Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Controversy and safety of aspartame

Aspartame is about 200 times sweeter than sugar and unlike saccharin, has nutritive value with a caloric-count-to-weight ratio comparable to that of sugar.

Aspartame, sold under the brand NutraSweet, was discovered accidentally by a scientist at Searle in 1965 who was testing new drugs for gastric ulcers and licked his fingers before picking up a piece of paper. 

Aspartame was first approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1974 and marketed in 1981. Aspartame turned out not to be a good ulcer drugs, but it has become a well received sweetener that has found its way into more than 6,000 processed foods including sodas, desserts, candy and yogurt.

Although numerous clinical trials have attested to the safety of aspartame there continue to be reports of adverse reactions to this sweetener in some apparently sensitive individuals. An independence study confirmed that aspartame can cause headaches in some individuals.

Another study found a link between aspartame and cancer. A range of other adverse effects such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, Alzheimer’s were also claimed to be linked to exposure to aspartame, though nonscientific internet communication.

A 2002 review of over 500 studies conducted by the EU Scientific Committee for Food concluded that intake of aspartame component parts can be compared with intakes of the same substances from natural food’.

Aspartame is probably safe, especially in moderate quantities like one packet of Equal or one diet soda per day, but individuals who experience headaches or people with the rare disease phenylketonuria should avoid it.

This disorder is characterized by a deficiency in the enzyme, phenylalanine hydroxylase, which metabolites the amino acid phenylalanine. Amino acid phenylalanine is one of aspartame’s components. The build-up of phenylalanine in blood can result in toxicity to the brain.

Therefore, FDA has ruled out that all products containing aspartame must include a warning to phenylketonurics that the sweetener contains phenylalanine.
Controversy and safety of aspartame
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