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Is aspartame safe, and what are its side effects and health risks?

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener and a popular sugar substitute. It is present in low-calorie food and drinks and some medications. Despite its extensive use and popularity, aspartame has become a source of controversy in recent years, with several studies claiming the sweetener has adverse health effects.

In this article, we look at the current evidence on the safety of aspartame. We also investigate how it might affect weight, appetite, and certain medical conditions.


Aspartame is an artificial sweetener accidentally discovered by a scientist researching an anti-ulcer medication in 1965, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation. It's composed of two amino acids: aspartic acid and phenylalanine. When you consume aspartame, your body metabolizes the compound into its amino acids and also methanol, which is a simple alcohol also found in many natural foods, including fruits and vegetables.

Compared to table sugar, aspartame is about 200 times sweeter, which means a little goes a long way. To put it into perspective, one packet of aspartame (1 gram), which has 4 calories, is equal to the same amount of sweetness as 2 teaspoons of table sugar (8 grams), which has 32 calories.

That's a savings of 28 calories, which may not sound like much, but those calories can add up fast. One 12-ounce can of regular cola contains nearly 10 teaspoons of sugar and 156 calories, while a 12-ounce can of diet cola sweetened with aspartame has zero teaspoons of sugar and only 7 calories.

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


Diet soda

Chewing gum


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.

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 over consumption 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. Moreover, some research suggests that aspartame may affect body weight by increasing people’s appetite, which can lead to greater food consumption.

Despite being considered a safe option to add a little sweetness to your life, you may still have reservations about using aspartame. Consider the more natural non-nutritive sweeteners.

My recommendation would be Organic Brown sugar , definitely a healthier option than refined white sugar and artificial sweeteners. It is processed in a completely natural way to maintain as much of the sugarcane's natural nutrition as possible, including vitamins and minerals. It has a caramel flavour and you can use this brown sugar to sweeten various hot beverages, or flavour desserts like candies, cakes and other bakery items.  

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