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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Matthew B

Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, or non-nutritive sweeteners (NNSs), contain no calories and offer no nutritional benefits. They have been developed and added to the food supply in place of caloric sweeteners as a prevention strategy in the fight against obesity. Aspartame (NutraSweet) is one of the five NNSs that the FDA has approved as “Generally Recognized as Safe.” These NNSs are hundreds of times sweeter than sucrose and are used in thousands of products worldwide, most predominately in diet soda. While these products are approved by the FDA, an ongoing debate persists over their safety, efficacy, and correlation to obesity and diabetes.

Sweeteners and Women’s Health

Women’s health and pregnancy may be affected by NNS use, as daily intake of diet soda may increase the risk of preterm deliveries. 

Aspartame and Adverse Health Effects

Over 90% of independent studies have shown that aspartame may cause adverse health effects. Moreover, aspartame is metabolized into methanol, which is converted to formaldehyde and formic acid, which is toxic. Aspartame and other NNSs have been shown to induce glucose intolerance by affecting gut microbiota. There is also an association between total aspartame consumption and risk of multiple myeloma, fibromyalgia, hypertension, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and leukemia.

Diet soda consumption has been linked to increased depression, with individuals who already suffer from mood disorders having a higher risk when consuming aspartame, as aspartame may be linked to mental disorders and the compromise of learning and emotional functions. In a study with healthy individuals, half of the FDA’s recommended daily allowance of aspartame (25mg/kg body weight) was administered, and after eight days, participants experienced an increase in irritable mood, depression, and decreased brain function.

Aspartame and Weight Gain

Several large-scale prospective cohort studies have found a positive correlation between aspartame-sweetened diet soda and increased weight gain. This may be due to overeating in light of the calories saved by drinking diet sodas.


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