Heard the one about how aspartame single-handedly caused the Gulf War syndrome? In recent years, outlandish allegations – often spread via the Internet by individuals who have little scientific or medical expertise – have tried to link the low-calorie sweetener to every ailment ranging from Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's disease to cancer and weight gain. However, the overwhelming body of scientific evidence via more than three decades of research and over 200 studies demonstrate that aspartame is safe and that aspartame is not associated with adverse side effects, even in very large amounts.
Here are some facts to help dispel the "Aspartame danger" myths.
Myth: Aspartame Causes Cancer and Brain Tumors.
Facts: Aspartame does not cause cancer according to the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Cancer Institute. Before the 1981 FDA approval of aspartame, it was extensively evaluated in four long-term and lifetime studies in rodents which received enormous doses of aspartame, equal to the amount of aspartame in more than 1,000 cans of diet soft drink daily over a lifetime for an adult human. There was no increase in brain tumors or any other type of cancer.
Myth: Aspartame Causes Weight Gain.
Facts: Changes in body weight are related to many factors such as diet, exercise and heredity. Products made with aspartame can help with diet and weight control because they are lower in calories than their full calorie counterparts. Based on the overwhelming scientific evidence from numerous scientific studies, aspartame does not increase hunger, appetite, or food intake or cause weight gain.
Myth: Aspartame Causes Lupus, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
Facts: The National Parkinson Foundation has concluded, "The cause of PD is unknown, PD existed before aspartame was invented, there is no evidence aspartame blocks the absorption of levodopa." (Levodopa is the major drug used to treat PD.) The Alzheimer's Association concluded there was "no scientific evidence of a link between aspartame and memory loss." The Lupus Foundation of America has concluded that there is "no specific proof of an association with aspartame as a cause or worsening of SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus)."
Myth: Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not consume aspartame.
Facts: The FDA and the Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association agree that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can safely use aspartame. An American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition task force also has concluded that aspartame is safe for both the mother and developing baby. Experts recommend obtaining calories from foods that contribute to nutrient needs rather than from foods low in nutrients, when it comes to women during pregnancy. Aspartame sweetened foods and beverages satisfy a pregnant woman's taste for "sweets" without adding extra calories, leaving room for more nutritious foods.