Aspartame Safety

Background and Composition
Aspartame is a leading low calorie sweetener that has been used around the world for decades. It is a simple ingredient made of components found in everyday foods, and the body digests it in exactly the same way as those everyday foods. Aspartame brings nothing “new” to the diet that is not already present in milk, fruits, vegetables and meats in much higher quantities. Its composition and digestion have long been well understood, and it is the only high intensity sweetener that is broken down by the body through normal metabolism. After ingestion, it is broken down to two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, and a small amount of methanol. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Charts illustrating aspartame’s components relative to the composition of common foods are below.

Approximate Amino Acid Content of Various Foods
Aspartic acid (mg)Phenylalanine (mg)
Aspartame-sweetened soft
drink (12 ounces)
7290
Skim milk (12 ounces) 948 598
Chicken (approx 4 oz.) 2570 1130

Approximate Methanol from Various Foods (mg/12 ounces)
Aspartame-
sweetened soft
drink
Orange juice Apple juice Red grape juice Tomato juice
18 23 29 65 107

Safety
Aspartame enjoys a high level of confidence among health professionals, the scientific community and regulatory authorities. Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies in respected publications confirm that confidence.

The numerous studies done with aspartame have been reviewed by regulatory scientists around the world, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Joint FAO/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives, and the Scientific Committee on Food of the European Union (in 1985 and again in 2002). In each case aspartame was determined to be safe for human consumption. Available for almost 25 years, aspartame is now approved for use by the general population in 130 countries around the world.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration assigns an “acceptable daily intake” (ADI) for ingredients, which is the amount that would lead to no adverse effects to health if consumed on a daily basis over a person’s lifetime. The ADI for aspartame is at least several times higher than any of the other high intensity sweeteners on the market. Current consumption of aspartame in the United States is only a small percentage of the ADI (5-10%), even among those who are the heaviest users.

Recent New Mexico Petition
Recent efforts by a group in New Mexico to label aspartame a “neurotoxin” and ban its sale in the state are in total conflict with the wide body of credible studies that have been thoroughly reviewed by regulatory authorities around the world. There is absolutely no basis in the peer-reviewed medical literature that aspartame has any negative properties. In stark contrast to assertions made by this group, more than 200 scientific studies confirm aspartame’s safety.

Individuals can safely use aspartame as part of a nutritious diet to manage their weight, diabetes, dental health, and other medical conditions or health concerns. This is a position maintained by regulatory and health professional organizations worldwide, including the American Dietetic Association. It is unfortunate, ironic and irresponsible that the allegations made in New Mexico could raise consumer concern about a low calorie sweetener that provides value in helping fight so many critical health problems.

“We join the more than 130 regulatory authorities around the world in our confidence in aspartame,” said Robert G. Bursey, vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, Ajinomoto USA. “Consumers can be assured of its safety and value as a good-tasting tool for helping manage the very real challenge of obesity.”

Internet Resources

www.aspartame.org www.aspartame.net www.aboutaspartame.com
www.eatrightnm.org (New Mexico Dietetic Association)

Ajinomoto Food Ingredients, LLC is headquartered in Chicago, IL. The company manufactures food products and ingredients, including seasonings, edible oils, and processed foods and beverages. Ajinomoto is a world leader in amino-acid technologies and the global leader in aspartame production.

7 October 2005