Aspartame is one of the top sugar substitutes of choice. This handy chemical compound tastes sweet, dissolves readily and is easily substituted for sugar in most sugar free, low calorie treats. It was created in the 1965 and infiltrated our food supply in the 1980s after gaining the go ahead nod from the Food and Drug Administration.
Aspartame is not the only name this sugar substitute goes by. NutraSweet is probably much more a household name than aspartame. Even so, aspartame is not usually advertised in big lettering on the label. What is much more prominent are the words ‘sugar free’ or ‘diet’. These words say almost the same thing as simply printing aspartame in bold across the front.
Aspartame held the lion’s share of the sugar substitute market for years, but in recent years is losing market share to brands like Splenda. The only way to know what you are eating or drinking for sure is to read the fine print under ingredients. But is it safe? Let's find out.
Aspartame Side Effects
Now, sugar free snacks are rampant on grocery shelves. These guilt-free treats are accepted with delight by dieters and diabetics alike. There is only one problem: aspartame is not the sweet solution it is cracked up to be.
The FDA receives thousands of complaints about the real and perceived dangers of approved foods and drugs every year. Of those thousands, roughly 80% relate directly to aspartame and its derivatives.
That’s nothing to scoff at, yet it goes one step further. The FDA keeps lists of known negative side affects for each of its approved items. The list belonging to Aspartame is comprised of over 92 documented complaints, including death.
Less dramatic possible side effects, yet still scary enough to make the average Joe put down his diet soda and walk away include: headaches, blindness in one or both eyes, damage to night vision, ringing in the ears, seizures, trouble concentrating and sluggish cognition, anxiety, insomnia and the list goes on.
One of the most ironic side effects is weight gain. Persons seeking relief from a few pesky pounds turn to aspartame laden treats to aid them in their weight loss efforts only to find themselves rewarded with even more to lose.
Sugar in large quantities is not great for your health. That is an easily acceptable fact. What might be a bit tougher to swallow is that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Aspartame fails miserably in this effort. It is a better idea for your health to stick to sugar, but less of it. Or, try an alternative artificial sweetener with fewer issues.
The following are side effects of aspartame (commonly known as NutraSweet) that have been reported to the FDA.*
List of Reported Aspartame or NutraSweet Side Effects:
– Decreased vision and/or other eye problems (blurring, “bright flashes,” tunnel vision)
– Pain (or or both eyes)
– Decreased tears, trouble with contact lens, or both
– Blindness (one or both eyes)
– Tinnitus (“ringing,” “buzzing”)
– Severe intolerance for noise
– Marked impairment of hearing
– Dizziness, unsteadiness, or both
– Confusion, memory loss, or both
– Severe drowsiness and sleepiness
– Paresthesia (“pins and needles,” “tingling”) or numbness of the limbs
– Convulsions (grand mal epileptic attacks)
– Petit mal attacks and “absences”
– Severe slurring of speech
– Severe tremors
– Severe “hyperactivity” and “restless legs”
– Atypical facial pain
– Severe depression
– “Extreme irritability”
– “Severe anxiety attacks”
– “Marked personality changes”
– Recent “severe insomnia”
– “Severe aggravation of phobias”
– Palpitations, tachycardia (rapid heart action), or both
– “Shortness of breath”
– Atypical chest pain
– Recent hypertension (high blood pressure)
Associated gross blood in the stools (12)
– Abdominal pain
– Pain on swallowing
Skin and Allergies
– Severe itching without a rash
– Severe lip and mouth reactions
– Urticaria (hives)
– Other eruptions
– Aggravation of respiratory allergies
Endocrine and Metabolic
– Problems with diabetes:
loss of control; precipitation of clinical diabetes; aggravation or simulation of diabetic complications
– Menstrual changes
Severe reduction or cessation of periods (22)
– Paradoxic weight gain
– Marked weight loss
– Marked thinning or loss of the hair
– Aggravated hypoglycemia (low blood sugar
– Frequency of voiding (day and night), burning
on urination (dysuria), or both
– Excessive thirst
– Severe joint pains
– Fluid retention and leg swelling
– Increased susceptibility to infection
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Arthritis (including Rheumatoid)
Attention Deficit Disorder
A Final Note About Aspartame
While all of this may seem scary and turn you off from aspartame entirely, it's important to remember that research is not completely conclusive. Some research has found conclusive evidence to point to the danger of aspartame, while other research is less conclusive. It seems more research is needed to firmly establish the specific risks of aspartame.
Until then, it may be worthwhile to consider other artificial sweeteners. As aspartame becomes less popular, choosing a different alternative sweetener has never been easier. Splenda is a very popular artificial sweetener, and does not contain aspartame. Of course, you should still consume other artificial sweeteners in moderation.
If you still have questions or concerns about aspartame, consult with your doctor. They can provide you with all of the answers! A qualified nutritional specialist is also a good person to consult with questions about aspartame and other artificial sweeteners. Remember to only ever trust well-vetted, reputable scientific research and articles that cite such research.
The content of this article should not be taken as professional medical advice. Always practice due diligence on matters pertaining to your health and the health of your family. Speak to a medical professional before making any firm decisions about your health or your family's health.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©iStock.com/Zirafek.