Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Aspartame How Sweet It Is

Low and reduced calorie foods and snacks have become staples in homes across the country where millions of Americans are working towards a healthier lifestyle.  Aspartame is one of the artificial sweeteners that had been created specifically for this market, and is now found in over 6000 products and consumed by over 200 million people in the world. Most people are most familiar with aspartame as the sweetener in NutraSweet and Equal. Aspartame is different to most other sweeteners that it is completely broken down by the body into its components:  the amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, and a small amount of methanol. These are all components found in every day foods but it greater quantities in this sweetener.

As with many other artificial ingredients in the marketplace, Aspartame has become the center of controversy over its safety.  Some say that it breaks down to methanol, which converts to formaldehyde, which then can be a cancer causing agent. However, many other studies support that while formaldehyde can be harmful, the amount contained in aspartame is clearly not enough to do damage. Yet other conflicting reports say that aspartame can trigger or exacerbate conditions such as: birth defects, epilepsy, lymphoma, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors, mental retardation, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis.[1]

In all, over 200 studies have focused on aspartame and the end result has put aspartame on the safe list.  In fact regulatory agencies in over 100 countries have found aspartame to be safe to use. 

On a positive note, aspartame has found a significant role in the market place.  It tastes 200 times sweeter than sucrose but is devoid of the high calories, for those who are on a sugar restricted or low calorie diet.  Aspartame has found a great role in many foods, helps to intensify and increase the length of a fruit flavoring in products such as gum, as well as proven to not contribute to tooth decay. The American Dental Association has noted it “welcomes the development and FDA approval of new artificial sweeteners that are shown to be safe and non-contributory to tooth decay. “

Additionally aspartame is helpful for those with diabetes who desire a sweet without all the sugar and those who are struggling with their weight to have a low calorie dessert as well. Everyone seems to be calorie conscious one way or another and items with artificial sweeteners continue to bombard the shelves.  In a nation plagued with obesity, it does not seem that this will let up anytime soon.  So despite some controversy, the overwhelming reports lead towards aspartame a safe choice when opting for an artificial sweetener.