drinks sweetened with aspartame instead of sugar were an effective way to lose and maintain weight without reducing the palatability of the diet.

Aspartame Enhances and Extends Flavors

Aspartame has a clean, sugar-like taste so it enhances fruit and citrus flavors in foods and beverages. In chewing gum, it helps to retain its sweetness up to four times longer than sugar-sweetened gum.

Aspartame is Helpful for Individuals with Diabetes

Aspartame allows those with diabetes to satisfy their cravings for sweets without raising their blood sugar. According to a recent report published in US Endocrinology, “Low-calorie sweeteners can serve an important role in diabetes prevention and management. Substituting sugars with low-calorie sweeteners provides patients with type 2 diabetes considerable flexibility in their health goals and personal dietary preferences.”

For more information about diabetes and low-calorie sweeteners, like aspartame, please visit the American Diabetes Association.

Aspartame Helps Prevent Tooth Decay

According to the American Dental Association, low-calorie sweeteners like aspartame don’t promote decay-causing acids in your mouth that can harm teeth. They also note that clinical studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay.

Aspartame Can Be Part of a Healthful Diet

Aspartame can be easily included as part of a healthful diet. It can be used to reduce or replace calories from sugar while maintaining great taste. Consider some of these nutritious reduced-calorie recipes, created with low-calorie sweeteners.

The Truth About Aspartame Side Effects

The aspartame controversy

Aspartame is one of the most popular non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) available on the market. In fact, chances are good that you or someone you know has consumed an aspartame-containing drink within the past 24 hours.

A 2017 study found that in a sample of nearly 17,000 Americans, about 25 percent of children and roughly 41 percent of adults self-reported eating or drinking a food or beverage containing NNS, including but not limited to aspartame.

While aspartame remains popular, it’s also faced controversy in recent years. Many opponents have claimed that consuming aspartame has negative side effects. There are also negative claims about long-term side effects of ingesting aspartame.

What is aspartame?

Aspartame is sold under the brand names NutraSweet and Equal. It’s also used widely in packaged products — especially those labeled as “diet,” sugar-free, no- or low-calorie, or no-, low- or zero-sugar.

Aspartame is an odorless powder that is white and is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar. This means that a very small amount is needed to give foods and beverages a sweet flavor.

The ingredients of aspartame are aspartic acid and phenylalaninee. Both are naturally occurring amino acids — also know as the “building blocks” of proteins. Aspartic acid is produced naturally by your body, and phenylalanine is an essential amino acid that you get from food.

How is aspartame broken down in the body?

When your body processes aspartame, part of it is broken down into methanol. Consumption of fruit, fruit juice, fermented beverages, and some vegetables also contain or result in methanol production.

A 2015 study suggests that aspartame was the largest source of methanol in the American diet. Methanol is toxic in large quantities, yet smaller amounts may also be concerning when combined with free methanol because of enhanced absorption.

However, scientists and expert regulatory groups caution against making overgeneralized conclusions about the relationship between aspartame intake, methanol and formaldehyde production in the body, and consequences for health.

For example, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) note that that dietary exposure to methanol and formaldehyde produced from ingesting aspartame does not pose a safety concern.

Other researchers note that consuming tomato juice could result in a 6 times greater methanol production than the aspartame used in zero sugar sodas.

Aspartame safety approvals

Aspartame is one of the most exhaustively studied NNS in the world. A number of regulatory agencies have confirmed that aspartame and its breakdown products are safe and approved for use in the general population (including infants, children and people who are pregnant or lactating):

  • FDA
  • EFSA
  • Health Canada
  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand
  • Food Standards Agency United Kingdom
  • United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization and Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives

Many health-related organizations also note aspartame has not been conclusively linked to any adverse side effects:

  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health
  • American Diabetes Association
  • American Heart Association
  • American Cancer Society

In 2013, EFSA was asked to re-evaluate the safety of aspartame, conducting a review of more than 600 datasets from aspartame studies. It found no reason to remove aspartame from the market.

The Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee also recently reviewed the evidence on aspartame safety ahead of submitting their report to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to provide information for the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The committee agreed with EFSA’s conclusions on aspartame safety for the general population.

Acceptable daily intake levels of aspartame

The acceptable daily intake (ADI) is used as an estimate of the amount of aspartame that can be consumed every day over a persons entire lifetime (the general population, including all age ranges and physical conditions) without any adverse health outcomes or side effects.

The ADI recommendations from the FDA and EFSA for aspartame are:

  • FDA: 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight
  • EFSA: 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight

To put this into perspective for a person weighing 150 pounds (or 68 kilograms), the below is what would have to be ingested to meet the FDA ADI:

  • more than 18 cans of zero sugar soda per day
  • 3,409 milligrams of aspartame – or roughly 92 packets of Equal – per day

Products with aspartame

Whenever a product is labeled “sugar-free,” that usually means it has a NNS in place of sugar. While not all sugar-free products contain aspartame, it’s still one of the most popular sweeteners. It’s widely available in a number of packaged foods as well as drinks.

Some examples of aspartame-containing products include:

  • zero sugar soda
  • sugar-free ice cream
  • reduced-calorie fruit juice
  • sugar-free gum
  • reduced sugar ketchup
  • light yogurt
  • no sugar energy bars
  • sugar-free salad dressing
  • sugarless candy

Products containing aspartame must label it on the ingredients panel on the back or side of the product package. But, some food and beverage manufacturers have already begun removing aspartame as an NNU used in their products.

Aspartame side effects

Aspartame has not been conclusively linked with any serious side effects or health problems in the general population. For certain people, products containing aspartame should be avoided due to the potential for harmful side effects to occur.


People who have a condition called phenylketonuria (PKU) shouldn’t ingest products containing aspartame. PKU is a rare genetic disease diagnosed at birth. People with PKU aren’t able to properly process phenylalanine, so it can accumulate to dangerous levels in the body.

A build-up of phenylalanine in the body can lead to a range of negative side effects, including brain damage.

Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid found in protein sources such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. It’s also one of the two ingredients of aspartame.

The ADI and safety approvals for aspartame do not apply to people with PKU. Federal labeling regulations require foods, drinks, and medications containing aspartame to have the following warning on the ingredients panel to help people with PKU avoid ingesting a product with aspartame: “PHENYLKETONURICS: CONTAINS PHENYLALANINE.”

Tardive dyskinesia

People who are taking medications for schizophrenia should also avoid aspartame. Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is thought to be a side effect of some schizophrenia medications. The phenylalanine in aspartame may precipitate the uncontrolled muscle movements of TD.


The HHS has noted that some additional populations may have problems with aspartame because their body cannot properly break down phenylalanine, including:

  • people with advanced liver disease
  • pregnant women with hyperphenylalaninemia (high levels of phenylalanine in blood)

There have been a multitude of claims with varying levels of scientific certainty linking aspartame to many side effects and adverse health outcomes, including but not limited to:

  • cancer
  • seizures
  • headaches
  • allergies
  • skin problems
  • depression
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • dizziness
  • weight gain
  • sweet cravings
  • increased appetite and food intake
  • altered gut bacteria
  • type 2 diabetes
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • chronic kidney disease
  • behavioral and cognitive effects
  • poor blood glucose control
  • birth defects
  • preterm delivery
  • lupus
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • multiple sclerosis (MS)

In fact, a 2019 study commissioned by the World Health Organization looked at the relationship between NNS, including aspartame, and several health outcomes in humans, including:

  • body weight
  • blood sugar control
  • oral health
  • eating behavior
  • preference for sweet taste
  • cancer
  • cardiovascular disease
  • kidney disease
  • mood, behavior, neurocognition
  • other adverse side effects

While the researchers didn’t find significant differences between the groups who ingested NNS compared those who didn’t for most of the health outcomes and side effects studied, several limitations existed in their ability to have confidence in the reported results:

  • too few studies found for each health outcome
  • too few research participants in identified studies
  • studies identified were too short in time
  • the methodology and reporting was limited and poor quality
  • potential harms could not be excluded

Despite aspartame’s widely accepted safety record, many scientists are calling for additional research on the side effects and health outcomes of its ingestion over long-term periods of time, across all life stages, and within different settings.

Natural alternatives to aspartame

If you want to avoid products containing aspartame, natural NNS alternatives exist. You may want to try searching for products containing, or sweetening foods and beverages with:

  • monkfruit
  • allulose
  • stevia
  • sugar alcohols
  • brazzein

While such products are indeed more “natural” compared to other NNS like aspartame, you should still consume these alternatives in moderation and as directed for use.


Aspartame is found in about 6,000 products around the world, including carbonated soft drinks, powdered soft drinks, chewing gum, confections, gelatins, dessert mixes, puddings and fillings, frozen desserts, yogurt, tabletop sweeteners, and some pharmaceuticals such as vitamins and sugar-free cough drops. In the United States, food ingredients, including aspartame, must be listed in the ingredient statement on the food label.

Health experts agree that eating well and being physically active are keys to a healthful lifestyle. To help people achieve a more healthful lifestyle, the U.S. government provides “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” which encourage consumers to “Choose and prepare foods and beverages with little added sugars or caloric sweeteners.” The World Health Organization also recommends a number of dietary guidelines to combat increases in chronic diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes. One recommendation is to limit sugars added to some foods and beverages. As a sweetener, aspartame can reduce or replace the calories in foods and beverages while maintaining great taste, offering one simple step to help people move closer to achieving a more healthful diet.

Further, studies have shown that foods and beverages sweetened with aspartame can be an effective “tool” as part of a weight management program. Aspartame, however, is not a drug and does not stimulate weight loss. It does help make possible good tasting low- or reduced-calorie foods and beverages for those who wish to control or decrease their caloric intake. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have concluded that aspartame “is a valuable adjunct to a comprehensive program of balanced diet, exercise and behavior modifications for losing weight.


The rapid rise in aspartame’s popularity can be attributed to the many benefits aspartame provides to calorie-conscious consumers, including:

Tastes Sweet and Clean

Enhances and Extends Flavors

Does Not Promote Tooth Decay

Helpful for Individuals with Diabetes

Is Beneficial in Weight Control

Can Be Part of a Healthful Diet

Availability in Foods and Beverages

Aspartame is found in about 6,000 products around the world, including carbonated soft drinks, powdered soft drinks, chewing gum, confections, gelatins, dessert mixes, puddings and fillings, frozen desserts, yogurt, tabletop sweeteners, and some pharmaceuticals such as vitamins and sugar-free cough drops. In the United States, food ingredients, including aspartame, must be listed in the ingredient statement on the food label.

Several tabletop sweeteners containing aspartame as the sweetening ingredient can be used in a wide variety of recipes. However, in some recipes requiring lengthy heating or baking, a loss of sweetness may occur; this is not a safety issue — simply the product may not be as sweet as desired. Therefore, it is best to use tabletop sweeteners with aspartame in specially designed recipes available from the manufacturers of these tabletop sweeteners. Aspartame tabletop sweeteners may also be added to some recipes at the end of heating to maintain sweetness.

How the Body Handles Aspartame

Aspartame is composed of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, as the methyl ester. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Aspartic acid and phenylalanine are also found naturally in protein-containing foods, including meats, grains and dairy products. Methyl esters are also found naturally in many foods such as fruits and vegetables and their juices.

Upon digestion, aspartame breaks down into three components (aspartic acid, phenylalanine and a small amount of methanol), which are then absorbed into the blood and used in normal body processes. Neither aspartame nor its components accumulates in the body. These components are used in the body in the same ways as when they are also derived from common foods.

Further, the amounts of these components from aspartame are small compared to the amounts from other food sources. For example, a serving of nonfat milk provides about 6 times more phenylalanine and 13 times more aspartic acid compared to an equivalent amount of diet beverage sweetened 100% with aspartame. Likewise, a serving of tomato juice provides about 6 times more methanol compared to an equivalent amount of diet beverage with aspartame.

The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) is an important regulatory concept, which is frequently misunderstood. The ADI is a very conservative estimate of the amount of a sweetener that can safely be consumed on a daily basis over a person’s lifetime. It is not a specific point at which safety ends and possible health concerns begin. In fact, occasional intake above the ADI is not of concern.

The FDA has set the ADI for aspartame at 50 mg/kg of body weight/day. The chart that follows describes the approximate number of servings of various aspartame-containing products that an adult and child would need to consume to reach the ADI for aspartame.

Aspartame-containing ProductApproximate number of
servings per day to reach the ADI
Approximate number of
servings per day to reach the ADI
Adult (150 lb.)Child (50 lb.)
Carbonated soft drink (12 oz.)206
Powdered soft drink (8 oz.)3311
Gelatin (4 oz.)4214
Tabletop sweetener (packet)9732

Extensive market research has shown that aspartame consumption patterns for the general population and various subgroups are well below the ADI. Aspartame consumption by high-level consumers (90th percentile) in the general population, including children, is between 5% and 10% of the ADI. This means that 9 out of 10 people consume less than 10% of the ADI.


Pregnant or breastfeeding women

Diabetic individuals



Aspartame is one of the most thoroughly studied ingredients in the food supply. It was tested in more than 100 scientific studies before the FDA approved it in 1981. The studies were conducted in laboratory animals and humans, including healthy infants, children, and adults, lactating women, people with diabetes, obese individuals, and people who are carriers of the rare genetic disease phenylketonuria (PKU). Upon approving aspartame, the FDA Commissioner noted, “Few compounds have withstood such detailed testing and repeated, close scrutiny, and the process through which aspartame has gone should provide the public with additional confidence of its safety.”

After FDA approval, extensive additional research has been done with aspartame, which further confirmed its safety for the general population. In fact, aspartame has been tested for more than three decades, in more than 200 studies, with the same result: aspartame is safe.

In addition to FDA, aspartame has been reviewed and determined to be safe by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, the Scientific Committee on Food of the European Commission, and the regulatory bodies of over 100 countries. Independent health organizations, such as the American Medical Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Dietetic Association, have reviewed research on aspartame and found it to be safe. Links to numerous governments, expert committees, and health organizations, which have confirmed the safety of aspartame, can be found below and at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

TheSuperHealthyFood © Copyright 2022. All rights reserved.