What is Aspartame?
Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener that has been used for decades as a way to lower one’s intake of added sugars while still providing satisfaction from enjoying something sweet. Aspartame is about 200 times sweeter than sugar, and as such only a small amount of the sweetener is needed to match the sweetness provided by sugar.
In tabletop packets and prepared foods and beverages, aspartame is often blended with other sweeteners or food components to minimize bitter flavors and enhance overall taste. Aspartame is also found in several types of low-calorie tabletop sweeteners.
Can people with diabetes consume aspartame?
Yes. Foods and beverages made with aspartame are frequently recommended to people with diabetes as an alternative to sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and as a way to help them satisfy their desire for sweet taste.
Extensive research shows that aspartame does not raise blood glucose levels or otherwise affect blood glucose management in humans. 13-15 In a 2018 randomized controlled trial, aspartame ingestion had no effect on blood glucose or insulin levels over the 12-week intervention as compared with a placebo.16 Recent consensus statements by experts in nutrition, medicine, physical activity and public health cite the neutral effects of low-calorie sweeteners on hemoglobin A1C, insulin and fasting and post-prandial glucose when concluding that the use of low-calorie sweeteners in diabetes management may contribute to better glycemic control.
Is Aspartame safe to consume?
Yes. Aspartame is one of the most exhaustively studied ingredients in the human food supply, with more than 200 studies supporting its safety. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its use in dry foods in 1981, in carbonated beverages in 1983 and as a general-purpose sweetener in 1996. Leading global health authorities such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) conduct scientific risk assessments and safety evaluations of food additives and have concluded that aspartame is safe for its intended uses. Based on these conclusions and other independent reviews, government regulators around the world, including Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare; Food Standards Australia New Zealand; Health Canada; and the U.S. FDA permit the use of aspartame.
Although the safety of aspartame is established for intakes not exceeding the ADI, aspartame intake should be limited by people with phenylketonuria (PKU). PKU is a rare genetic disease that makes an affected person unable to properly metabolize phenylalanine, one of the amino acids found in aspartame and many common foods like milk, cheese, nuts and meat. Individuals with PKU need to avoid or restrict their intake of phenylalanine from all sources. All packaged foods and beverages with aspartame as an ingredient are required by the FDA to have a statement on the label informing consumers of phenylalanine’s presence.
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